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The San Francisco 49ers suffered a surprising 21-19 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium. It was only the third loss of the season for San Francisco, as they were stifled by an unexpectedly formidable Arizona defense.
The 49ers took a 12-7 lead into halftime, although it was telling that they reached the Cardinals red zone three times and were forced to settle for four David Akers field goals in the first half, from 46, 22, 27 and 22 yards, respectively. Akers finished the day four-for-five on FG attempts and set the franchise record for attempts made in a season. His 36 field goals and 42 attempts are career highs. His135 points this season are third all-time for a 49ers player in a single season. With one more successful field goal, he will pass kicker Mike Cofer and tie Jerry Rice for first all-time with 138 points, a mark set by Rice in 1987. Believe it or not, but Akers ranks first in the NFL for points scored in 2011.
The only other scoring that the offense would be able to muster was an early third quarter rushing touchdown from Frank Gore, who broke off a 37 yard run that took him to the end zone. Gore led all rushers with 72 yards in the game on 10 carries. At the end of the day, Gore had picked up his fifth season of 1,000 rushing yards or more. He joins LaDainian Tomlinson, Steven Jackson, Thomas Jones and Ricky Williams as the only active NFL players who have five or more 1,000-yard seasons. His touchdown was also the longest rushing TD of the season for the 49ers.
For all news and information regarding the 49ers, please visit Niners Nation.
"Don't sweat the small stuff," is a phrase which exudes a certain understanding of life and its tendency to just ... go wrong sometimes. If something small and insignificant happens, just keep an eye on the big picture. It is, quite honestly, a good moniker to live by in most circumstances. It is not, however, a good moniker to play winning football by. Jim Harbaugh is a very detail-oriented coach and he certainly knows the dangers of not sweating the small stuff when it comes to football.
There were quite a few plays on Sunday that just don't sit well with this writer and shouldn't sit well with Harbaugh. No, they're not the reason that things crumpled and the 49ers dropped the game, but there are so many moving parts that make any given play work, it's easy to think that they were a factor. Some plays in particular to draw attention to ...
During the third quarter, Alex Smith threw a screen pass to Delanie Walker that went for a loss of six yards. The Cardinals defense immediately swarmed that side of the field, and it was clear it wasn't going to go anywhere. There's a decent chance that the Cardinals were just fast on the play, and it's not likely that it would have gained big yardage regardless, but there was one tip-off that could have affected things, something small.
Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. was on the other side of the field, the lone receiver lining up on that side of the field, and he did absolutely nothing. When he lined up, it was clear he wasn't about to run any kind of route, and after the play started, he didn't do a thing. He didn't run a fake route and he didn't make an effort to block, he simply turned his head and watched what happened.
Another thing that isn't necessarily small, but it's in the details of execution, something that needs to be drilled. Safety Dashon Goldson gave up a big play to Larry Fitzgerald - something that routinely happens to any and all players up against FItzgerald on any given day - but unlike most of the poor defensive backs that Fitzgerald abuses on a regular basis, Goldson was in great position to stop the play.
Instead, Goldson got it in his head that he was going to pick off the ball, instead of doing the smart thing and just defending the pass. He's been great this season in picking off the ball, but it wasn't the first time that he screwed up and gave up a big play by being too aggressive going for the interception. That's something that honestly needs to change. Goldson needs to remember that he can't intercept every ball, and in that situation, a defensed pass was the best-case scenario.
There were other things, but those two stood out. There are a lot of things that stand out, like slow play from Braylon Edwards or lacking performance from Vernon Davis. But those two plays show that there are a lot of things that Harbaugh and his coaching staff need to point out when they go and take a look at the film.
On Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers suffered what is probably their worst loss of the season, falling 21-19 to the NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals, just a couple weeks after dominating them at Candlestick Park. It's their worst loss of the season for a couple of reasons, the biggest of which being that they should be much better than the Cardinals at this point in the season. Another reason is because the 49ers are playing for just one thing right now - playoff seeding - and the New Orleans Saints gutted through their tough game to come out on top, matching the 49ers with a 10-3 record.
Offensively, the 49ers were absolutely battered. Quarterback Alex Smith was hit early and often, and that made a lot of his throws off-target and prevented any big yardage. Frank Gore ran well, but the 49ers were put in many positions in which they were forced to throw the ball. Braylon Edwards played poorly again, Vernon Davis continued to be just about invisible and without double coverage this time. Defensively, the team held the resurgent Beanie Wells to a paltry yardage total, but failed to prevent the big plays in the passing game.
