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2010 Regular Season
CARDINALS @ CHIEFS PREVIEW

  • When: Mon. 11/29 - 8:30 pm ET ESPN

  • Satellite Radio Mon. 11/29 - 8:30 pm ET - SIRIUS Ch TBD

  • Televised: Mon. 11/29 - 8:30 pm ET - DirecTV Sunday Ticket - ESPN Ch 206

Overview
Last Game
Meet the Niners
Cardinals Roster
Cardinals vs. Niners Matchups

Overview:
The Niners Started off abysmally, but Mike Singletary managed to right the ship at least to the point where they won three games. Which puts them in a statistical tie with the Cardinals who haven't played very well and have lost 5 in a row. Both are 3 & 7.

Last Game:
The Niners were shut out by Tampa Bay 21 - 0.

First Quarter

  • TB won the toss, started on its own 23 and punted 7 plays later (after Freeman was sacked by Willis). SF started on their own 28. A 14 yard completion from Troy Smith to Gore and a roughing the passer penalty set the ball up on the TB 42, but on the next play, Morgan fumbled after catching a pass from Smith. TB recovered and started from their own 38. SF held them to 3 & out. Niners started from their own 20. Smith was sacked on the first play, and SF went 3 & out. TB started out again from their own 38 and ran Blount 3 straight times (followed by an "and out") turning the ball over to SF on downs at the TB 47. Once again, Smith was sacked on the first play from scrimmage. A 15-yard Smith scramble helped move the Niners as far as the TB 37, but their drive stalled and they were forced to punt. Touchback. TB started from their own 20 and picked up a first down a play or two before the quarter ended. First Quarter Score: Tampa Bay 0 - San Fran 0.

Second Quarter

  • Tampa Bay mixed in short passes with runs by Blount to eventually cap a 14-[lay drive with a 6-yard TD run by Cadillac Willians. Tampa Bay 7 - San Fran 0.

  • Ginn returned the ensuing kickoff 30 yards, and SF started from their own 39, going three & out. TB's ball on their own 21. They picked up one first down before their drive stalled and they were forced to punt from their own 38. Niners started from their own 31 with 4:47 til halftime. They too managed one first down before finally punting from the TB 44. Bucs got the ball back on their 10-yard line with 1:23 left til halftime and ran out the clock. Halftime Score:  Tampa Bay 7 - San Fran 0.

Third Quarter

  • Niners returned the 2H kickoff to their own 32 and Smith immediately hit Morgan for +17, but - after a 14-yard completion to Del Walker offset a  holding call on Baas a few plays earlier and then followed by an offsides call on TB moved the ball to the TB 33, but that's as far as they could get. They punted to the TB 6-yard line. Tampa Bay dinked and dunked their way out of trouble, mixing runs by Blount with short passes. A 22-yard pass completion to Stovall moved the Bucs to the Niner 23 & helped set up a 41-yard FG attempt. But it was wide-left. Niners took over at their own 31, but an illegal shift penalty forced  them into a 3 & out. Bucs got the ball back on their own 34. Freeman hit Mike Williams for +33 and then Blount ran up the middle for +16. Final play of the five-play drive was an 8-yard TD pass to Mike Williams.  Tampa Bay 14 - San Fran 0.

  • Niners returned the KO to their own 26 and reached their 35 in two plays as the quarter ended. 3rd Quarter Score: Tampa Bay 14 - San Fran 0

Fourth Quarter

  • SF picked up a first down and moved to their own44 before turning the ball over on downs. TB then went 3 & out. SF got the ball back on their own 18. On the second play from scrimmage, Smith pass intended for Morgan was picked off and returned to the Niner 7-yard line. A defensive holding call on R Smith helped set up a one-yard scoring pass from Freeman to Penn.  Tampa Bay 21 - San Fran 0

  • The Niners were 21-points down, on their own  31 with 8:18 left (We know that feeling). A 23-yard completion from Smith to Morgan and a 7-yard completion to Del Walker helped move them to the TB 39, but they couldn't get any more done and turned the ball over on downs. TB got the ball back on its own 39 with 6:19 on the clock. A 26-yard run by Cadillac Williams was partly offset by an 8-yard running loss by Blount. They finally punted to the Niner 9-yard line. 3:01 left to play (& no timeouts left). Smith picked up one first down on a scramble and another after a roughing the passer flag, but he also got sacked twice during the 9-play possession and gave up the ball on downs on their own 47 with 0:38 left on the clock. One knee. Game Over.  Final Score: Tampa Bay 21 - San Fran 0.

