NFL Preview - Arizona (3-2) at San Francisco (3-2)
By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - Both the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals take
aim at a third straight victory on Sunday afternoon when the NFC West rivals
clash at Candlestick Park.
The defending NFC champion Niners have rebounded from a pair of losses to
Seattle and Indianapolis, by a 56-10 margin, to best St. Louis and Houston.
San Francisco has put up 69 points over those two games while allowing just
The Cardinals, meanwhile, lost two of three to begin the season, but have
tightened up defensively in victories over Tampa Bay and Carolina, yielding a
combined 16 points.
San Francisco leaned on its ground game to beat Houston 34-3 on Sunday night,
with quarterback Colin Kaepernick completing six passes, none in the second or
third quarter, on just 11 attempts, though he did hit tight end Vernon Davis
for a 64-yard score in the fourth quarter.
Frank Gore and Anthony Dixon ran for first-half scores, with Gore leading the
team with 81 yards on 17 carries.
"I think this team is getting its confidence back. Our defense has played
amazing, our offensive line played well. We ran the ball well and we got a
win," said Kaepernick.
Four turnovers for San Francisco also helped. Cornerback Tramaine Brock had a
pair of picks, one he returned for a score, and defensive tackle Tony Jerod-
Eddie also had an interception. Safety Donte Whitner forced a fumble.
The Cardinals' defense was even more dominating last weekend in a 22-6 win
over the Panthers. Arizona forced four turnovers, logged seven sacks and
recorded a safety in its second straight win.
Linebacker Daryl Washington, in his first game back since serving a four-game
suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, had nine
tackles, two sacks and an interception, while fellow linebacker Karlos Dansby
added eight stops, two sacks and a pick.
Defensive end Calais Campbell had a pair of sacks, one resulting in a safety,
as the defense helped overcome three interceptions by Arizona quarterback
Palmer threw for 175 yards with a touchdown pass to Jim Dray, while Rashard
Mendenhall had a rushing touchdown.
"Those are the type of games that we're going to need to keep putting
together," Arizona head coach Bruce Arians remarked. "You can call them ugly
wins, or any kind of wins you want, as long as they're wins, I love them."
Arizona is aiming to win three straight for the first time since opening last
However, the Cardinals have lost four straight in San Francisco since there
last victory there on Sept. 7, 2008.
The Niners are 15-5 at home in this series and have won seven of the previous
eight encounters overall.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
San Francisco has posted 76 rush attempts to 38 pass attempts over the last
two games, racking up 396 yards on the ground and five rushing touchdowns in
That hasn't bothered Kaepernick, who has thrown for 280 yards in the past two
"The only stat I really care about is whether we won or not," he said.
Niners wide receiver Anquan Boldin would probably like to get more involved
this weekend as he faces his former club for the second time. Boldin was a
second-round pick by the Cardinals in the 2003 draft and won Offensive Rookie
of the Year honors.
In seven seasons with Arizona before getting traded to the Baltimore Ravens
ahead of the 2010 campaign, Boldin had 586 receptions for 7,520 yards and 44
touchdowns. His catches and 27 100-yard receiving games were both Cardinals
records that have since been broken by Larry Fitzgerald.
When Boldin faced Arizona in Baltimore in 2011, he made seven catches for 145
"He's a true professional. He knows how to prepare. He knows how to go out and
get open. He knows what we're trying to get done on plays and he goes out and
performs," Kaepernick said of Boldin.
San Francisco may be forced to throw the ball more given that Arizona ranks
third in the league in run defense, giving up 79 yards per game. The Cards
have also yielded just one rushing touchdown on the year and that was a five-
yard score by New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees.
Arizona didn't make things easy on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, with its
seven sacks the most for the club since getting eight versus Dallas on Sept.
13, 1987. The Cards got one sack from rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu and
cornerback Patrick Peterson grabbed an interception, giving him three picks
and nine passes defended in his last two games.
Mathieu ranks second on Arizona with 34 tackles and also has an interception
this season, making back-t0-back starts with free safety Rashad Johnson
sidelined after losing the tip of his left middle finger on a tackle in Week
"(He's brought) a tone of energy and a playmaker. He has been a relentless
practice player. He gets made if he doesn't get every rep and he's showing up
on Sundays," said Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians of Mathieu. "He's getting
his hands on balls, he's sacking quarterbacks."
The Cards have not allowed a touchdown in its last 113 minutes and 43 seconds
of game time, spanning 24 opponent possessions. The return of Washington
certainly makes the unit stronger and he made a statement versus the Panthers.
"Definitely. But I didn't want to be a Superman," he said. "I wanted to just
come in and play '58' football and make sure that I help my teammates out any
way that I could. I just wanted to come out and play a solid game."
He did that and helped overcome continued struggles by Palmer, who has seven
interceptions over his last three games.
"Not good enough," Palmer said of his performance. "I mean I've played long
enough in this league to know that a win is a win, an ugly win is a win, but I
have to continue to work to get better and make more plays for us."
Palmer now goes up against a Niners defense that has held opposing
quarterbacks to a passer rating of 67.6 this season, second-lowest in the NFL.
However, pass-rush specialist Aldon Smith remains out due to personal issues
and star linebacker Patrick Willis did not play last weekend due to groin
Willis was limited in practice on Wednesday and defensive tackle Ray McDonald
did not participate due to a torn right biceps muscle. However, he plans to
play through the injury this season.
Kaepernick took over the starting role last season because of his ability to
make big plays down the field, but it appears as if the rest of the league is
starting to adjust to the young quarterback. Credit to Harbaugh, who has
recognized this and gone to his run game. The threat of Gore and company
should keep the Cards honest this weekend, but Boldin will have his hands full
going up against Peterson.
Palmer is catching a break with no Smith and a hobbled Willis, but his lack of
a running game will continue to limit his chances. Mistakes again could come
back to haunt Arizona by the bay.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: 49ers 20, Cardinals 10
10/10 15:13:41 ET
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