Then we get to the special teams, and that's where the 49ers excelled. Andy Lee showed once again why he's one of the league's best punters, and Brad Seeley directed him to punt directly at dangerous returner Patrick Peterson, who wasn't able to get anything done. San Francisco wants to preach a position battle-oriented gameplan, and they certainly were able to execute it on Sunday, even in a losing effort. You'll see a lot written and said about the 49ers offense and their struggles in the red zone, but they never would have had a chance to have those struggles if it weren't for special teams.
David Akers did miss a field goal from 50 yards out, but the man is not invincible, that's bound to happen. He still played well and moved closer to two records: the 49ers franchise record for points scored in a single season, currently held by Jerry Rice, and Neil Rackers' record for most field goals in a season.
The other silver linings are pretty simple: Kyle Williams showed that he can consistently be good, and should be worked into the 49ers offense more, and the 49ers run defense is undeniably very good.
As much as morale-soothing statements are somewhat annoying, there is one thing to note that's very apt right now. San Francisco considers themselves in the same league as the New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and the other great teams in the NFL. While this loss was undeniably bad, folks should not forget that the Ravens lost to the Seattle Seahawks earlier this year, and barely overcame the Cardinals with a late touchdown drive. The Saints also gave the St. Louis Rams their first win of the season earlier on.
Sometimes, good teams lose to bad teams. That's probably what happened on Sunday.
As we already noted, the San Francisco 49ers sorely want to avoid a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome in Louisiana. Quarterback Drew Brees is just too good there, and the only way the 49ers can avoid that is be maintaining the second seed in the NFC. It also would award them a first-round bye, and less games between a team and the coveted Lombardi Trophy is always a positive.
But their hopes of a second seed took a big hit on Sunday, when they lost to the Arizona Cardinals, while the Saints won their game over the Tennessee Titans, and moved to 10-3, a record both team's share. Fortunately for the 49ers, if the playoffs were to begin today, they'd hold the edge in the tiebreak and still remain the second seed. Unfortunately, they have a Monday Night Football showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers on the horizon and that could be a tough game to get past.
Following that game, San Francisco has games against the Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams - both games that they should win, but then again, they should have beaten the Cardinals. Either way, as it stands, the 49ers are the second seed in the NFC. Here's a look at the seeding as it stands:
The San Francisco 49ers started the final quarter against the Arizona Cardinals with a 19-14 lead, but quickly gave up a 53-yard reception to Larry Fitzgerald, and Arizona was once again in business. John Skelton scrambled once again and the Cardinals were inside the 49ers 20 yard line. After a short run from Beanie Wells, the Cardinals have a third down, and they convert it with a screen pass to Early Doucet. They get inside the five-yard line and a first and goal. Skelton lines up in the shotgun, and it's an easy screen pass to Andre Roberts for the touchdown, putting Arizona back in front 21-19 after the extra point. They didn't go for two, which was odd.
Ted Ginn Jr. fielded the kickoff in the back of the endzone, and took it out to the 27 yard line. Frank Gore took the opening handoff of the drive, and picked up a couple yards. Then it was Kendall Hunter with a run, bringing it to a third and two, but the 49ers have been poor on third down this game. Alex Smith overthrows Vernon Davis by about ten yards, and the 49ers were forced to punt. The coverage units came out and stopped Patrick Peterson once again, though, and the Cardinals took over inside the 20 yard line.
Beanie Wells picked up a few yards on first down, and then Ahmad Brooks makes a huge tackle in the backfield on LaRod Stephens-Holwing, setting up an Arizona 3rd and 4. Skelton takes the snap from the shotgun, and hits Andre Roberts no problem for the first down. Fitzgerald picks up eight yards on first down right after that. They end up with a 3rd and 1 and try and run the ball, but Wells is stuffed and they don't pick up the first down. The punt rolls into the endzone and the 49ers take over with a little over five minutes remaining in the game.
Alex Smith gets the ball off for no gain, shrugging off a sack. The referees whistle him down though, even though his knees don't even bend and he's standing up straight. Terrible refereeing. Smith hits Crabtree on second down for a gain of a few, and the 49ers have a third and six. Smith's pass is off-target with pressure in his face and the 49ers go three and out once again.