Highlights/Lowlights
If This game looked like your basic "war of attrition" marked by a lot of 3 & outs. The difference was that, while Tampa Bay was good at playing close-to-its vest "small ball", but punctuating it with a few big plays, the Niners weren't as consistent nor were they able to come up with big plays when they needed to. Especially noticeable was the number of times SF failed to convert on 4th & short.

  • TB led 20 to 11 in first downs.

  • They were 7 for 14 in 3rd down efficiency (vs. SF's 3 for 120.

  • SF was 0 for 3 in 4th down conversions (though it seemed a whole lot more)

  • TB gained 50% more net yards than did SF

  • TB picked up 162 net yards rushing on 42 carries. (SF gained 71 on 18)

  • SF lost one fumble and one interception. (TB was turnover free).

  • Smith was sacked 6 times.

  • Neither team was penalized much (3 apiece)

  • TB was 3 for 3 (therefore the SF defense was 0 for 0) in the Red Zone.

  • TB clearly won Time of Possession 36:24 to 23:36

  • Smith (16 for 31, 148 yards, 0 TD's, 1 Interception, 6 sacks) had a 51.5 Passer Rating.

  • Gore was held to 23 yards on 12 carries.

  • Niner QB Smith was the top ground-gainer, scrambling 5 times for 45 yards

  • Gore, Morgan & Del Walker were the three top Niner receivers with 5, 4 and 3 receptions respectively.

  • Lee averaged 37.8 yards per punt (30.0 yards net)

Meet the Niners
The Niners were the preseason darlings of the NFC West, but came out of the starting blocks dead-last. They've returned from the dead (at least somewhat) winning 3 games and winding up a couple of games behind Seattle, a game behind StL and tied with the Cardinals at 3 & 6. During those tumultuous days of early season, HC Mike Singletary lost patience with his QB's in a manner somewhat parallel to Ken Whisenhunt's reaction to the Cardinal QB situation. A combination of injuries and bad play caused Singletary to pull the trigger - first on Alex Smith and then his backup Hill. He's currently going with former Ohio State standout Troy Smith (who had escaped in the offseason from a QB logjam in Baltimore). What you see in Smith thus far is a potential playmaker who can beat you with his feet, but hasn't yet figured out the pro passing game - at least to a point where he can help his team win consistently. We're not sure what's going on at the WR position, but apparently, Crabtree didn't play last week and their go-to guy is Quincy Morgan. Neither did their TE star Michael Crabtree. But there's always thumper Frank Gore to help them grind away on the ground. We can't help but wonder out loud whether Gore's paltry Tampa Bay numbers were mainly due to the absence Crabtree and Davis, which in turn allowed Tampa Bay to load up against Gore.

Defensively, the Niners have Pro Bowl LB Patrick Willis and a solid, seasoned secondary, but (like the Cardinals) there comes a point where - when the offense doesn't carry its share of the load, there comes a time in each game and during the season where the defense begins to buckle a little. That's my take on the Niners.

Season Stats

49ers Opponents
TOTAL FIRST DOWNS 165 188
FIRST DOWNS (RUSHING-PASSING-BY-PENALTY) 52-101-12 53-115-20
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS 43/132 49/133
FOURTH DOWN CONVERSIONS 6/11 2/6
TOTAL OFFENSIVE YARDS 3,137 3,282
OFFENSE (PLAYS-AVERAGE YARDS) 602-5.2 639-5.1
TOTAL RUSHING YARDS 958 1,068
RUSHING (PLAYS-AVERAGE YARDS) 244-3.9 289-3.7
TOTAL PASSING YARDS 2,179 2,214
PASSING (COMP-ATT-INT-AVG) 193-333-11-7 217-328-8-7.2
SACKS 22.0 25.0
FIELD GOALS 11/13 19/22
TOUCHDOWNS 18 23
TOUCHDOWNS (RUSHING-PASSING-RETURNS-DEFENSIVE) 5-11-1-1 6-15-0-2
TIME OF POSSESSION 29:05 31:26
TURNOVER RATIO -6

  • Niners "go for it" on fourth down (11 times) almost twice as often as do their opponents(6 times)

  • This is reflected by only 13 field goal attempts (vs. 22 by their opponents0

  • They're minus-6 in net turnovers

  • Other than that, they're not way behind their opponents in any statistical area of play (though they are a little bit behind in almost every area).

