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2013 Regular Season
Cardinals @Niners Preview

  • When: Sun. Oct. 13 4:25 pm EST

  • Televised: DirecTV Ch 715

  • SIRIUS/XM Radio: Intenet Ch. 800

Setup:
The Niners and Cardinals are tied at 3 & 2, but got to where they are by different means. The Cards managed to eke out wins over Detroit, Tampa Bay and, most recently, Carolina ((They lost to StL by one point and NO by a lot more). The Niners lost to the Seattle and the Colts while beating the Pack, StL and Houston, putting a one-sided 34 - 3 whomping on the Texans last week. In addition to being an early-season "tie breaker" this figures to be an "identity" game for the Cardinals (determining how they stack up against one of the elite teams in the NFC West if not the entire League).

 Last Niner Game
SF put a one-sided 34 - 3 hurt on the Texans.

First Quarter

Houston received and returned the KO to their own 12. On the 3rd play from scrimmage, Schaub's pass for A Johnson was intercepted by Brock and returned 18 yards for a Niner TD. Niners 7 – Texans 0.

Martin returned the ensuing KO to the Texan 45. Houston made it as far as the Niner 16 before the wheels fell off - two penalties on Daniels (holding and false start) moved them back to the SF 27, where Bullock's FG attempt was no good. Niners took over on their own 35 and marched in 12 plays to pay-dirt, with Gore bulling his way over left-tackle for a one-yard TD. Drive mixed short passes by Kaepernick and running by Gore. Biggest gains were a couple for 13 yarders (on an end around by K Williams and a pass to V Davis). Niners 14 – Texans 0.

Houston returned the KO to its own 17. and made it to their own 27 in three plays to end the quarter. 1st Quarter Score: Niners 14 – Texans 0.

2nd Quarter

Drive fizzled out at the Niner 43 and Houston punted to the Niner 8. A 26-yard run by Gore helped move the Niners to their own 41 where they punted to the Texan 22. A pass interference penalty helped Houston move to its own 46, but a Schaub pass for A Johnson was intercepted by Brock and returned to the Houston 32. Two plays after Keapernick scrambled for +14 and Gore motored for +16, Dixon ran it in around left end for a 2-yard score. Gore was injured during the drive but returned to action. Niners 21 – Texans 0.

Houston returned the KO to its own 9. Clock showed 5:03 til halftime. Hunter in for Gore. They went 3 & out, and the quarter ended 2 plays later. 1st Half Score: Niners 21 – Texans 0.

3rd Quarter

SF received. TB on the KO. Niners went 3 & out. Punt was fair caught at the Houston 34. An 18-yard completion to A Johnson helped set up a 41 yard Bullock FG. Niners 21 – Texans 3.

TB on the KO. The two teams exchanged 3 & outs. Gore back in. Niners got the ball back at their own 41. A defensive holding call on 3rd down helped move the chains. Drive stalled at the Houston 20, and Dawson kicked a 38 yard FG. Niners 24 – Texans 3.

KO was returned to the Houston 20. Schaub moved the Texans to the Niner 27 in 11 plays, but on the 12th, Schaub's pass for Graham was intercepted by Jarod-Eddie.and returned to the Niner 31. Gore ran for one yard to end the quarter. Third Quarter Score: Niners 24 – Texans 3.

4th Quarter

Two plays later, Kaepernick connected with V Davis for a 64-yard TD. Niners 31 – Texans 3.

KO was returned to the Houston 14. Two plays later, Whitner recovered Tate's fumble and it was SF ball on the Texan 8. Penalty helped stall the possession at the one, and Dawson booted a 24-yard FG. Niners 34 – Texans 3.

10:46 left. Houston used up 4:45 to run off 11 plays before handing it over to SF on downs at the SF 44. Niners drained all but 0:27 of the remaining 6:01 off the clock. Game over. Final Score: Niners 34 – Texans 3.

Meet the Niners
The 49'ers have the reputation for being a smashmouth team on both sides of the ball, but thus far this season, there's been more evidence of this on offense than on defense. Compared to their opponents, the 49'ers (a) run more often and (b) gain more total yardage; and why not? They average 4.6 ypc on the ground (vs. 3.7 by their opponents), and they've dialed up 153 runs vs. 132 passes. They've gained 701 yards on the ground (vs/ just 568 by their opponents). Defensively, they've been less dominant than expected: 13 sacks (vs. 11 by their opponents, +0 turnover ration, Average Time of Possession: 28:40 vs. 31:20. When you narrow all this down, it seems to come down to Frank Gore's running, Kapernick's legs, Boldin's and Davis' receiving and the OL as keys to Niner success.