Arizona loses yardage on first and second down runs, and the Cardinals will have a 3rd and 13. They pick up some yardage, but it's not enough, and the Cardinals punted. Ted Ginn Jr. has a great return and the 49ers get set up with good field position. Smith hit Michael Crabtree for a couple yards on first down, and he goes out of bounds. But Smith is sacked big time ... but this time, they're called for a false start, so they gain a yard. Smith hits Crabtree again for a couple yards and it's a third down again. Smith has his third pass of the day batted down at the line of scrimmage. On fourth down, the offensive line gives up pressure once again, and Smith has to run around to the tune of Yakkety Sax for a few seconds before throwing a deep incompletion to running back Kendall Hunter. They turn the ball over on downs. Arizona killed the clock, and the 49ers lose 21-19.
It was a poor, poor showing by the 49ers. The only bright spot for the 49ers was special teams play, and that wasn't enough to give them the win. The offensive line played poorly, Alex Smith was abysmal and the 49ers move to 10-3 on the season, threatening to lose the No. 2 seed to the New Orleans Saints.
The Arizona Cardinals received the kickoff to open the second half, and John Skelton hit Larry Fitzgerald for a big gain right off the bat, but the Cardinals were called for holding, and the play came back. Then, they were called for false start, and had a first and 25 backed up near their own endzone. Their next two plays went for essentially nothing, and then Aldon Smith came up with a sack at the one-yard line, forcing the Cardinals to punt from their own endzone. That brings his total to 10.5 on the season, the first 49er to get double digit sacks since Andre Carter in 2002.
So the San Francisco 49ers took over, and then Frank Gore busted a big one almost immediately, for a 37-yard touchdown run to bring the game to 19-7. Gore was almost untouched on his way to the endzone.
The 49ers kicked off and Arizona started driving again, picking up a first down, and then seemingly being shut down, but Larry Grant was called for roughing the passer. It was a very bad call, it wasn't even close to roughing, by any stretch of the imagination. So Arizona gets a free first down, and a seven-yard completion on first down set them up with a second and short. Beanie Wells was stuffed big time on the next play, so they had a third and three. Skelton hits Early Doucet for the first down. At this point, Kevin Kolb was declared out for the game. Skelton ines up with an empty backfield in the shotgun on second down, and hits Larry Fitzgerald over the middle, and it goes for a touchdown. Dashon Goldson was on defense, trying to pick off the ball. He handled it poorly, trying too hard to pick it off instead of just playing good defense. So the Cardinals brought the game to 19-14.
If you blinked, you missed a couple incompletions and the 49ers offense quickly leaving the field. Smith threw a pass to Braylon Edwards that was never looked for, then threw a terrible pass to the ground while he had good protection. Andy Lee came out to punt, and Patrick Peterson called a fair catch at the 35 yard line.
Arizona took the field and immediately, LaRod Stephens-Howling took a shovel pass eighteen yards. A couple plays later, and the Cardinals were set up with a 3rd and 5. The crowd was back into it at this point, but Grant came through with the pass defensed, forcing an Arizona punt. Alex Smith went deep to Michael Crabtree on the first play, and it was almost picked, but Michael Crabtree got into it and broke it up, bringing up a second and ten. Eventually, it all goes nowhere and the 49ers have to punt. Peterson has a 12 yard return to the 33 yard line.
On the first play of Arizona's drive, Skelton hits Fitzgerald on the left sideline for a 15 yard pickup and a first down. Then, Skelton scrambled for 14 yards and another first down. San Francisco is really giving this game away. On first down, Skelton goes deep again, but the pass is tipped and falls incomplete. On second down, Jeff King gets the Cardinals to third down and short, with about two yards to go. Skelton avoids a sack from Aldon Smith and throws to Larry Fitzgerald, but it's too high, and cornerback Tarell Brown falls to catch it for the interception, getting a much-needed turnover. Ken Whisenhunt challenges it, but it's clearly a pick. The referees come out and confirm the call.
Alex Smith comes out and throws a pass that is almost picked, but there's two flags on the play. The only one that matters is the 15-yard personal foul penalty to Delanie Walker and it's an automatic first down. Kendall Hunter picks up a couple yards on the next play, and the 49ers have a 2nd and five. Smith throws deep to Crabtree on the right sideline and it's overthrown, again. On the next play, Walker drops a wide open pass, and the 49ers are forced to punt. Patrick Peterson is covered well, once again, and Arizona takes over just beyond the 20 yard line, as the third quarter comes to an end with the 49ers winning 19-14.