  • Alex Smith had a 75.0 passer rating (59.1% completion-rate, 9 TD's/9 Picks, Sacked 13 times). Troy Smith has a 98.0 passer rating (57.7% completion-rate, 2 TD's/1 Pick, Sacked 11 times)

  • However, Alex was sacked 13 times in 242 attempts (or once every 18.6 plays) whereas Troy's been sacked 11 times in 78 attempts (or once every 7.1 plays)

  • Frank Gore has gained 801 ground yards for a 4.0 yards/carry average. The two "Smith brothers" have each carried the ball 12 times.

  • Top three Niner receivers are a RB with 46 catches (Gore), a TE with 38 catches (V Davis) followed by 36 26 19 WR's Crabtree (36), Josh Morgan (26) and Delanie Walker (18)

  • Nedney's the FG kicker and perfect from inside the 50 (& 2 for 3 outside the 50).

  • Lee outpunts his opponents in gross yardage by nearly 4 yards per punt.

  • Ted Ginn Jr. has returned 2/3 of all Niner kickoff returns (24.1 yard average/no TD's/Longest Return: 61-yards).

  • Patrick Willis, as usual, has the highest number of tackles by far with 91 tackles. Following Willis is Spikes (62), Clements (54) and Goldston (53)

  • Justin Smith leads the team in sacks (5) followed by Haralson and Willis with 4 apiece. Former Cardinal Travis LaBoy is next with 3.

  • Although the Niners gave up 6 sacks last Sunday, they're still close to their opponents with 22 sacks (vs. 25 for the opposition)

  • Shawntae Spencer leads the team with 3 interceptions followed by Nate Clemons with 2.

 Quarterbacks
01 Smith, Troy QB 6-0 217 26 4 Ohio State
11 Smith, Alex QB 6-4 217 26 6 Utah
05 Carr, David QB 6-3 216 31 9 Fresno State

The Alex Smith trial may have gone the route of Matt Leinart. He was replaced by the "other Smith" (Troy) after Game #7 (I think it was due to the combination of an injury and the luxury of a Bye week) and hasn't seen action since -  Niners stopped a 1 & 6 early season skid, and have gone 2 & 1 under Troy's leadership. He gives the Niners more mobility at the position with which to make plays. Troy has a 98.0 passer rating (compared to Alex's 75.0). But, while Alex was sacked ed once every 18.6 plays, Troy's been sacked once every 7.1 plays. Troy has rushed 4, 3 and 5 times in the 3 games he's played. (He's also been sacked 0, 5 and 6 times in the three games he's played in).


 Running Backs

21 Gore, Frank RB 5-9 217 27 6 Miami (Fla.)
20 Westbrook, Brian RB 5-10 203 31 9 Villanova
24 Dixon, Anthony RB 6-1 233 23 R Mississippi State
44 Norris, Moran FB 6-1 250 32 10 Kansas

Frank Gore, in some ways, continues to carry this offense. He's basically a smashmouther with enough speed to break it when given an opening. Opposing tacklers had better bring their big boy wrap up techniques to avoid being blacktopped. We had expected more from former Eagle Westbrook who has continued to make appearances throughout the season but whose running attempts per game and receptions per game have both ranged from  1 to 2.


 Wide Receivers
15 Crabtree, Michael WR 6-1 214 23 2 Texas Tech
19 Ginn Jr., Ted WR 5-11 180 25 4 Ohio State
xx Hill, Jason WR

84 Morgan, Josh WR 6-0 219 25 3 Virginia Tech
17 Zeigler, Dominique WR 6-3 185 26 2 Baylor

10 Williams, Kyle WR 5-11 186 22 R Arizona State
 Crabtree has played in every Niner contest, but has ranged a high of 9 catches (vs. Philly) to 1 catch in 2 other games. Morgan has appeared in every game with number of catches ranging from 1 per game (in 3 games) to 6 vs. New Orleans.

 Tight Ends
85 Davis, Vernon TE 6-3 250 26 5 Maryland
46 Walker, Delanie TE 6-0 242 26 5 Central Missouri
82 Byham, Nate TE 6-4 268 22 R Pittsburgh

Davis is  2nd leading receiver with 38 catches. He's appeared in every game, with catches ranging from a high of 8 (vs. Seattle) to a low of 1 (vs. Denver and Tampa Bay). With Troy Smith throwing the ball, Walker has seen more action (with 4 catches vs. StL and 3 vs. Tampa Bay).

