Tag Archives: 49ers

Takeaways from the 49ers through 3 weeks

Oh…wait…did you…did you think after that 28-0 victory week 1 against the Rams that this was maybe going to be a successful season for the Niners? Ha, you have a lot to learn my friend. The 49ers started this season in the same fashion that they started last season, with a blowout win fooling fans into thinking “you know maybe..just maybe we could be good this year.” I wasn’t falling for it. Last season the 49ers beat up a very good Vikings team in week 1, only to finish the season 5-11. To be fair, they’ve had a tough schedule so far this season having played the Panthers and the Seahawks in the last 2 weeks. Through 3 weeks the Niners are who we thought they were. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly so far this in this season.

 

The Good:

  • When I wrote the blog previewing the 49ers season, I talked a little bit about how the offensive line will be a positive to look forward to and so far it has. Through the first two games the offensive line has given up just 2 sacks (tied for fewest in the NFL) compared to the unit last year that gave up 8 through the first 3 games. And of the 2 sacks given up, neither was by a member of the starting O-Line.
  • The defense has forced 8 turnovers through 3 games. The defense hasn’t played particularly well at this point in terms of points allowed, but they are near the top in the league in forced turnovers. Creating turnovers will help keep you in the ball game as long as the offense can capitalize and convert the turnovers to points (good luck with that).

The Bad:

  • The defense. Aside from the forced turnovers, the defense hasn’t really been impressive. They started off the season really well forcing the rams to put up a goose egg in week 1. But that is a team with Case Keenum at QB throwing the ball to a bunch of nobodies. Week 2 and 3 the defense allowed 83 total points. 83 points in 2 weeks. Yes, 83. In week 2 the team gave up49ers-fox-graphic-3 100+ yards to Whittaker, Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen. In week 3 they gave up 100+ to Christine Michael, Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. On the right is the graphic that Fox showed during the game. Not quite the formula for success.
  • The wide receivers for the 49ers. My god, talk about a boring group of playmakers. Jeremy Kerley currently leads the team with 12 catches and that ranks just 60th in the NFL among WRs. This is a position that GM Trent Baalke has really missed on in the last few years. 49ers have either passed up on or didn’t trade up a couple slots to get guys like Kelvin Benjamin, Allen Robinson, Donte Moncrief, Deandre Hopkins and Keenan Allen. Instead the team is signing a new wide out every week to see if they’re better than anybody they have right now. I’m even thinking of strapping on the ole cleats and trying out.

The Ugly

  • Blaine Gabbert. This guy has no hope and gives this team nothing going forward. He hasn’t progressed at all since he’s been in the league yet he is somehow a starting quarterback. Seahawks DE Michael Bennett on Gabbert: “Kaepernick gives them a better chance to win but that’s just my opinion.” No Bennett that’s not just your opinion, it’s the opinion of almost everyone that’s a 49ers fan. Sure, Kap isn’t that good either but at least we’ve SEEN him be good before. I want a QB that isn’t going to throw it to the receiver running a 5-yard out on a 3rd and 12. Allergy season must have come a little early this year because this guy is severely allergic to throwing the ball farther than 10 yards. So far Gabbert ranks 30/32 for QB rating, 31/32 for completion percentage and 32/32 for yards per attempt. Case closed.
  • 3rd downs on both sides of the ball have been a nightmare for the team so far this year. In the past 2 games on defense, the 49ers are allowing 10.1 yards per play on 3rd downs with a 55% conversion rate. The team is allowing far too many 3rd and long conversions as well. On the offensive side of the ball, 3rd down is a nightmare too. Gabbert is the king of check downs on 3rd down. Blaine has had 47.1% of his 3rd down completions result in 1st downs according to ProFootballReference.com. That ranks 27th out of all quarterbacks. On 3rd downs, he also ranks 29th in passer rating and 30th in yards per attempt.

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Larry Fitzgerald v. Rams

Arizona Cardinals: Sheet Cakes and Sparkling Wine

Follow me on Twitter: @ericforgaard

It’s not all sheet cakes and sparkling wine in Cardinals camp. Granted, Arizona sports a 9-2 record, has a three game division lead and has won five straight, but coach Bruce Arians has never acquired a taste for complacency. Last week the Cardinals were largely outplayed by the struggling 49ers, recent games have been uncomfortably close, and it hasn’t escaped institutional memory that last year’s team also started 9-2 before dropping four of its last six.