The San Francisco 49ers took an early 6-0 lead in the second quarter over the Arizona Cardinals after a big punt return from Ted Ginn Jr. Arizona took over at the 20-yard line and Skelton actually finds Larry Fitzgerald for a first down, but they quickly faced a third down after that, when Beanie Wells rushed for a couple and a dumpoff went nowhere. On the next play, Skelton has a nice scramble for the first down, but he's cracked by rookie linebacker Aldon Smith and coughs up a fumble. Ray McDonald recovers the fumble and the 49ers took over.
Alex Smith dumps off to Kendall Hunter, who picks up a quick first down, but is sacked again and faced a long second down. He hit Kyle Williams on a quick slant, and he picks up 12 yards, setting up a 3rd and eight. Crabtree came through on that play, converting the downs. Eventually, the 49ers set up with ANOTHER third and long, and this time, it was Kyle Williams again, picking up eight yards and putting the 49ers in range of a 50-yard field goal. David Akers comes out to attempt, and it's a fake - Andy Lee rolls out and hits center Jonathan Goodwin for a big gain, but it looks like Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt threw the challenge flag on the Williams catch, so it's negated.
Then the replay equipment malfunctions, so there is no challenge, and the 49ers replay fourth down. Akers misses the field goal this time though, and the 49ers lead by 6-0 instead of 9-0. Naturally, Skelton comes out and hits Early Doucet for a 60-yard touchdown, putting Arizona up 7-0 after the extra point on the first play of their drive. So that just happened. The Cardinals kick off and Ginn returns the ball just beyond the 20-yard line.
After all of that jive, the 49ers take over again. Alex Smith throws a screen to Delanie Walker that loses six yards. On the play, the 49ers receiver at the bottom of the screen just stood there, didn't move, didn't fake a route and just turned and watched. Gore picked up a couple yards on the next play, but the 49ers faced yet another 3rd and long. Williams came through again though, catching a 14 yard pass for a first down, and San Francisco is back in business. Then, it's Vernon Davis catching a short pass and turning it into 32 yards, getting into the red zone. An end-around to Kyle Williams picks up good yards, but the 49ers tall out in the red zone once again, and Akers comes out to attempt a field goal. The 27-yard attempt is good and the 49ers take a 9-7 lead. The referees pick up the flag on that play and announce that there is no foul for leverage. Oh, OK. Thanks for letting us know.
The Cardinals come back out and, short story shorter, Dashon Goldson picked off his fifth pass in seven games. So the 49ers took over with just over a minute remaining in the half. After a couple short plays, the 49ers are really close, but with 4 seconds left on third down, they elect to kick a 22 yard field goal. Akers drills it, and the 49ers lead 12-7 at the half, though they'll wish it was more with their opportunities in the red zone.
The San Francisco 49ers received the opening kickoff for the second-straight week, as the Arizona Cardinals won the opening toss and deferred. It's the second time the 49ers have kicked off this season. Ted Ginn Jr. takes the kickoff out after a delay and doesn't get it back to the 20 yard line. Braylon Edwards is starting at wide receiver for San Francisco, and the opening play is a hand-off to Frank Gore on the right side for a pickup of eight yards. On the next play, Kendall Hunter replaces Gore and splits out wide, and quarterback Alex Smith hits Kyle Williams for six yards and a first down.
San Francisco quickly faces a 3rd and eight, and Gore checks out again - he looks kind of shaky. Adam Snyder is called for a false start and the offense backs it up. Kyle Williams remains on the field as the No. 3 receiver. Smith goes to the left side deep, to Michael Crabtree, but he's double-covered and it falls incomplete. Andy Lee comes out to punt a 60+ yard punt, and safety C.J. Spillman makes a huge open-field tackle of ace returner Patrick Peterson for a loss of yards.
Arizona takes over at their own 12 yard line, two yards back of where the 49ers started their opening drive. Kevin Kolb leads the Cardinals offense onto the field, and it's a short run from Beanie Wells, upended by Larry Grant, who is playing in place of Patrick Willis. On the next play, Ahmad Brooks gets huge pressure on Kolb, who gets the dumpoff to Jeff King, but he only picks up a couple yards. Aldon Smith and Justin Smith brutalize the left side of Arizona's offensive line on the next play, and Kolb has the ball knocked loose, but it's called an incomplete pass. Coach Jim Harbaugh challenges the play, saying it was a fumble, though the Cardinals recovered. It's clear he's being aggressive with the field position, as expected. The call is reversed and the 49ers gain nine yards in field position. Arizona punts and the 49ers take over at the Cardinals 42 yard line. Credit Justin Smith with the sack.