Quarterback

07 Kaepernick, Colin  6-4   230  Nevada
02 McCoy, Colt   6-1  220  Texas
18 Skelton, John   6-6  250   Fordham

Just a personal opinion, but if Kaepernick were to go down, the Niners would be in a heap of trouble (with McCoy and former Card Skelton as backups). Kaepernick completed 56.1% of his passes (7.3 yards per attempt) for 6 TD's and 4 interceptions; but the most telling stat is that he's gained 154 yards on the ground on 27 carries (5.7 yards per attempt). This puts a special burden on opposing pass rushers (who - when they pin their ears back -have to make sure he doesn't escape). Overall, Pro Football Focus (PFF) gives Kaepernick a minus-8.7 overall grade (minus-8.2 as a passer.


Running Back

21  Gore, Frank   RB    5-9    217   Miami (Fla.)
32  Hunter, Kendall   RB     5-7    199   Oklahoma St.
23  James, LaMichael   RB   5-9   195   Oregon
49  Miller, Bruce   FB    6-2    248   Central Florida
24  Dixon, Anthony RB   6-1   233   Mississippi St.

Some observers feel Gore is the best RB in pro football (Take that! Adrian Peterson). Thus far, he's gained 376 rushing yards in 78 attempts (4.8 ypc). He has a +5.2 overall PFF rating (a gaudy +3.4 as a pass blocker). Hunter backs up Gore and has gained 109 yards in 27 attempts. Neither RB has been used that much in the receiving game (Gore has caught 5 passes for 56 yards; Hunter 2 for 19). A perennial key-to-the-game for just about every NFL opponent is to "contain Gore" (nice so long as you also contain Kaepernick).

Wide Receiver


81  Boldin, Anquan    WR1   6-1    220   Florida St.
19  Moore, Marlon  WR    6-0    190   Fresno St.
84  Baldwin, Jon    WR    6-4   230    Pittsburgh
14  Osgood, Kassim    WR   6-5   220   San Diego State
10  Williams, Kyle  WR2   5-10  186   Arizona St.
11  Patton, Quinton   WR   6-0   204   Louisiana Tech
13  Harper, Chris   WR   6-1   234   Kansas State

Lopsided (tilting toward Boldin) .With injuries to Crabtree and other receivers, Boldin has become the #1 guy with 26 grabs for 393 yards (a 15.1 yard average). He's got a +1.9 overall rating (+3.2 asa pass catcher). Since leaving the Cardinals, he's evolved into a more rugged version of Fitz. Williams is second among receivers, but has just 9 catches (for 87 yards). His overall and receiving ratings are both minus-3.7. Moore also carries negative overall and receiving ratings. Baldwin and Patton are capable backups but don't see much action.

Tight End

85  Davis, Vernon  6-3     250   Maryland
89  McDonald, Vance  6-4   267   Rice
88 Celek, Garrett   6-5    252   Michigan St.

The multi-talented Davis (catches, blocks, cleans, cooks etc.) is second to Boldin with 14 catches for 224 yards (16.0 ypc - highest yards per catch average among all Niner pass-catchers). He carries a +4.6 rating overall (+2.8 as a receiver). For all intents and purposes, Boldin and Davis are the true Niner receiving tandem. Keeping an eye on Davis, Boldin, Gore and Kapernick all at the same time - is a major challenge for the Cardinal defense.


Offensive Line

74  Staley, Joe  LT   6-5     315    Central Michigan
77  Iupati, Mike   LG   6-5    331   Idaho
78  Looney, Joe     G   6-3    315   Wake Forest
59  Goodwin, Jonathan   C   6-3    318   Michigan
67   Kilgore, Daniel G/C    6-3    308   Appalachian St.
76  Davis, Anthony RT  6-5   323   Rutgers

75 Boone, Alex      RG   6-8   300   Ohio St.
68   Snyder, Adam   G    6-6   325    Oregon

Staley anchors the left side of the Niner OL and carries apositive overall rating of +5.2 (+3.4 as a pass blocker and +1.0 as a run blocker). Iupati (minus-2.5 overall; minus-5.0 as a pass blocker) surprisingly does not. Nor does Goodwin at center (who has negative ratings overall, as a pass blocker and also blocking for the run). Boone has been a surprising force on the right side (with a +4.1 overall grade and +3.8 blocking for the run). Davis is a better pass blocker than run blocker but carries a minus-2.4 grade overall. A key to the lack of depth on the SF offensive line might be the presence of of former Niner/former Cardinal Snyder in a backup role.