 Offensive Line
74 Staley, Joe LT 6-5 315 26 4 Central Michigan
65 Sims, Barry T 6-5 300 35 12 Utah

68 Snyder, Adam T 6-6 325 28 6 Oregon
77 Iupati, Mike LG 6-5 331 23 R Idaho
64 Baas, David C/G 6-4 330 29 6 Michigan
69 Wragge, Tony G 6-4 310 31 6 New Mexico State

76 Davis, Anthony RT 6-5 323 21 R Rutgers
75 Boone, Alex T 6-7 328 23 1 Ohio State
62 Rachal, Chilo RG 6-5 323 24 3 USC
Four Niner linemen (Heitmann,McKillop,Patrick, C Taylor, are listed as "being on reserve" (I assume it's due to injury). The Niner starting five(staley, Ipuati, Bass, Davis and Rachal is fairly well respected, though rookies Iupati and Davis are still experiencing growing pains and Heitmann's replacement (Baas) seems to get penalized a lot for a 6 year veteran. Niners have given up 11 sacks in the past 2 games, and Gore ran for yardage in the 20's last week.




Defensive Line
90 Sopoaga, Isaac LDT 6-2 330 29 7 Hawaii
91 McDonald, Ray DT 6-3 290 26 4 Florida
92 Franklin, Aubrayo NT 6-1 317 30 8 Tennessee
95 Jean Francois, Ricky DT 6-3 295 23 2 Louisiana State
94 Smith, Justin RDT 6-4 285 31 10 Missouri
93 Evans, Demetric DT 6-4 275 31 9 Georgia
Niners consider their Front Three to all be DT's (Makes sense to us). Smith leads the team in sacks (with 5). It appears as though the Niner DL is morphing into more of a "big front three" that occupies blockers so that "Singletary's Guys" can flow to the ball, blitz the QB and make plays.

 Linebacker

99 Lawson, Manny SLB 6-5 240 26 5 North Carolina State
55 Brooks, Ahmad LB 6-3 259 26 5 Virginia
59 Gibson, Thaddeus LB 6-2 243 23 R Ohio State
51 Spikes, Takeo TLB 6-2 242 33 13 Auburn
53 Bowman, NaVorro LB 6-0 242 23 R Penn State
52 Willis, Patrick MLB 6-1 240 25 4 Mississippi
57 Kristick, Keaton LB 6-3 234 22 R Oregon State
98 Haralson, Parys WLB 6-0 255 26 5 Tennessee
54 LaBoy, Travis LB 6-3 250 29 6 Hawaii

Lawson and Haralson were originally brought in by Mike Nolan as hybrid "rush LB/DE's, but seldom were healthy enough to appear on the field at the same time. Spikes and Willis are arguably the best inside tandem in the NFL, with rookie Bowman already making his presence felt. Ex Cardinal LaBoy is a spot pass-rushing specialist.

 Secondary
36 Spencer, Shawntae LCB 6-1 190 28 7 Pittsburgh
25 Brown, Tarell CB 5-10 193 25 4 Texas
35 Adams, Phillip CB 5-11 193 22 R South Carolina State
22 Clements, Nate RCB 6-0 205 30 10 Ohio State
31 James, Will CB 6-0 200 31 10 Western Illinois
26 Brock, Tramaine CB 5-10 197 22 R Belhaven
23 Mays, Taylor SS 6-3 230 22 R Southern California
30 Smith, Reggie S 6-1 200 24 3 Oklahoma
38 Goldson, Dashon FS 6-2 200 26 4 Washington
27 Spillman, C.J. FS 6-0 199 24 2 Marshall

Spencer leads the Niners with three interceptions. He and Clements are as solid a cornerback pair as you'll find anywhere. Mays is up for Rookie of the Year. I don't knowa whole lot about Goldson.

 Special Teams
09 Andrus, Shane K 5-10 190 30 1 Murray State
06 Nedney, Joe K 6-5 220 37 15 San Jose State
04 Lee, Andy P/H 6-2 180 28 7 Pittsburgh
86 Jennings, Brian LS 6-5 242 34 11 Arizona State
19 Ginn Jr., Ted KR/PR/WR 5-11 180 25 4 Ohio State

Nedney is quietly having one of his best years of a 15-season career. Lee tends to outpunt opposing punters. While Ginn hasn't done much damage thus far this season, he is one of the most dangerous return men in a group that includes Sproles, Hester, McCluster and our own LSH.

