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Niners @ Cardinals Preview

Setting the Stage
Second of two games played within 2 weeks of one another between 2 division rivals. (Niners won the first contest). Niners are dealing with short practice week following a tough 27 - 24 Monday night OT loss to Seattle that knocked SF from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Cards are coming off a mistake-laden 30 -27 defeat at the hands of Tampa Bay - a game many observers felt they should have won.

My take - Cards are a better team than many thought they'd be, but apparently not good enough to "hold serve" within a highly competitive division.


Most Recent Game
Termed a "wild ride" of a game that featured a rare Wilson interception, a missed field goal by San Francisco and a questionable decision by Kyle Shanahan.

Jason Myers kicked a 42-yard field goal after Chase McLaughlin missed a kick earlier in overtime. Said Seattle QB Russell Wilson, “That was the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of.”

Myers won it for Seattle after Wilson got the Seahawks into position with an 18-yard scramble on third-and-3.

Defense dominated much of the game with each team scoring a defensive touchdown and generating three takeaways apiece in regulation. QBs traded late drives capped by field goals, settingt the stage for overtime - Wilson driving the Seahawks 47 yards before Chris Carson was stuffed on third-and-1, leading to a 46-yard field goal and Garoppolo using short passes to move the ball down to the 29 where McLaughlin kicked a 47-yard field goal with 1 second left in regulation to tie it at 24.

Other highlights of a wild 'n crazy game:

Seahawks blew an opportunity to win the game on the opening possession of OT when Wilson was intercepted at the 4 by Dre Greenlaw who returned it 47 yards to the Seattle 49. Niners moved the ball 20 yards before McLaughlin missed badly on a 47-yardFG attempt.

Seahawks shut down SF’s running game, allowing only 3.2 YPC; pressuring Garoppolo and contributing to several drops. Garoppolo finished 24 for 48 for 248 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

The SF QB was sacked five times and had to operate without injured tight end George Kittle and WR Emmanuel Sanders (who left in the first quarter with a rib injury). LB Bobby Wagner said. "we felt like had something to prove.

Jadeveon Clowney had his biggest impact since joining Seattle, returning a fumble 10 yards for the Seahawks’ first touchdown, setting up another with a strip sack. He also had five quarterback hits.

49ers got a defensive score of their own in the 4Q: K’Waun Williams sacked Wilson and knocked the ball loose to Seattle RT Germain Ifedi who tried to run with the ball but had it knocked loose again by Fred Warner and scooped up by SF defender DeForest Buckner who ran it in 12 yards for the score.

The Seahawks were about to take the lead into halftime when D.K. Metcalf took a short pass from Wilson and ran it inside the 5. But safety Jaquiski Tartt ripped it out of his hands at the 2-yard line and ended the Seattle threat.

Scoring Summary

1st Quarter

SF - FG - McLoughlin - 43 Yd FG - Niners 3 - Seattle 0

SF - TD - Bourne - 10 Yd pass fr Garoppolo - Niners 10 - Seattle 0

FIRST QUARTER SCORE: Niners 10 - Seattle 0

2nd Quarter

Sea - TD - Clowney - 10 Td Fumble Return - SF 10 - Seattle 7

2ND QUARTER SCORE: SF 10 - Seattle 7

3rd Quarter

Sea - TD - Hollister - 3 Yd Pass fr R Wilson - Seattle 14 - SF 10

Sea - TD - Carson - 1 Yd Run - Seattle 21 - SF 10

3RD QUARTER SCORE: Seattle 21 - SF 10

4th Quarter

SF - TD - Buckner - 12 YD Fumble Return (2 Pt) - Seattle 21 - SF 18

SF - FG - McLaughlin 39 Yds - -Seattle 21 - SF 21

Sea - FG - Myers - 46 Yds - Seattle 24 - SF 21

SF - FG - McLaughlin - 47 Yds - Seattle 24 - SF 24

4th QUARTER SCORE: Seattle 24 - SF 24


Sea - FG - Myers - 42 Yds - Seattle 27 - SF 24

FINAL SCORE: Seattle 27 - SF 24

Niners in a Nutshell
Finally lost one, but still very good. (Still some ambivalence in the pundit community over "whether the Niners are really that good"). This writer still considers the Niners as a well-balaqnced Top 5 team.

Niners can pass the ball and run the ball. They have a QB who can manage the game, good receivers, a first-rate secondary and a banged up OL that's startimng to get healthy. Recent transactions have given them elite run-stuffing, pass rushing and coverage skill. Two recent areas of concern - (1) their TE (Kittle) is banged up and (2) Garoppolo was sacked 5 times by S

Niners are one of only a handful of teams who rely on a FB ( Juszczyk) to bolster the running game. (Shows a willingness by Niner coaches to go down different paths).

One very impressive aspect of the Niner depth chart is the quality of its backup depth (i.e. one guy goes down and another steps up).

QB ...10 Garoppolo...04 Mullens...03 Beathard

Running Backs
RB....22 Brieda...26 T Coleman...31 Mostert...30 J Wilson
FB....44 Juszczyk

Wide Receivers
WR...19 Samuel...18 Pettis...84 Bourne
WR ..17 Sanders...11 Goodwin...13 James

Tight Ends
TE..85 Kittle...82 Dwelley...83 Toilolo....88 Celek

Offensive Line
LT....74 Staley...67 Skule
LG...75 Tomlinson...60 Brunskill
OC...58 Richburg...63 Garland
RG...68 Person
RT....69 McGlinchey.