So San Francisco comes out, starting their 27th drive in opponent's territory, good for first in the NFL in that regard. Alex Smith leads the offense onto the field in a singleback formation with Gore behind him, and completes a short pass to Ted Ginn Jr. on the right sideline. On the next play, Smith stares down his receiver on the right sideline and goes to pass, but it's batted down at the line of scrimmage. Hunter is brought down behind the line of scrimmage on the next play and the 49ers contemplate a 56 yard field goal, and call a timeout. They elect to go for it instead, and Smith eludes pressure to hit Hunter for a short gain but, more importantly, a first down.
The recently signed Alex Boone enters the game at left tackle as Joe Staley is shaken up, and Gore gets a yard on a run. Daryl Washington explode through a collapsing 49ers line, right up the middle, and gets a sack on Smith. Then, it's another sack on Smith, but Adrian Wilson got a piece of his helmet and it's an automatic first down for the 49ers. Unfortunately, they can't get anything done on first and second down, and then Peterson sacks Alex Smith on the next play, so David Akers comes out and drills a 46-yard field goal, putting San Francisco up 3-0.
Kolb heads to the locker room and John Skelton takes the field for Arizona. It looks like Brooks accidentally hit Kolb in the head. If you blinked, you missed Skelton completing a decent pass to Larry Fitzgerald and then doing nothing, and they punt. The 49ers take over with good field position once again.
After calling a timeout, the 49ers can't seem to get lined up properly, and Harbaugh is angry on the sidelines. They are called for delay of game and the 49ers face another 3rd and long after Smith throws a great ball deep to Ginn, but he can't find it and it fell incomplete. Smith stares down Crabtree again on third down, and it's completed, but it doesn't go for enough yardage to convert, and Lee comes out to punt again. Spillman makes another huge special teams play and downs the bouncing football at the one-yard line.
Arizona picks up a couple of yards, and then throws incomplete to Fitzgerald, well-covered by Tarell Brown. On 3rd and eight, Skelton misses an open Early Doucet and they'll punt. With a couple seconds remaining in the first quarter, Ginn fields the punt near midfield and gets open field, taking it within the ten-yard line as the quarter comes to an end, setting up a first and goal. The first play goes to Edwards, but it's incomplete, and the next is a rush of no gain for Gore. Smith throws incomplete again, and Akers comes on for the field goal. It's good, and the 49ers lead 6-0.
Joe Staley is the starting left tackle for the 49ers and has had a pretty solid season defending the blind side for Alex Smith. But Staley went down early on their first snap of the game for the Niners, and he had to head to the locker room. It was later confirmed that Staley had suffered a head injury and will be out for the rest of the game today.
Staley being out means that Alex Boone will take his place at left tackle. The 49ers probably don't need Staley today, but they could use him in future contests, so they'll have to hope the injury isn't serious.
The San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals are set to do battle for the second time in 2011 as NFC West rivals. It's about an hour out from gametime and both teams have announced their gameday inactives, with few surprises. For San Francisco, the most significant inactive is linebacker Patrick Willis, who left last week's game against the St. Louis Rams with a hamstring injury after missing a tackle on fullback Brit Miller. Willis was immediately listed as doubtful for Sunday's game, and though he was out on the field testing his hamstring pregame, it's still no surprise that he missed time.
Larry Grant will step up for Willis next to NaVorro Bowman. He played very well in relief against the Rams when Willis went down with an injury. Grant made some big tackles and came as close to filling the spot of Willis as the 49ers can get right now. There's not much of significance for Arizona, as all of the inactives were expected.
As the San Francisco 49ers take on the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium this Sunday, running back Frank Gore looks to earn his fifth 1,000 yard rushing season, sitting only 18 yards share of the mark coming into the game. Numberfire.com projects him to earn a lot more than 18 yards this week, and should be a start in most fantasy leagues this weekend.