Defensive Line


91  McDonald, Ray LDT   6-3   290   Florida
63  Jerod-Eddie, Tony   DT  6-5   301  Texas A&M
90  Dorsey, Glenn  NT   6-1  297   LSU

94  Smith, Justin   RDT   6-4   285  Missouri
83  Dobbs, Demarcus  TE/DT   6-2  275   Georgia

Kind of thin with only 5 players (one of whom doubles as a backup TE). All three starting linemen carry positive overall grades (McDonald: +4.3, J Smith: +4.1 and Dorsey: +8.1). McDonald, Smith and Dorsey are 9th, 10th and 11th on the team in total tackles. Jerod-Eddie was credited with a pick last week. Smith leads all Niner defenders in QB Sacks-HIts-Hurries (SHH) with 19. McDonald, J Smith and Dorsey (11) are close together with 11, 9 and 11 stops respectively. McDonald leads all SF linemen with 17 tackles

Linebacker


55   Brooks, Ahmad OLB   6-3   259   Virginia
50   Cunningham, Jermaine LB   6-3  255   Florida
53   Bowman, NaVorro  ILB   6-0  242   Penn St.

56    Stupar, Nate   LB   6-2  240   Penn St.
52    Willis, Patrick   ILB   6-1   240   Mississippi
57    Wilhoite, Michael    LB   6-0   240   Washburn
51    Skuta, Dan  OLB   6-2    250   Grand Valley St.
96    Lemonier, Corey   LB    6-3   255   Auburn


Bowman (47) and Brooks (28) lead the team in tackles. Wilhoite (22) is 5th. Patrick Willis (19) is 7th. Aldon Smith (if he were available) would have been 6th. Next to (heh, heh) Dansby and Washington, the ILB tandem of Bowman and Willis is considered the best in the NFL. On the outside, Brooks and Smith were an awfully good pair, but Smith is unavailable and Skuta is his replacement. With the exception of Lemonier and Skuta, the entire linebacking group carries a negative overall PFF grade. Bowman grades out minus-2.1 vs. the run but +7.3 as a pass rusher. Coversely, Brooks has a +4.9 grade vs. the run, but a minus-1.5 as a pass rusher. Numerically (for whatever that's worth), Willis is having a subpar year - a negative-2.1 rating overall; +2.3 vs. the run and minus-0.6 rushing the passer. Lemonier has positive grades across the board. Skuta is relatively average against both run and in rushing the passer. Bowman and Brooks both have a gaudy number of stops (with 19 and 20 respectively at the 4 game mark). Brooks is second on the Niners with 16 sacks; hits; hurries with 16 over 4 games.

Defensive Back


22  Rogers, Carlos LCB   6-0  192   Auburn
26  Brock, Tramaine   CB   5-10   197    Belhaven
25  Brown, Tarell  CB   5-10  193   Texas
28  Asomugha, Nnamdi  CB   6-2   210   California
20  Cox, Perrish   CB   6-0  198   Oklahoma St.
40  Morris, Darryl   CB    5-10   188   Texas State
35  Reid, Eric   FS  6-1   213   LSU
27  Spillman, C.J.  S   6-0   199   Marshall
31  Whitner, Donte SS   5-10   208   Ohio St.
43   Dahl, Craig  S  6-1  212  North Dakota State
41   Ventrone, Bubba   S   5-10   200   Villanova

As deep and talented a group as you'll ever see. (Guys like Asomugha, Brock, Dahl and Cox aren't even first-stringers, Reid is an emerging star and Whitner is a known-assassin who's second to Bowman in tackles). The marquis guys (Rogers and Asomugha) are struggling at least numerically - Rogers (tied for most appearances) carries a minus 1.1 overall rating (minus-2.3 for pass coverage). Asomugha (who is a distance 5th in appearances behind the four Niner starting DB's carries a minus-3.9 overall rating (minus-2.8 in pass coverage). But the overall grades for Brown (+3.3), Brock (+4.8), Whitner (+6.4) and Reid (+1.9) are outstanding. Even though Brock is considered a backup, his 2 interceptions last week swung-the momentum of last week's game around to the Niners. Whitner and Reid are 3rd and 4th on the team in tackles. Brown is 8th. Brock and Reid lead the team in interceptions with 2 apiece. (a DL - Eddie - and Whitner each have one).

