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The Setup
Niners have been plagued by injury (P Garcon the latest biggie). Road game in SF (4:05 pm EDT Fox) - Niners were one of two winless teams at the mid-season mark. Weak at QB, they just made a trade with the Pats for their backup QB (& Cardinal killer) Jimmy Garappolo. Beathard named starter. Cards were 3 & 4; coming off a Bye week where they licked their wounds in the wake of a shellacking by the Rams. Cards were hanging by their fingernails trying to get back to .500 and not wanting to lose to a winless division rival. Cards were without Carson Palmer probably for the rear of the season. It will be up to Drew Stanton to take over the reins.

The Lede
Cards Win Decisively and Sloppily 20 - 10

The Bottom Line:
Answers to unasked (& asked) questions:

  • The Niners are who we thought they were.

  • Adrian Peterson is more durable than we thought.

  • Stanton can get the job done part of the time, but needs to get it done more of the time.

  • Seemed to us that our receivers had trouble handling Stanton fastballs.

  • Cardinals still haven't learned how to keep its heel on the rattlesnake's head.

  • Ball protection - at critical times - is still a problem

  • So is field goal accuracy

    Budda looked good in KO coverage.

    It seemed as if the Niners had an "injury quota" of one player per down.

Game Recap
Santa Claus almost arrived 2 months early, as the Cards kept trying numerous creative ways to hand a victory to the winless and injury-wracked Niners. Fortunately, reality prevailed, bad breaks didn't kill us and, in the end, we had more points than they did.

1st Quarter
  • Cards returned KO to their20. On the first play from scrimmage, Stanton hit Jo Brown with a 52-yd bomb down the right sideline. But the drive stalled at the SF 20 and Dawson's 38-yd FG try was no good.

    Niner ball at their own 28. On the third play from scrimmage, Mathieu forced a fumble by Juszczyk. Peterson recovered and returned it to the Niner 6. Three plays later, Stanton hit Ja Brown in the end zone for a 3-yd TD. Cards 7 - Niners 0..

    KO returned to Niner 22. 3 & out. Punt returned to AZ 37. Cards held to 3 & out. Punt fair caught at the Niner 23. Niners almost reached midfield in 5 plays but had to punt. Fair caught - AZ12. 3 & out. 3 & out. 3 & out. Punt returned to Niner 18. On first play of the Niner possessiion, Beathard hit Goodwyn (over a Mathieu) for 55 yards. A holding penalty derailed the Niner drive which stalled at the Cardinal 34 as the quarter ended. .

    1st Quarter Score: Cards 7 - Niners 0..

2nd Quarter
  • On the first play of the quarter, gould kicked a 42-yd FG. Cards 7 - Niners 3..
  • TB on KO. Runs by Peterson for +18 and +16 yds, a short pass from Stanton to Niklas and an 11-yd pass to Fitz set up a 10-yd TD pass to Gresham. Cards 14 - Niners 3..
  • KO returned to the Niner 29... 3 & out...3 & out...3 & out...Cards return punt to their own 23 ...Stanton moves them down to the Niner 14 in 8 plays - including a 13-yd run by Peterson, a 15-yd pass to Nelson and a 23-yd completion to Fitz) - but Stanton's pass for Gresham is intercepted in the end zone (We could have iced the game right then & there).
  • Niners took over on their own 20 and used 11 plays to move all the way to the Card 38; where they opted to punt. Punt downed at Card 6. Stanton took a knee.

    First Half Score: Cards 14 - Niners 3

3rd Quarter

  • Niners received. TB on KO. Beathard led a 13 play (5:17) TD drive ending in a Beathard keeper for a 1-yd TD. A series of Officials rulings (starting with reversings of a 7-yd K-Mart sack and a Beathard TD run) threatened to take over the game. We now have a 4-pt game. Cards 14 - Niners 10

    TB on KO. Cards made it to the Niner 44 before a holding call on Nklas pinned them back to their own 46 and forced a punt. Fair catch: Niner 15...3 & out...Punt fair caught at the Cardinal 28. Stanton moved the Cards to the Niner 15 in 8 plays (including a 23-yd pass to Fitz and a 12-yd pass to Gresham) before the quarter ended.

    Third Quarter Score: Cards 14 - Niners 10

4th Quarter
  • On the 4th play of the quarter, the Card drive stalled at the Niner 7 and Dawson kicked a 25-yarder. We're back up to 7-points. Cards 17 - Niners 10

    KO cauught and downed at the Niner 18...3 & out (including a minus-8 yd sack by Dansby)...Punt returned to the Card 48. 12:35 left...Key drive of the game: 11 plays; (7:02 off the clock). Capped by a 32-yd Dawson FG to open up a 10-pt lead with 5:33 left. Cards 20 - Niners 10.