Frank the Tank is projected to earn around 78 yards on 13 carries for San Francisco, including 1 reception for 11 yards and 0.72 touchdowns for a total of around 13.38 points. Gore ran the ball 24 times for 88 yards last time against the Cards, though didn't score a touchdown. Hopefully Frank can break the plane in Arizona, the place where he suffered a fracture in his hip last season.
If the Niners can get Gore going early, then watch out the rest of the way.
The San Francisco 49ers are in Arizona to take on their NFC West rivals the Arizona Cardinals, and fantasy football owners are presented with a choice; do I start Alex Smith or not? It's definitely a good question, with a couple of things to consider.
According to Numberfire.com Smith is set to earn around 14 points this week on 19/31 passing for 218.71 yards, 1.46 touchdowns and 0.88 interceptions. The Cardinals are currently ranked 25th in the league in pass yards allowed at over 250 per game, and Smith carved them up last time out on November 20th for a pair of TD's and a comfortable victory.
Now Smith takes his show on the road to Arizona, where the Cardinals have been much more difficult to play. It should be a good matchup, and if you don't have anyone else more proficient, Alex Smith should be your guy this week
Here's a look at some more notable 49ers projections this week:
In Week 11, the San Francisco 49ers bested their division rival the Arizona Cardinals by a final score of 23-7. On Sunday, they'll hope to be victorious again, only this time they'll have to do it in enemy territory. The 49ers already punched their ticket to the postseason last week, but they're still playing for the prestige of gaining the No.2 seed in the playoffs. You can bet that the vaunted Niners offense will want to lay claim to bragging rights of being dominant from beginning to end in 2011.
We have all of your pertinent viewing and listening information right here:
Time: Kickoff is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PST at University of Phoenix Stadium.
TV: The game will be televised on FOX KTVU (FOX 2). Your commentators will be Dick Stockton and John Lynch.
Radio: You can listen to the radio broadcast on KNBR/BONE or on Sirius 92.
Betting Line: The 49ers are currently favored by between 4 and 4.5 points, according to our friends over at OddsShark.
The San Francisco 49ers head into Glendale Sunday afternoon to face the Arizona Cardinals in what is frequently a fun rivalry game. The two teams do not really care for each other and even if one is struggling more than the other, they often bring out the best in each other. The 49ers have had their way in the rivalry the last couple years, but before that it was a very back-and-forth affair.
Fantasy football playoffs are getting started this week, which means folks are looking for every edge they can find. Sunday's game provides the 49ers with some intriguing fantasy options. Frank Gore, the 49ers defense and David Akers are must starts. They have the most upside and had the best performances to date. There is really no reason to sit them.
Michael Crabtree has quickly developed into an excellent point-per-reception start, and a solid enough regular start as well. He has been off the team's injury report for two straight weeks now as he has said he is 100% healthy for the first time this season. This puts him in a position to get more first team reps with Alex Smith, and thus get on the same page with a bit more regularity.
Kyle Williams is an intriguing fantasy prospect. He is not projected to put up big numbers, but he is coming off a big performance against the St. Louis Rams. It will be interesting to see how his playing time is impacted by the return of Braylon Edwards. He is not a guy you would be starting in your playoffs, but he could be worth stashing in a dynasty/keeper league.
The San Francisco 49ers have seen significant buzz around their wide receiver position of late, with Braylon Edwards on the injury report yet again. Edwards hasn't been 100% almost all season, and when the media hasn't been focusing on him, they've been focusing on Kyle Williams, who has had two very good games this season, seeing his first significant playing time of his career. Against the St. Louis Rams, Williams had a 56-yard touchdown, the longest passing play by the 49ers this season, and also had a monster stiff arm that has made highlight reels around the web.
But little has been said about Michael Crabtree, who has strung together several very good games over the last few weeks. It's a great sign, considering how he's drawn the ire of fans for some time now with somewhat of a "diva" label that doesn't seem to apply anymore. He also performed well against the Cardinals the last time these two teams played, with 120 receiving yards off of seven receptions.
He was going up against Cardinals rookie Patrick Peterson, who Arizona has been matching up with teams' number one receivers. It hasn't worked out very well, but he's had a big play here and there, and it's a kind of baptism by fire move. While Crabtree is less intimidating than some of the receivers he's faced, he clearly won the first matchup and is primed to do it a second time.
And throwing the ball is something that the 49ers should really be doing. The biggest thing for them should be to not take their foot off the gas, and Michael Crabtree could certainly benefit from that.