 Coaching Staff

Mike Singletary Head Coach

Mike Johnson Offensive Coordinator
Greg Manuskyl Defensive Coordinator
Kurt Schottenheimer Special Teams Coordinator

Singletary is a bit "old school" (and like most people close to the NFL scene,  I like it). But he does seem to have Diva-like qualities that oblige him to do controversial things and make controversial statements that he later has to modify to the press. He presumably came in to change the culture of the team, and I think it would be hard to find anyone who didn't visualize these Niners as a gritty Singletary Team" (compared to the smarter, more finessy Niner teams of the  Bill Walsh, Joe Montana era). Niners are under relatively new ownership, and it's unclear how much say Mr. York has over game-to-game strategy and personnel decisions (Translation: Replacing Alex Smith with Troy Smith).

Cardinal Roster

QB - 03 Anderson, 06 Hall,  19 Skelton,
Anderson continues to show improvement, but hasn't yet tightened up his game to a point where we're starting to win games. He seemed to be throwing before the break more often, but he also continued to miss wide open receivers at points in games where big plays have to be made. We don't expect to see Hall anymore this season, and in fact, if Anderson were injured, we'd expect to see Skelton before we saw Max (because presumably the more prototypical, but raw Skelton would have had the better part of a full season under his belt).

RB - 34 Hightower, 36 Stephens-Howling  (KR/PR), 26, Wells, 31 Wright,
This continues to be a banged up group of RB's. Beanie is starting to get healthy (and play that way). Hightower continues to be effective in certain situations (like snuggling up to the outside edge of the pulling guard to get outside for nice yardage), but he still struggles inside because he "can't make his own holes" the way Beanie can or outrun speedy LB's to the outside the way LSH can.

FB - 45 Mau'ia
Mau'ia is our main lead blocker (though Wiz will use an offensive or defensive linemenor two in key short-yardage situations).

WR - 15 Breaston, 12 Roberts,  80 Doucet
WR -11 Fitzgerald, 14 S Williams, 18 Komar
The Fitz-Breaston-Roberts Trio continues to look better and better. A healthier Doucet would make this a formidable quartet, but he typically gets laid out like a mummy after a big hit at some point in every game.(Fitz's hands have lost 5 - 10% of their Velcro this year.  Cards haven't needed Williams as much as they did earlier in the season. Roberts continues to improve and emerge as our #4 (& possibly our #3) guy.

TE - 89 Patrick, 83 Spach,  81 Dray
Patrick shows flashes (as does Dray), but let's face it - TE is not the dominant position it is on some other NFL teams. Spach is the best blocker of the bunch, and will occasionally come up with a key catch, but continues to be penalty-prone (& it drives us nuts).

LT- 75 L Brown,

LG-
66 Faneca,  70 Hadnot
OC-
63Sendlein, 62 Claxton, (70 Hadnot)
RG- 76 Lutui
RT -
73 Bridges, 74 Batiste
This unit is not horrible and is beginning to run block better, but lacks the consistency you'd expect from a Russ Grimm-coached line. Just once,we'd like to see this unit take over a game and allow us to run the ball down the other team's throat. I still believe that both coaches and fans are kidding themselves that  the Cardinal O-line "isn't really that bad." The lack of consistency and reliability is part of why the Cards can't put away opposing teams.

DE - 93 Campbell
NT - 97 B Robinson, 98 Watson, 92 D Williams
DT - 90 Dockett, 78 Branch
Campbell has not been playing to 2009 standards, Robinson gives us a somewhat smallish and softish middle and Dockett has been playing hurt. Branch has performed beyond expectations and Watson and Williams provide needed bulk. The lack of a more physical presence on our Front Three is one reason why opposing QB's have time to throw deep and why we can't stop teams from stealing games from us in the 4th quarter.

OLB1 - 55 Porter
ILB  51 Lenon, 52 Obiozor
ILB- 54 Hayes, 58 D Washington,
56 Walker,
OLB2 - 53 Haggans
It looks though Will Davis (broken fibula) is done for the year, but the good news is that Haggans appears to be back. Lenon has been up and down this season - sometimes in position to make big playsl, but at other times flowing to the wrong gap on running plays. Hayes adds a physical presence vs. the run, but is a liability in coverage. We don't begrudge him the right to stick up for himself or his buddies, but we wish he'd be a bit more careful about (fairly or unfairly) getting flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Sometimes I feel Porter is playing lights-out, but at other times have questioned whether he's more talk than action. Washington can be trusted when he's in there, but still has a ways to go on the learning curve.