Special Teams

09 Dawson, Phil    K   5-11  200   Texas
47  McDermott, Kevin   LS   6-4   234   UCLA
04    Lee, Andy   P/H   6-2    180   Pittsburgh
23  James, LaMichael   KR/PR/RB   5-9   195   Orego
n
       

Lee has a 48.7 punting average (compared to 44.1 for Niner opponents). A relatively low percentage went for touchbacks or fell inside the 20. Dawson has delivered on 5 of 6 FG attempts inside the 50 but he's 0 for 2 outside the 50. Still, he carries a +7.9 rating for KO's/XP's. Kyle Williams handles punt returns; kickoff returns are pretty much "by committee". In neither instance are Niner averages all that different from their opponents - except for a couple of things of notic: (1) Niners returned 7 punts (compared to 15 returned by their opponents. - which means that the Niners punted more than twice as often as their opponents and (2) they were kicked off to 8 times (but kicked off to their opponents 13 times), suggesting that they scored more and, therefore, kicked off more often than did the other guys.


Coaches

Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh
Offensive Coordinator: Greg Roman
Defensive Coordinator: Vic Fangio
Special Teams Coordinator/Ass't HC: Brad Seely

Harbaugh gets credit for turning around an iffy franchise in an extremely short period time. He was just a smidge away from beating his brother's Ravens team in last year's Super Bowl. Not only was there a re-tooling of personnel, he changed the entire culture of the team. There are, however, a small number of nay-sayers who feel that the high-intensity Niner HC will eventually implode. (But, at least for now, he's doing a helluva job).


Cardinal Roster


Overall

The defense and special teams were mainly responsible for the two Cardinal wins over Tampa Bay and Carolina. The offense remains a work-in-progress, committing too many turnovers and failing to convert a high enough percentage of third-downs. The offensive line (sans Levi Brown and plus newcomer Bradley Sowell) has played well enough to allow the defense/ST's to keep things close and the rest of the offense to function. The defense is still learning to deal with big pass catching TE's.

By Position

QB - 03 Palmer, 05 Stanton, 14 Lindley 
Counter to what you might observe on the field, Palmer carries a +4.4 overall (+3.7 as a passer). He is an "orthodox" pocket QB who thrives when his support is solid and he doesn't have to do unorthodox things in order to execute plays. But when things begin to break down (translation: "pass blocking"), he either hurries his throws (before his receivers can get open) or holds onto the ball too long (& takes too many unecessary sacks). Under pressure, he'll frequently throw floaters off his back foot and/or eyeball his receivers (a recipe for disaster). Given those limitations (coupled with the poor pass protection) it's amazing that he plays as well as he does. His latest glaring weakness has been a tendency to make questionable decisions, miss open receivers and throw an average of 3 interceptions per game. We keep hoping it's just a matter of QB-receiver chemistry and that he'll grow out of his difficulties, but we're not seeing it as of yet.

RB - 28 Mendenhall, 29 Smith, 30 Taylor, 38 Ellington, 34 R Williams
If the football universe revolved around statistics, Mendenhall would be sitting on the bench and Ellington would be our feature RB - Mendy has negative ratings both overall (minus-2.7) and as a runner (minus-3.9) whereas Ellington is +4.3 overall (+2.3 as a runner). But BA has doubts that Ellington is big enough or durable enough to be a true feature-RB. So it looks like it's going to be Mendenhall (mostly between the tackles) and the shiftier, more explosive
Ellington (outside the tackles). When Cards started to run the ball more often in the Carolina game (regardless of how successful), the offense overall started to wake up.

WR1 - 15 Floyd, 12 Roberts,
WR2 -11 Fitzgerald, 13 Brown, 10 Golden
Probably the most consistent spot on our roster, but a bit less predictable when you get to the #3 receiver on-down. Fitz has an overall grade of +8.0 and remains a top 3 WR. He'll have a shot at breaking the 100-catch barrier if Palmer can get his sea-legs. Floyd is coming into his own as a physical go-to guy. Roberts has been less than a sure thing fighting for contested balls. Brown usually sees spot duty and seldom disappoints. Golden has been elevated from the PS to replace K Taylor (who has been re-signed to the practice squad).

TE - 81 Dray, 83 Sperry, 86 Jefferson, 84 Housler
Housler remains an enigma - promising speed and hands,but clueless as a route-runner. Dray - more of an H-Back type - has a +3.7 overall rating but just a +0.4 rating as a pass catcher. He did have a huge TD grab to help ice the Carolina game last week. Sperry is our best blocker (and shows surprisingly good hands). Jefferson is a young rook with more potential than production at this point.