    KO (net holding call) returned to SF 8. Time remaining: 5:33. Beathard moved to near mid-field in 8 plays, but turned the ball over on downs. 3:43 left. We got the game sewn up, right? Wrong! On the first play from scfrimmage, Peterson gained one yard and fumbled. Niner ball at their own 49. After a full-fledged scrum (in which Hyde, Rucker and Riddick were disqualified and the Niners handed a gift of 15-yards) put the ball on the Cardinal 31 with 3:21 left - Beathard was able to reach the Cardinal 9, with 2:35 left to go. But on the 7th play of the drive, his pass for Celek was picked off by Dansby at the Cardinal 11.

  • Card ball on their own 11 with 2:28 on the clock. A 25-yard scamper by Peterson got them out of a field-position hole, but they got no farther than their own 43 where Lee't punt was downed at the Niner 13 with 1:47 left to play. A C Jones sack of Beathard contributed to a Niner 3 & out. Cards took over with 0:59 left, and Stanton took two knees to end the game.

Final Score: Cards 20 - Niners 10.

Notable Game Stats.

Passing: Stanton was 15 of 30 for 201 yards, 2 TDs and 1 Int. (Ed Note - Take away that first bomb to Jo Brown and Stanton was 14 of 29 for about 150 yds). (Beathard was 24 of 51 for 294 yds, 0 TD's and 1 pick).

  • Rushing: Peterson gained 159 yds on 37 carries. (By contrast, Niner runners gained 63 yds on 17 carries).

  • Card rush defense gave up 3.7 yds per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 3.9)

  • Receiving: Fitz led the Cards with 5 catches. Rest of receptions spread around.

  • Turnovers: Even. Each team had 1 picks and a fumble recovery. Neither team fumbled away the ball

  • Penalties: Cards were penalized 2 times.Rams 8

  • Run/Pass Ratio: Cards: 43/30. (Niners 17/51)
  • Field Goals: Cards 2 for 3. Niners 1 for 1

    Net Punting Yards: Lee averaged 43.3 (Pinion averaged (42.0)

  • Tackles: Branchn led with 10 tackles followed by Bucannon (9) and Dansby (7)

    Sacks: Dansby, Peters and C Jones each had one sack. Pierre and Reddick shared a sack.

    Interceptions: Bucannon had the only Cardinal interception

    Third Down Efficiency: Cards were 7 of 16 for 43%. (Niners: 16 of 17 for 35%).

    Red Zone Efficiency: Cards were 2 of 5 - 40%. (Niners: 1 of 2 - 50%).

    Time of Possession: Cards 36:22/ SF: 23:38

Bright Spots

  • Stanton was pretty much WYSIWYG with 2 TD passes, 50% completion rate, a mixture of tightly thrown passes/inaccurate ones and an untimely red zone pick.

    Despite not gaining 25 yards on every carry, Peterson showed he could lug the leather enough to gain 150+ yards rushing.

    Our OL was not the 1970's Packers but they opened enough holes for Peterson to pick up record yardage and held SF to zero sacks.

    When Bettcher decided to "bring it", Beathard was pressed for time and couldn't execute properly.

    DL Kept Hyde from taking over the Niner offense. .

TheDark Side

  • Stanton - short passes were tough to catch. Up & down accuracy.

  • Wideouts- Had trouble handling Stanton fast balls.

  • Missed FG - Speaks for itself

  • O Line - Gave Peterson just enough room and held Niner pass rush at bay, but project to being a bit shaky vs. tougher defenses. .

Last Word:
Cards are back to .500, and, with a few breaks, could steal a playoff spot. But first, we have to play Seattle in Seattle with only 4 days rest (Thanks a lot League office)!

The absence of Palmer and presence of Peterson changes the whole dynamic. The good news is that the Cardinal #2 QB is good enough to make plays about 50% of the time, and Peterson adds to our offensive tool-kit: a play-action weapon that protects Stanton while giving us a drive-sustainer, time-drainer and weather-proofer.

The bad news is that the Cardinals still haven't learned how to put other teams away. We gave away 10 first half points that should have iced the game 30 - 10. Add to this, an ill-timed interception in the red zone, and we should have been resting our tired veterans while coasting to a 37 - 10 blowout.

The Cardinals continue to slide along the edge of a a razor blade. They have the ability to beat the stress, but will have to get the most of that ability if they're to make it deep into the playoffs (Playoffs ?!)

Go get 'em in Seattle Thursday..

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