RCB - 28 Toler, 37 McBride, 30 M Green
LCB-
29 Rodgers-Cromartie, 27 Adams, 20 Jefferson   
SS-
  24 Wilson,
 22 Ware, 41 Abdullah,
40 Tillman
FS- 25 Rhodes,  
49 Rash Johnson
These guys continue to have problems covering big, physical wide receivers. Until we stop their "big guy", they will continue to repeatedly "do it to us." This week we draw Crabtree and Vernon Davis. (Have a nice day)! Toler hurt his foot. He and DRC haven't lived up to their preseason hype. Jefferson saw action last week and did a great job covering a speedy WR deep. Rhodes may be having the best season of any Cardinal defensive player. Adrian Wilson is beginning to frustrate us. He did seem to bring more juice to our last game vs. KC, but even then, we caught him grabbing at thin-air trying to tackle a runner and take a wide, looping, circuitous route to the passer; which - since there was no way he'd ever reach the QB in time; nor be available to help out deep - effectively took himself out of the play (which, as it turned out, was one of those deep completions behind our coverage). The key to the rest of our season, to a great extent, rests here.

K-04 Feely
P- 05 B Graham,

H - 05  B Graham
LS-
82 Leach
KR -
37Stephens-Howling

PR
- 12 Roberts, 15 Breaston, 37Stephens-Howling
Feely's done what's been asked of him. Graham's production has fallen off of late.  Stephens-Howling (aka LSH and "The Hyphen") has proved he's the "real deal",  but he's still healing some lingering ouchies. The only reason he shouldn't make the Pro Bowl as a returner is because of the abundance of dramatic kick returners (like Leon Washington or Devon Hester).  Roberts is looking better and better.

   Cardinals vs. Niners Matchups

Cardinals Injuries
Cardinals (a) placed Will Davis (broken leg) on IR and (b) released RB Alfonso Smith (who was then re-signed to the PS) , while (c) re-signing WR Max Komar and (d) elevated DB Marshay Green from the practice squad. We also understand that Clark Haggans is finally ready to roll. They added defensive lineman Jeremy Navarre (who's 6-3 279 out of Maryland.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt says both cornerback Greg Toler (foot) and defensive end Calais Campbell (ankle) will be game-day decisions and  were among six players listed as "questionable" (The others were WR Steve Breaston (knee), RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (hamstring), LB Clark Haggans (groin) and NT Dan Williams (toe). DT Darnell Dockett (shoulder), WR Early Doucet (head), CB Michael Adams (ribs), LB Reggie Walker (hamstrring) and S Kerry Rhodes (hand/back) are all probable. Although LB O Brien Schofield is getting more and more involved, Wiz cautions that we shouldn't see the rookie be in for a significant number of snaps just yet.

49'ers Injuries
K Joe Nedney (knee), CB  Williams James (concussion at practice) are doubtful. S Dashon Goldson (ankle) is questionable. T Joe Staley (fibula) is out

Niner Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Troy Smith is a more mobile, less easily rattled QB than was Alex Smith. He has a varied assortment of targets available to him - with his TE's (Davis & Walker), RB (Gore) and WR's Crabtree and Morgan to occupy the Cardinal secondary. (& there's always the somewhat less than effective but ever dangerous home-run threat in Ginn). The Niner offensive line is talented, but has two rookies (albeit good ones) on it and starting LT Joe Staley (fibula) is "out." This unit has given up 5 and 6 sacks in their past two games (Perhaps the Cardinal pass rushers can pick up something on the game tapes).

The Cardinals never got close to Cassell last week. I'd have to take a closer look, but it didn't seem as though Billy Davis was pulling out every bizarre weapon from his bag of tricks - they were wreaking very little havoc in the KC backfield. With all the time in the world in which to operate, Cassell did a good job of slicing and dicing the Cardinal secondary (Once again it was the big #1 receiver - Bowe - who ate our lunch in coverage). Going strictly according to past pattern, this figures to be a big Monday night for Crabtree unless Davis and the Cardinal offense come up with answers.