LT- 
79 Sowell
LG-
71 Colledge, 76 Potter 
OC-
63 Sendlein, 69 Gibson,
RG - 74 Fanaika, 78 Watford
RT 
- 73 Winston, 70 Massie,

With the exception of Colledge (who has a +3.6 grade overall), every Cardinal O-lineman grades out in the negative. Levi Brown was finally released. An example of "addition by subtraction - Levi had an overall PFF grade of minus-5.8 (minus-8.5 as a pass blocker). His replacement, Sowell has a minus-2.1 overall grade (minus-1.1 as a a pass blocker) - a distinct improvement over Levi. Colledge is an enigma - +4.7 as a pass blocker but mins-2.5 as a run blocker. Winston (to a milder degree) is a better run blocker than a pass blocker. A telling stat is Sacks-Hits-Hurries. Winston has given up 21, Fanaika 17 and Sendlein, Sowell and Colledge 6 apiece. (Note - Levi in 3 games had given up 18). Last week, the OL as a unit, played adequately (allowing just one sack and occasionally opening decent holes) if not spectacularly (which is more than OK)

DE - 93 Campbell, Talley
NT - 92 D Williams, Ta'amu
DT - 90 Dockett, Rucker

Williams returned to action and, with Ta'amu, has done a nice job of anchoring the middle. Our starters all carry positive PFF grades. Campbell leads all Cardinal linemen in Stops-Hits-Hurries with 17, followed by Dockett with 13. But Dockett grades out as only "average" vs. the run. Both DD and CC grade out positively as pass rushers. It seems as if - when Dockett has a big game - Calais kind of disappears (& vice versa). But, in any single game, one or the other can be expected to wreak havoc. Rucker and Talley provide energetic and reliable depth.

WLB - 55 Abraham, 50 Moch
ILB  58 Washington, 52 Brinkley, 53 B Taylor
ILB - 56 Dansby, 56 Minter, 45 Demens

SLB - 91Shaughnessy, 59 Benard
Statistically, the big surprise is that Dansby (who leads the defense by far with 23 stops and 42 tackles) has a minus-5.7 rating. News of the week was the return of DWash to pair with Dansby inside, forming what arguably might be the most dynamic inside LB pair in the NFL. Washington's speed enables him to run with TE's and backs in coverage and close in pursuit of a scrambling QB on blitz-detail. His presence makes the dyamic Dansby that much better and, in fact has had a positive impact on the entire Front Seven of the Cardinal defense. OLB had been decimated by injury - Acho, Alexander, So'oto and Okafor are on IR and lost for the season. Abraham and Moch have stepped up on the weakside and Shaughnessy has been a solid anchor at SAM.

 

RCB - 25 Powers, 20 Cason, 31 Bethel
LCB- 21 Peterson, 35 Arenas
  
SS- 37 Bell, 22 T Jefferson, 40 Tillman
FS- 26 Rash Johnson, 32 Mathieu
Peterson has been playing lights-out of late (3 picks in 2 games). Powers looks like he's beginning to master coverage techniques when playing "off." Bell is being used more and more like a "rover" or "elephant" LB and is primarily a run-stopper. Johnson (and the remaining part of his finger) is expected back. While T Jefferson stepped up admirably for Rashad, he's still learning how to communicate with other DB's and LB's - Johnson already brings this to the party. Mathieu continues to be a heat-seeking missile (tops on the team with 35 Sacks-Hits-Hurries).

 

K-04 Feely
P-  09 Zastudil
H - 09 Zastudil
LS-
82 Leach
KR - 35 Arenas

PR -
21 Peterson

This unit is winning us games. Feely (+2.0 grade as a kicker)has regained his consistency. Zatudil (+6.8 grade as a punter) is a field position maestro - magical at dropping punts inside the 10 or 15. And when the punts drop, Bethel is there to down (or even catch) them. (He carries a +8.0 overall ST grade - +6.8 covering punts and +2.0 covering KO's). We continue to see very little from our return guys, but our coverage guys and kick blockers are arguably the best in the NFL.

