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The Setup
Both teams were desperate 1 & 3 division cellar-dwellers. Cards made more mistakes than LA last Sunday and lost a hard-fought physical football game 17 - 13. After dismembering the Rams in their opening game, the Niners had lost three straight - including a 24 - 17 "go from ahead" loss, to the Cowboys last Sunday.

Cards were hyped as Super Bowl contenders whereas the Niners - under new HC Chip Kelly - were considered a "team on the rebuild." Cardinal QB Carson Palmer was expected to be sidelined under concussion protocol. Niners lost defensive standard bearer, Navarro Bowman for the season.

The Lede
Cards Turn Over Niners 33 - 21.

The Bottom Line:
Cards rode the back of RB David Johnson and capitalized on a bunch of turnovers to put together a come-from-behind win over the Niners. Drew Stanton, though rusty, avoided any serious miscues. With the exception of Larry Fitzgerald, Stanton's receivers (most notably the two Browns and Floyd) had trouble hanging onto a bunch of catchable balls). The OL - despite injuries to both guards (Iupati and Mathis) - did an admirable job of protecting Stanton and opening up holes for D Johnson (who ran for well over 150 yards).

The Cardinal front seven put constant pressure on SF QB Gabbert, sacking him 8 times, forcing 2 interceptions and generally creating havoc behind the LOS. There were a few times when the Card defenders overran their pass rush, leaving the middle or left-side scramble-lanes wide open and making Gabbert look like the second coming of Tyrod Taylor. Calais Campbell's deflection and interception of a Gabbert pass just before the end of the 2Q, enabled the Cardinals to tie the score 7 - 7 at halftime. The Cards then capitalized on a few Niner miscues to grab the lead early in the 3Q , expand that lead and then win going away.

Game Recap
Cards continued this season's pattern of failing to score in the 1Q and falling behind 7 - 0 just before the end of the 1H, but then capitalized a cluster of turnovers during the period just before and after halftime along with the hard running of David Johnson (157 rushing yards) and a spirited defense (that sacked Gabbert 8 times) to open up a 17-point lead to hang on to a 33 - 21 victory.

1st Quarter
  • Cards won the toss and received. TB on KO. Nelson returned the KO to the Card 43 but - despite a 17-yard D Johnson run off RT, were unable to move past the Niner 39 and punted. Punt was fair caught by Kerley. Niners went 3 & out.

    Smokey Brown fair caught the Niner punt at the Card 38. Cards managed to pick up a 1st down on a couple of D Johnson runs but punted from midfield. Punt was fair caught at the SF 11. They managed to reach their own 41 before they had to punt Punt was downed at the Card 7. Cards couldn't move past their own 39. Quigley's punt wasfair caught by Kerley at the Niner 16.

    After picking up a 1st down, a minus-10 yard sack (by Golden and Minter) forced the Niners to punt from their own 19. Returned for no gain. Cards ball at their own 24. A +10 yard completion to Sm Brown moved the Cards to their own 35 as the quarter ended with no score for either team.

    1st Quarter Score: Cardinals 0 - Niners 0.

2nd Quarter
  • Stanton was sacked for minus-8 and the Cards punted 3 downs later. Punt returned to the SF 22. Four downs after a Gabbert-to-Kerley completion picked up a 1st down, the Niners had to punt. (Nelson muffed the punt, but it was recovered by Golden). Cards picked up a 1st down before having to punt from their own 44. Kerley muffed the punt but this time the Niners recovered. Niners ball on their own 13.

    Completions to Keley of +13, +17 and +24 yards set up a 9-yard TD pass - on a pick play - to a wide open Kerley (Mathieu was the DB who got picked off). Niners 7 - Cardinals 0.

    4:12 left till halftime. Nelson returned the KO to the Card 24. Cards had that "here we go again" look and went 3 & out. Niners got the ball back at their own 26 on a fair catch by Kerley. Three plays after a taunting penalty (Hyde) moved the Niners back to their own 24, Gabbert'spass for Celek was batted up in the air by Campbell who then came down with the ball for a Cardinal interception. (Game changing play).

    (A breath of fresh air). Card ball on the SF 21 with 1:46 on the clock. On the first play from scrimmage, Stanton hit a wide-open Fitz at the 4 on on a left-to-right slant and Fitz trotted it in for the tying score. Niners 7 - Cardinals 7.

    TB on the KO. The two teams exchanged 3 & outs and SF ran out of time 3 plays later.

    First Half Score: Niners 7 - Cardinals 7.

3rd Quarter

  • Niners received, but C Davis was stripped of the ball by Momah who then recovered the fumble. Cards ball on the Niner 14 (Second game changing turnover). After the Cards had to settle for a Catanzaro FG, the play was nullified by a roughing the kicker penalty. Cards had a new life on the Niner 4, where D Johnson ran it in for a Cardinal TD. Cardinals 14 - Niners 7.

    TB on the KO. Niners held to 3 & out. Punt returned to the Card 29. On the 6th play of the possession, Stanton hit Fitzgerald deep for a 29-yard TD. Cardinals 21 - Niners 7.

    KO returned to the Niner 18. Gabbert engineered an 11-play TD drive to narrow the score to one TD. 8 of the 11 plays were either runs or scrambles. Drive was capped by a one-yard run up the middle by Hyde. Cardinals 21 - Niners 14

    TB on the KO. Cards - in a penalty packed possession - went 3 & out. Niners ball on their own 14. They managed to pick up a 1st down to start the final quarter.