Even if the San Francisco 49ers have Braylon Edwards in the lineup on Sunday when they take on the Arizona Cardinals, the team should be giving plenty of playing time to fellow receiver Kyle Williams. For one, the team needs to limit Edwards, even if he claims to be 100% healthy. He'll need to be ready for Monday Night Football against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
For two, the team has struggled with their wide receiver position for years. They were potential players in the Brandon Lloyd sweepstakes this year, and Edwards hasn't lived up to expectations. Ted Ginn Jr. doesn't offer much in the ways of offense, and either way, he's a free agent after this season and a conscious effort must be made to look to the future. Josh Morgan, who started the season out strongly, is on injured reserve and is also a free agent at the end of the season.
Really, that just leaves Michael Crabtree who, on a positive note, does seem to be coming out of his shell with a few impressive games over the past few weeks. But the 49ers could be looking at a need to invest in the position next season, and if that happens to be the case, they'd best figure out what they have in Kyle Williams first. He has had two really great games this season - one against the Arizona Cardinals and the other against the St. Louis Rams.
His skillset is impressive - he's fast with a quick-twitch ability. Williams is able to get between tacklers and can break a play open any time out there. In short, he needs the ball in his hands, and the team needs to know what they have in him. He hasn't had many opportunities, and it's kind of a mystery as to why. Maybe he's not that good in practice, but he really should be getting some significant playing time on Sunday.
The 49ers Friday injury report was actually pretty short, listing only four players as questionable; LB Patrick Willis isn't expected to play with a sprained hamstring still bothering him, but Tarell Brown, Braylon Edwards, and Carlos Rogers should be able to go. If Willis misses only the second game in his career, Larry Grant is expected to start in his place.
For the Cardinals, tight end Todd Heap is questionable, as are LB Joey Porter and S Kerry Rhodes. Running back Beanie Wells, Darnell Dockett, and P Dave Zastudil are all listed as probable and should play.
QUESTIONABLE: - CB Tarell Brown (ankle), WR Braylon Edwards (knee), CB Carlos Rogers (knee), LB Patrick Willis (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: - TE Todd Heap (hamstring), LB Joey Porter (knee), S Kerry Rhodes (foot)
PROBABLE: - CB Michael Adams (hamstring), S Sean Considine (achilles), DT Darnell Dockett (quadricep), RB Chris Wells (knee, hamstring), P Dave Zastudil (biceps)
The San Francisco 49ers have already clinched the NFC West and are looking to solidify home field advantage in the playoffs. While their remaining schedule does not appear to be too difficult, the team cannot afford to overlook a lesser opponent with the postseason right around the corner. The Arizona Cardinals struggled throughout most of 2011, although they are slowly showing signs of improvements. They will give San Francisco everything they have on Sunday afternoon.
Here is the full injury report from Thursday:
Did Not Participate In Practice: LB Patrick Willis (hamstring)
The 49ers will enter week 14 relatively healthy, with Patrick Willis being the biggest blow to the defense. No official word has been announced for when Willis will return to the field, but there is a small chance the talented linebacker could sit for much of the rest of the regular season.
The Cardinals are pretty banged up at the moment and the loss of Beanie Wells could be huge on Sunday. The star running back is currently listed as questionable and it seems like his availability will not be known until a few minutes before kickoff.
For more on the 49ers, head on over to Niners Nation.
On Wednesday, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Braylon Edwards told the Bay Area media that he didn't plan on missing anymore games. This was spoken in the context of not caring whether or not he'd be 100% going into said games, and that in itself is worrying. He's played a couple games this season at less-than 100% and it's certainly been noticeable. Against the Baltimore Ravens in particular, Edwards looked bad while he was out there. He gave up on plays, ran lazy routes and should have done a lot more to prevent an interception in the end zone.
Even with a depleted group of wide receivers, San Francisco didn't really need Edwards with the way the offense was running. It's silly to say a play-maker like Edwards isn't needed in the great scheme of things, but one time they can certainly stand to be without him is Sunday, when the 49ers make the trip to Arizona to take on the rival Cardinals.