Niner Running Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
So goes Frank Gore, so go the NIners., Last Sunday, he  gained 23 yards on 12 carries (Think he's going to be out for blood, Monday night)? The key to stopping Gore is attacking him in the right gap - i.e. if you don't attack him, he will blacktop you as though you were on roller skates. If you don't wrap him up, he will drag you for extra yardage. But if, in your aggressiveness, you attack the wrong gap, he's long gone. The presence of Hayes should be helpful, but we have to hope this will be one of those weeks where Paris Lenon is flowing to the right gap and blowing things up.

Cardinal defenders have had games where they've kept opposing RB geniis locked up in their bottles. But there have been other contests where a big opposing RB has eaten us up alive. We like our run defense better when Dan Williams is in the middle and Alan Branch is protecting the left side at DE. One point of vulnerability may be Dockett, who (though the heart may be strong and the mind willing) may be still too banged up to hang tough against the run.

Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Niner Pass Defense
Two weeks ago, I was convinced that Derek Anderson had "hit the plateau" and that the plateau wasn't at a high enough level. My chief concern - he couldn't throw prior to the break and was hitting his receivers too late for them to avoid being blown up or running for enough yards after the catch. But Derek suprised me and seemed to do a better job of hitting his receivers on time and on target. Problem was, however, that in too high a percentage of the time, he'd miss a wide open receiver - often enough to prevent us from staying in games let alone eventually winning them.

Anderson and Cardinal receivers seemed to be on the same page more often last Sunday, and the receiving unit is healthy enough that we can put out four receivers on the field all at one time who can go get it. (Five if you include Steven Williams).

Working with multiple receiver sets is important when you're playing the Niners, because Spencer and Clements are Pro Bowl caliber corners but the depth is questionable, so we may be able to exploit this by having Fitz, Breaston, Roberts & Doucet out there all at one time. Another reason for going with 3 or 4 receivers is that it might prevent Rookie of the Year candidate Taylor Mays from moving up into the box to stop the run. Because of the presence of Mays, this may not be a good week to be throwing a lot to our RB's or TE's. While the Niners aren't known for their ferocious pass rush, both Bridges and L Brown will have their hands full keeping pass rushers like Justin Smith, Paris Haralson, Manny Lawson or Travis LaBoy from getting in Anderson's face (And don't be surprised if the Niners don't occasionally shoot in Patrick Willis

Cardinal Running Attack vs. Niner Run Defense
The Cardinal running attack appeared to perk up,and Beanie Wells started to look a bit healthy (& frisky) last Sunday vs. the Chiefs. Then he suffered a shoulder stinger. The thing about Beanie is that - when no hole appears - he sometimes can create his own ones to bull his way through. Hightower (whose strength is getting to the edge and riding the outside shoulder of the seal-off blocker) is not powerful enough to make his own holes. LSH has a different answer - when there's no hole inside, he's quick enough to bounce outside.

Niners are fairly tough vs. the run (giving up under 4 yards per carry). Patrick Willis is one of the best pure tackling machines in the NFL. He already has 91 tackles to his credit, with the year barely half over. SS Taylor Mays isn't exactly chopped liver either.The Cardinals should continue to dial up more running plays for two reasons: (1) to keep pass rushers honest and (2) because one of these days, the running attack is going to take off (i.e. if we don't try to run the ball, how will we ever know)?

Special Teams
Nedney and Feely are like two peas in a pod as kickers. Graham hasn't been as sharp in the second quarter of the season as he was during the first four games. Lee usually outpunts his opposing kicker by an average of 4 gross yards. Ginn is downright scary in the return game (but so far this season, he hasn't broken anything spectacularly long). If LSH is healthy, he could represent a key advantage for the Cardinals.

 Final Word
The two teams are tied for last in the  NFC West, but have reached the 3 & 6 marks coming from opposite directions - the Niners have won 2 of their last 3 games. The Cardinals are trying to put the brakes on a 0 & 5 skid. Both teams are feeling the pain. Singletary (true to form) "apologized" for losing a shutout by TB last week. Whisenhunt - ever the engineer - is trying to keep his team focused on"doing the things we know will make us successful." We should benefit from home field advantage (hopefully avoiding most of the fan-loudness miscues that caused us to commit 11 penalties last Sunday in KC).There will be some expanded commentary on my blog, but the gist of it is: "How much do you love playing football?" Do you love it on every play? " Do you love each series you play?" "Each quarter?" "Each season?" "How much do you love it?" '

The team that loves football the most will win Monday.

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Copyright 1996 Gollin & Associates. Last modified: 11/28/2010