  Seahawks vs. Cardinals Matchups

Niner  Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Cards face a big, mobile QB who can beat you with his feet, operates behind a solid wall of blockers and has at his disposal, Boldin, V Davis and Williams to throw to along with Frank Gore to hand off to. Card defense will have a lot of balls in the air - putting pressure on (while containing) Kaepernick, reining in Boldin (who is in Beast Mode this year) and their TE, V Davis. Four keys - (1) being in the right position, (2) wrapping up tackles (3) winning our share of jump balls with Davis and Boldin and (4) keeping everything in front of our DB's.

Niner  Running Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
It's all about Frank Gore running behind an impressive wall of smashmouth run-blockers. Primary Arizona objective - Rein in Gore. Sometimes in the past, we've done a pretty good job with Gore; but on a few occasions, he's blacktopped the Cardinal run defense. Kaepernick represents a secondary running threat - either when scrambling or thru designed running plays. In either case, he's faster than you'd think and a load to bring down. Last week, D Washington and Karlos Dansby were successful at containing a similar-styled QB - Cam Newton (a main reason being that Washington was fast enough to catch the escaping Carolina QB from behind). Cardinal defenders will have to do an equally good job vs. Kaepernick.

Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Niner  Pass Defense
One of the only (if not the only) areas of concern is Carson Palmer - who, among other things, has become an interception-machine. Chalk some of this up to receivers running wrong routes or not fighting hard enough for contested balls. Chalk some up to blocking breakdowns. But at least half of them are due to poor decision-making and throws into heavy-coverage by the Cardinal QB. The hope is that, as Carson gets to know his receivers better (& what he can and cannot get away with), those interception numbers will start to come down. But we're about to enter Week #6 and patience is wearing thin. This is especially hard to take when you consider the yeoman-like work the defense and ST is doing to keep us in games (Even when we're winning, those games shouldn't be as close as they've been).

The Niners are traditionally known for their pass rush, but this year have only sacked the passer 13 times. The absence of pass-rushing LB Aldon Smith may have something to do with the relatively average sack totals. Niner pass rushers will be going up against a Cardinal OL featuring Brad Sowell in place of Levi Brown at LT - a distinct improvement over previous pass blocking disasters but you never know with rookies. Niners have 6 interceptions - Brock and Reid each have 2). Palmer has to be extremely careful about eyeballing his receivers or floating the ball when throwing off his back foot.

Cardinal Running Attack vs. Niner Run Defense
Last week, after only running the ball 6 times in the 1H, Cardinal fortunes changed markedly when Coach Arians forced himself to dial up more running plays - even when they, at first. didn't seen to be working. Cards are typically using Mendenhall as a kind of "feature-back Lite" - between the tackles; usually for 2 - 3 yard gains. But the Cards are starting to take advantage of Ellington's outside speed, receiving skills, agility and explosiveness when he gets to the next level - by easing him more and more into the offense so that he's almost operating as an interchangeable part with Mendenhall. Niners are very tough against the run (holding opponents to 568 yds). But the way to take some of the heat off Palmer is to run the ball effectively- even if not 100% successfully - in order to keep defending pass rushers honest in play action situations.

Special Teams
Lee is closing in on a 50 yard average as a punter, but Zastudil is better than just about anyone in the NFL when it comes to dropping his punts inside the 10 - 15 (where Bethel can down them). Feely has been rock-solid since a shaky preseason. Dawson is 0 for 3 from outside the forty. Neither return team has lit anything on fire thus far this season. Cardinal special teams play continues to be underrated as a game-determining factor.

Coaching
Harbaugh (reinforced by recent history) has the Niners believing they can win it all. Offensively, he's getting it done with a big, physical QB who poses a running threat in addition to being a better-than-average passer and a pile driving RB. The absence of Crabtree (as a complimentary receiving threat to Boldin and V Davis) has made the Niners more "mortal" than a year ago. In his first year as Cardinal HC. Coach Arians has somehow navigated his team to a 3 & 2 record as he faces a tough second quarter of the season with this Sunday's game vs. SF followed 4 days later by a Thurs. night game with the Seahawks. How well the Cardinals address this challenge will be a determining factor on how the entire season plays out.

 Final Word 
Definitely a "definition game." (How well will the Cards measure up to a division rival who's one of the elite teams in the NFL)? Niners are not as invincible as they were a year ago, but are still very very good. In order to win, the Cards will have to play every bit as well as they did last week on defense and special teams, while playing more effiicient. mistake-free football on offense (which would have to mean little or no sacks, interceptions or busted plays and more 3rd down conversions, completed deep passes and red zone TD's). Tall order but definitely do-able.

 
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Copyright 1996 Gollin & Associates. Last modified: 10/03/2012