It's not that the game isn't important - the 49ers need to keep an eye on playoff seeding - but San Francisco looks a lot better than Arizona at this point, and they've already beat them once. Now, it's true that the Cardinals have experienced somewhat of a resurgence of late, and should have Kevin Kolb playing quarterback, while the last two times these teams have played it was John Skelton, but San Francisco should still be favored by plenty. Is it a trap game? Maybe, but that doesn't mean Edwards should play at less-than 100%
A receiver who doesn't finish his routes on every single play and a receiver who can't go up and fight for the ball because he's not feeling as well as he'd like to is a detriment on the football field. Now, remember, this piece is assuming that he's not completely good to go on Sunday. If he is, then he should be in there and starting, but if he's not, Edwards needs to rest up for Monday's showdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Week 14 of the 2011 NFL season kicks off Thursday evening with the Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football. For the San Francisco 49ers, the action gets going on Sunday as they travel to Arizona to face the 5-7 Cardinals. The 49ers are favored and looking to improve to 11-2 as they try and secure the number two seed and accompanying first round bye.
The 49ers cannot clinch this weekend, but they are in a position to put some space between themselves and the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints. Although the Cowboys are technically still alive, trailing by three games with four to go is not exactly an ideal situation. It basically comes down to San Francisco and New Orleans.
San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals: The 49ers are four point favorites in their rematch following the 49ers 23-7 victory in San Francisco three weeks ago. This game features two significant changes from that first game. QB Kevin Kolb is back in the lineup for the Cardinals and 49ers LB Patrick Willis will likely sit this one out with a hamstring strain. Crazy things can happen in Arizona, but I think the 49ers will be able to take care of business against the Cardinals questionable offense. PICK: 49ers
New Orleans Saints @ Tennessee Titans: The Saints have been on a roll lately, but they have found more success at home than on the road. The Titans are an inconsistent team, although they have won two straight against Tampa Bay and Buffalo. The Saints are a big step up, but my gut says there is an upset in this game. This probably means the Saints win by 40, but I'll go with my gut. PICK: Saints
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys do still have a very outside shot at getting the number two seed. They host the Giants in the first of two monster divisional games between these two rivals. The Cowboys were stunned in Arizona after rolling off four straight wins. While they are 7-5, their only quality win came against the 49ers. Nonetheless, I don't think the Giants can bring the needed consistency on the road. I think Eli makes a mistake that costs his team. PICK: Cowboys
St. Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks: This has no bearing on the two seed, but does have bearing on the worst Monday Night Football matchup in quite some time. The league cannot flex MNF games, so we're stuck with a game based on to 7-9 teams from a year ago. The Seahawks are actually playing some solid football lately and have a very outside shot at the wild card. PICK: Seahawks
With a division rival like the Arizona Cardinals on the docket, you'd always like to have your best players healthy and at the ready. Unfortunately for the San Francisco 49ers that wasn't the case at practice on Wednesday in Santa Clara as All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis sat out of practice, while wide receiver Braylon Edwards remained limited.
Along with Willis (hamstring), cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee) did not participate in practice, although cornerback Tarell Brown (ankle) was limited as well, though his injury isn't considered to be too serious. Willis participated in the morning walkthrough but was absent at afternoon practice, and is looking like a strong no-go for Sunday against Arizona.
As for Edwards, he is feeling much better, and after watching the Niners clinch last Sunday wants it known there won't be any more of that without him:
"I don't plan on watching any more clinching going on without me," Edwards said. "That was a little 50-50 to watch, but I don't plan on missing any more games. I plan on playing and playing to the best of my ability. I think we'll increase reps, based on week to week. That's the plan now."
On the Arizona side running back Beanie Wells (knee, hamstring) did not participate Wednesday, while safety Sean Considine (achilles), defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (quadricep), tight end Todd Heap (hamstring), linebacker Joey Porter (knee), safety Kerry Rhodes (foot), and punter Dave Zastudil (biceps) were all limited.
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The San Francisco 49ers have their division wrapped up, a guaranteed playoff spot, and a very happy fan base. That doesn't mean they can take a week off, especially travelling to Arizona to take on the rival Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Niners still have to try and lock up the No. 2 seed in the NFC, and a win in Arizona would greatly help their chances.
According to Oddshark.com the 49ers open as a four point favorite over the Cardinals, while many of the other online betting sites list the line at 3.5. A very fitting line considering the confidence Arizona is playing with lately, the absence of the Niners defensive lynchpin in Patrick Willis, and the notion that weird things happen when these teams play each other; not to mention they simply don't like each other and almost always play a tightly contested match as well.
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The San Francisco 49ers already took the first game against the Arizona Cardinals, and will look to sweep them on the road Sunday. For more on the game and the team in general, go to Niners Nation.