Cardinal Defense

Defensive Interior Line
LDE - 97 Z Allen...90 Bullard...
NT - 98 Peters, 92 Kerr
RDE - 95 Gunter, 91 Dogbe
SAM - 55 C Jones...45 Robertson
ILB - ..43 Reddick...59 Walker
MLB - 58 Hicks, 42 Gardeck...47 Z Turner
WILL - 56 Suggs, 54 Marsh Sr

Defensive Backs
RCB - 33 Murphy.....27 K Peterson
LCB - 21 P Peterson...20 Brock...25 C Jones.
SS - 34 J Thompson...35 D Thompson
FS - 32 Baker...38 Banjo... 28 C Washington...
40 Tillman*

Matchup: Niner Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Jimmy Garoppolo has a 67.6% completion average; 7.6 YPC. 14 TDs and 8Interceptions and a 94.8 qBR. He's been sacked 17 times. He targeted Kittle 57 times...Samuel 43...Pettis 24...Goodwin 19 and Bourne 24. Kittle averaged 11.76 YPR, Samuel 11.30, Goodwin 16.45 and Bourne 13.3

Their TE (Kittle) is the leading Niner receiving weapon. with 541 receiving yds (but may be injured). The addition of Sanders (12.38 YPR) has apparently transformed a somwhat passive RB and WR core into a potent offensive weapon. Only check on coverage mismatches figures to be the pass rushing of OLBs C Jones and Suggs. Wild card defender figures to be Budda Baker, but he hasn't looked comfortable in the Cardinal scheme as he needs to be. Patrick Peterson's injury status remains iffy and could make the Cardinal pass coverage even more tenuous. Suggs seems to be aging before our very eyes.

Key Matchups - Sanders vs. Jones...J Thompson and Reddick vs. Coleman. Jones & Suggs vs. Staley or Skule and Young

Matchup: Niner Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Pick your poison - Coleman, Brieda and Mostert. SF likes to use their FB Jusczyk as their lead blocker on inside runs

Key Matchups - Coleman vs. Hicks. Jusczyk vs. Cardinal LBs. Card Front 7 vs. Niner OL, TE

Cardinals Offense

01 Murray, 07 Hundley

Running Back
31 D Johnson, 29 Edmonds, 41 Drake...22 Zenner.

Wide Receivers
WR - 11 Fitzgerald...89 Isabella, 12 Cooper
WR - 13 Kirk....19 KS Johnson. 16 Sherfield...14 Byrd

Tight Ends
TE - 85 Clay ....81 Daniels
TE - 87 - MWilliams

Offensive Line
LT- ...74 Humphries...66 Miles,
LG - 67 Pugh
OC- 53 Shipley, 52 Cole
RG- 64 Sweezy...73 Garcia, 65 Gailliard.
RT - 71 J Murray..

Niner Defense
Warner leads the Niners in tackles with 58, followed by Buckner 39, Tartt 38, Sherman 35, Alexander 34 and Armstead 31.

In the Sack Dept. the Niners have 35 sacks (nearly double the number of sacks allowed by Niner pass blockers). Armstead and Bosa are tied with 7.0 apiece. Ford is next with 5.5 Sherman is the interception leader with 3 followed by K Williams (2).

Defensive Line
LDE....55 Ford...97 Bosa...98 Blair
LDT...93 .DJ Jones..96 Day
RDT....99 Buckner...77 J Taylor
RDE....91 Armstead...94 S Thomas

SAM 51 Al-Shaair...53 Nzeocha
MIKE..54 Warner
WILL...57 Greenlaw...47 Lee

Defensive Backs
LCB...25 Sherman
RCB..23 Witherspoon....41 Moseley...
NB - .24 K'W Williams.32 Reed Jr
FS.....20 Ward...33 T Moore

SS.....29 Tartt...36 M Harris

Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Niner Pass Defense
Cards like to mix things up; drawing from a variety of weapons in their arsenal, depending on how the defense wants to play it. Cardinal pass blockers will have all they can handle in Bosa, Armstead and Ford. This could be the week where the Cards play things close to the vest and try to out-execute the Niner pass defense.

Key Matchups:
K Murray vs. Sherman...Kirk vs. Mosely...Humphries vs. Bosa...Cardinal OL vs Niner DL.

Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Niners Run Defense
D Johnson, other than one or two good outings, has been a disappointment. Best RB on the roster would appear to be Drake. Edmonds has been playing hurt (& it's suspected that so too is DJ). .

Key Matchups
Drake vs. Warner/Armstead. Pugh, Shipley and Sweezy vs. Niner Front 7.

Special Teams

Niner Special Teams
     ..09 Gould...xx McLaughin
P ..... 06 Wishnowsky
H      06 Wishnowsky
LS    xx Nelson
KR  .13 James Jr
PR   13 James Jr

Cardinals Special Teams
P - ...02 Lee
K- ....05 Gonzalez
H - ...02 Lee
LS - 46 Brewer
KR -12 Cooper... 89 Isabella...
PR - 12 Cooper...13 Kirk.

Matchup Niner Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
If you go by SF's lapses vs. Seattle, I'd take Gonzalez over McLoughlin. I like Lee over Wishnowski tp

Key Matchups
Niners have a true point-grabbing weapon in their kicker, Gould. We like Lee slightly over wishnowsky also. Don't know much about James as a returner. Cooper is competent but not a legit home run threat.

Coaching / Intangibles
HC/OC Kyle Shanahan...OC Pete Carmichael. DC Robert Saleh...ST: Richard Hightower
. Shanahan contends for "Coach of the Year. Entering the season, I never saw it coming - the Niner coaching staff only took a year or two to completely transform their roster from doormat to powerhouse.

How to Beat Niners
Cards opened up the playbook two weeks ago and almost beat them. Not sure if they can slightly improve on that effort. It's either that or go deep early and often.

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Copyright 1996 Gollin & Associates. Last modified: 03/25/2013