San Francisco 49ers: Previewing the Cardinals


For the spiraling San Francisco 49ers, a tough challenge awaits them this week with the high-powered and tough Arizona Cardinals.

Well, San Francisco 49er fans, last week — like this whole year to be honest — was tough to watch. There’s no other way to put it.

The Seahawks were clearly the better team in every aspect, and they proved it on the field. The 49ers played extremely conservative football — which kept the game from being a total blowout — but it also meant there was almost no chance to come out on top.

New de facto starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert looked about as good as it seems his ceiling can be, managing to the get the ball away before taking too many big hits on the day. Good thing, too, considering the next quarterback on the depth chart is virtual unknown Dylan Thompson, who hasn’t thrown a pass all year.

More from Colin Kaepernick

The Seahawks, down one Beast Mode headed into the game without Marshawn Lynch, seemed to have found Beast Mode II in undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls. No one other than die-hard fantasy football players and true Seahawks fans knew anything about him heading into the game.

That changed quickly though, as Rawls plowed over and through the San Francisco defense all day long, racking up over 200 all-purpose yards.

The 49ers didn’t play badly, they just played like a team that was totally outmatched. The game was never something fans were able to feel confident about. While interacting with fans on Twitter, people were none too pleased with San Francisco’s lackluster performance and play calling.

Of course there were also a plethora of Jed York tweets, but we can’t repeat a lot of those so we’ll move on.

More from Golden Gate Sports

The coaching was questionable at best; unintelligent at worst. Only once or twice did the 49ers ever attempt a deep pass, seemingly content to try eight yard slant routes and dinky dump offs to the running backs. Shaun Draughn, the latest workhorse back for San Francisco has demonstrated an awesome work ethic and an unquestionable desire to play football. He was really the only bright spot of the game on offense for San Francisco.

For the defense, there were too many lapses in coverage and broken arm tackles, but one player stood out as giving his all on every play. Eric Reid made the huge hits and big plays that got discussed on Twitter. It was evident he was leading the defense on the day and was doing his best to stop the Seahawks.

If everyone in a San Francisco uniform played as hard as those two, the 49ers might be able to win another game or two this year.

It might not be so easy to notch a win this week though, as they are playing an Arizona Cardinals team that absolutely routed them back in week three. Of course two of their scores were pick-sixes off of Colin Kaepernick, who is no longer the starting quarterback and may not even be in San Francisco for much longer.

Regardless, the Cardinals offense has, if anything, gotten better as the season has gone on.

Arizona has taken down the Seahawks in Seattle, won primetime night games, and now lead the NFC West as the season winds down. Carson Palmer has emerged as a clear Comeback Player of the Year candidate after tearing his ACL last year, and has looked fantastic at the helm of this offense. Chris Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are also looking like their old Pro-Bowl selves this season.

On defense, they are as tough as ever, with a fearsome secondary and a stout defensive line.

For the 49ers to win, they will need to come up clutch in several areas:

  1. Let It Fly
    Open up the passing game, let Torrey Smith use his speed he used to be known for to stretch the Arizona defense. At this point it seems just silly to have spent money on him since no quarterback has actually utilized Smith this year.

Next: Kaepernick Done For The Year, Done In San Francisco

  1. Ground and Pound
    Feed the rock to the runners. By establishing a run game early on, San Francisco can only help themselves. Even a less than stellar line should be able to run block occasionally. Emphasis on the should at this point in the season.
  2. Man Up
    Don’t rely on zones to help out. The 49ers’ cornerbacks cannot bank on Eric Reid and the other safeties to bail them out on every play. They need to step up and play tight, tough coverage on the Cardinals receivers early and force them to hand the ball off more than they’d like.

If San Francisco can find a way to accomplish these tasks, they may actually have a chance at beating the Cardinals for the first time since the last game of the 2014 season, which feels like so much more than ten games ago. The reality though, will likely look something like this:

42. 31. 32. Final. 13

At this point though, it might even be better if San Francisco were to lose to get themselves into a position to get a better draft pick. What do you think the 49ers should do? Tank and hope to get a high first round pick? Even if they do, who is worth that pick?