    Third Quarter Score: Cardinals 21 - Niners 14

4th Quarter
  • On the first play of the quarter, Gabbert's pass for Kerley was intercepted by Cooper (who tight-roped dowb the right sideline but couldn't stay in bounds). Cards ball at the Niner 24. Cards couldn't do much, and settled for a 36-yard Catanzaro FG to make it a 2-score game. Cardinals 24 - Niners 14

    TB on KO. A Golden sack put the cap on a Niner 3 & out. Punt fair caught by Sm Brown at the Card 24. Stanton put together a 12 play (7:12) TD drive featuring 10 runs (including 8 straight runs) by D Johnson and Ellington ending with a 2-yard TD run off RG by D Johnson. Cardinals 31 - Niners 14

    4:44 left. TB on the KO. Niners put together a 13 play (2:52 !!!) drive capped by a one-yard Gabbert run around RE. (Back to 2-scores with 1:51 left). Cardinals 31 - Niners 21

    Cards recovered the on-side kick (whew!!!) at the Niner 43 but were held to 3 & out. Punt was downed at the SF one-yd line with 1:26 still left. But on the second play from scrimmage, C Campbell and another Cardinal player made a sandwich of Gabbert behind the LOS for a safety. Cardinals 33 - Niners 21

    1:17 still left. Free kick fair caught at the Card 17. Two knees. Game over.Cardinals 33 - Niners 21

    Final Score: Cardinals 33 - Niners 21

Notable Game Stats.

  • Passing: Stanton was 11 for 28, 124 yards 2 TD's and 0 Interceptions. (Gabbert was 18 for 31, 162 yds, 1 TD's and 2 picks).

  • Rushing: D Johnson gained 157 yards on 27 carries & 2 TD's.. (Hyde picked up 78 yds on 22 carries.
  • Receiving: Fitz had had 6 grabs for 81 yards and 2 TD's. D Johnson had 3 for 28. (Kerley had 102 yards & a TD on 8 catches. Hyde caught 6 passes for 36 yards). .

    Turnovers: Plus-3. Cards gave away no fumbles or picks. (SF gave away 1 fumble and 2 picks ).

    Penalties: Cards 2/SF 2

  • Run/Pass Ratio: Cards: 37/28. (SF: 36/31)

  • Kicking: Catanzaro was 1 for 1 in FG attempts. (Dawson was 0 for 0).

    Net Punting Yards: Quigley averaged 42.4. (SF punter averaged 46.3)

  • Tackles: Bucannon led the Cards with14 tackles followed by Golden (10) and Minter (5)

    Sacks: Cards sacked Keenum eight times (Golden and Campbell 2 apiece. Minter 1.5. Swearenger 1.0. Okafor 0.5).). Stanton was sacked 1 time)..

    Interceptions: Stanton wasn't picked off. (Gabbert: 2 -picks: Campbell and Cooper).

    Third Down Efficiency: Cards wer 5 of 16 for 31%. (SF was 4 of 14 for 28%).

    Red Zone Efficiency: Cards were 0 of 0 - 0%. (Niners were 1 of 1 for 100%).

    Time of Possession: Cards 31:44 / Niners 28:16

  • Card rush defense gave up an average of 4.2 per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 4.6)

Bright Spots

  • Stanton - Zero Interceptions.No fumbles.

  • D Johnson - 157 ground yards including a lot of yards after contact.

    Fitz produced like someone 10 years younger.

    The OL in the 2H protected Stanton and opened holes for D Johnson despite sub guards Wentz and Watford in for the injured Mathis and Iupati.

    Momah stepped up from the PS to do what he was expected to do (including that ST strip and fumble recovery)

    Eight sacks by the Cardinal D. Special props to Calais Campbell and Marcus Golden

    Unsung hero - Chandler Jones (No sacks, but he helped cause a bunch).

    Plus-3 turnover ratio

    Turnaround just before halftime

The Dark Side

  • No points in the 1Q and most of the 2Q

  • Sm Brown, Floyd (& to a lesser extent, Jarod Brown) dropped more catchable balls than they caught

  • Just 2 penalties

  • Stanton's completion percentage - 11 for 28 isn't going to win many football games.

  • Communications miscues in the secondary cost us that first TD in the 2Q.

  • We still leave the A gaps wide open too often when we blitz.

    Ditto weak side outside contain of the QB

    Just a nitpick, but: given SF's weakness at both corners and OLB, why did BA seem to favor running between the tackles instead of attacking the Niners' flanks? (Note - I can think of two instances where we successfully passed to DJ on a left side circle route and handed off to him on a right side cutback off tackle. I'm just wondering why we didn't do this more often).

Last Word:
To quote every NFL pundit within ear-range: 2 & 3 is a whole lot better than 1 & 4.

Cards proved that - when they bring their "A" game, they can run with any NFL team, but they haven't been all that consistent and it's hard to predict which Cardinal team will show up on any given Sunday (or Thursday or Monday night).

The coaches need to set a standard of "execution of technique" and "execution of strateg"y and insist that every player execute to that standard all the time.

To put it another way - there are certain things you just do (or don't do) 100% of the time.( i.e. you don't lunge at a ballcarrier in the open field. You do cover up the ball with both hands whenever you carry the ball. You always look-in passes in traffic. You always run your pattern past the first down marker. You grin instead of retaliate when you're cheap-shotted (i.e. don't get mad/get even).

(Maybe they have this in theory but this needs to become a hallmark of the way we play Cardinal Football.

Finally, We should never look ahead to 3 & 3 (or whatever the next challenge should be) - just focus on executing well enough to earn the "next 'W'" and then and only then look back and say: "Oh, we've made it to 3 & 3. Cool. Next!

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Copyright 1996 Gollin & Associates. Last modified: 11/26/2012