There will be plenty of time for celebration later if it’s warranted. There is a lot of work to do.

The Cardinals have flown to St. Louis to butt heads with the Rams today, the team that took Arizona down 24-22 at University of Phoenix Stadium Oct. 4, leaving a “nasty taste” in QB Carson Palmer’s mouth and no doubt the mouths of others. Arians said he would have dinner with the Rams, “…but I ain’t liking them. I ain’t drinking with them.” Division foes don’t tend to receive holiday cards from the Arians.

Palmer claims he doesn’t hold a grudge against St. Louis for the play that tore his ACL in 2014, ending his season. Palmer doesn’t, but the fans well might. There was a whiff of revenge in the desert air this week. Safety Tyrann Mathieu simply says, “I just think every time we play them it’s a 60-minute fist fight.”

The once-promising Rams have suffered through a four-game losing streak to fall to 4-7, and Arizona will need to stay alert for blows from a team that may well thrash about in its season-ending death throes. St. Louis doesn’t look or smell like a playoff contender, and a loss today will effectively bury the Rams.

St. Louis RB Todd Gurley ran roughshod over Arizona in the Rams Oct. 4 win, sprinting for 146 yards on 19 carries, the only 100+ yard effort this year against the Cards’ fourth-ranked rushing defense. That game started a four-game 100+ yard streak for Gurley, but he’s tucked away his cape recently while averaging a pedestrian 54.8 yards since the outburst. It didn’t take deep film study for teams to begin to realize that if you stop Gurley, you stop the Rams.

Gurley’s counterpart RB Chris Johnson suffered a tibial plateau fracture last week that will put him out for the season–or perhaps, as Cardinals doctors optimistically put it, until the Super Bowl. That was a sharp blow to the spirit as well as the leg of Johnson, and there is little solace in the notion that perhaps now he can complete a definitive guide to the blooming patterns of saguaro cacti in Lost Dutchman State Park. He’ll be missed.

Time for last year’s starting running back Andre Ellington to step in, right? No. He’s week-to-week with turf toe, and has been ruled out. Rookie David Johnson will be the lead dog this week. Johnson has four touchdowns in limited touches and has impressed in flashes. He has fumbled three times but Arians says he’s getting better with ball security, as most rookies must learn to do.

Healthy runners are in short supply, but the 2015 Cardinals feature one of the league’s finest passing attacks. Carson Palmer’s 27 TD passes are second only to Tom Brady’s 28. Palmer is third in NFL passing yards and QB rating. His favorite target is Larry Fitzgerald, who has risen from several sub-par (by his standards) seasons to grab 83 balls, good for third best in the league.

There is a beautiful symmetry in play today for Fitzgerald: He needs eight yards to reach 1,000 for the season and eight catches to notch 1,000 for his career. Fitzgerald is sure to see plenty of balls spinning his way off the right hand of QB Carson Palmer.

St. Louis will counter at QB with fleeting golden boy Nick Foles. After coming over from Philadelphia in the off-season, Foles uncorked a 297-yard passing effort in his first game with the club, leading the Rams to a 34-31 overtime win over Seattle. Results have been mixed since, and he has thrown for one touchdown and four interceptions in his last five starts. Now Foles has been supplanted on the depth chart by the uninspiring Case Keenum; but since Keenum is concussed today, Foles gets the start. I imagine there is a shipping container in Hong Kong stuffed with Foles bobble-heads that will never see the light of day.

A win today would give the Cardinals 10 wins after 12 games for only the second time in franchise history. The only team to do better? The 1948 Chicago Cardinals out of Comiskey Park, who raced to an 11-1 record under coach Jimmy Conzelman and led the league with 32.9 points per game. Despite a fine season, the Cardinals fell to Philadelphia 7-0 in the league championship game and did not return to the playoffs for 26 years.

Memo from Bruce Arians: keep the bubbly on ice until February 7.

– Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Arizona Cardinals: Bruce Arians, Man of the Moment

To some observers, the Arizona Cardinals have been lurking near the NFL elite like paparazzi hunkered down in Fiat 500s outside Miley Cyrus’ house. The Cardinals went 7-2 to finish off the 2013 season then raced to an 8-1 mark last year before injuries took hold and they coasted to an 11-5 finish and an early playoff exit. Arizona dismantled division rival San Francisco last week 47-7 and now enjoys a two-game early season lead in the division. The long-suffering Cardinals are now fashionable in NFL pundit circles.

But don’t look for coach Bruce Arians and his rakish beret on the runways of Milan anytime soon. Part cerebral tactician, part square-jawed hell-for-leather pugilist, Arians simply isn’t dazzled by transient success. After Arizona built a 31-7 halftime lead against the 49ers last week, his locker room message was simple: “If you relax, I’ll be looking for new players. Keep your foot on their throat.” Arians wants more, wants it all, which is the mark of the great coaches. His fiery optimism has swept through the team.

Next up? Division foe St. Louis, led by quarterback Nick Foles. The sandy-haired Foles was once in vogue in Philadelphia, but he was sent packing after inconsistent results and he turned up at St. Louis’ doorstep, helmet in hand. He led the Rams to a big win over Seattle in week one but the team has since sputtered in losses to Washington and Pittsburgh. St. Louis sits dead last in total offensive yards but is buoyed by a top 10 defense.

The Rams would be best served ignoring some of the statistics:

Arizona has won 14 of the last 16 games QB Carson Palmer has started and has outscored its opponents by 160 points in that span. The Cardinals are 15-3 at University of Phoenix stadium since 2013. Larry Fitzgerald has scored five touchdowns this season; the St. Louis Rams have scored four. The Cardinals’ secondary–dubbed the “No Fly Zone“–returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the first quarter against San Francisco last week.

Daunting stuff.

This week marks a return to health of prized free agent and former Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati. RB Andre Ellington is still listed as inactive, and his replacement Chris Johnson will get the bulk of the carries, coming off two scores and 110 yards last week. Arizona’s running game has been an admirable complement to Palmer’s aerial assault, which is striking targets all over the field.

Arizona is running on all cylinders and coach Arians is unlikely to take his foot off the pedal Sunday. In fewer than three years, infused with success at prior NFL stops in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, Arians has fostered a cultural shift from a franchise playing not to lose to one confident of victory.

Arians has arrived. He is a man of his time, and indeed, the man of the moment.

Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Arizona Cardinals: Enjoying the View

Follow me on Twitter: @ericforgaard

Riding the momentum of last season’s 11-5 record, the Arizona Cardinals stand alone atop the NFC West after two games. Arizona is putting up nearly 40 points per game and has yet to allow a sack. Is it time for misty-eyed fans to book passage to the Super Bowl? Will a beaming Coach Bruce Arians throw the championship banner wide to the wind Feb. 7 in Santa Clara?

Early season success can be ephemeral, good fans. Just when everything’s going well, you might dust off your Remington pump-action shotgun for a relaxing day of waterfowl hunting and accidentally kill the last Yellow-Billed Cuckoo in Maricopa County. One mustn’t confuse winless New Orleans and Chicago—the Cardinals’ first two foes—with, say, Green Bay and New England. One must maintain perspective.

Still, Arizona supporters are tantalized by the early results.

Last season, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles had the Cardinals defense performing at a high level, and the unit was largely responsible for that shiny 11-5 mark. The rest of the league took note, and the New York Jets hired away Bowles as their new head coach. The Jets have given up an NFL-low 17 points through two games and currently sit tied atop the AFC East with New England.

How have the 2-0 Cardinals made up for the loss of defensive wiz Bowles? Offense. Pure, adrenalized firepower.

A peek at the numbers bears this out.

Last season the Cards had 32 rushes of ten yards or more. This year? Nine in the first two games. Rookie David Johnson is toting the ball at a robust 8.4 yard clip after five touches, and he took his lone reception to the house from 55 yards out. In Chicago last week Johnson ran back the opening kickoff 108 yards for a score. Carson Palmer has completed passes to eight different receivers, five of whom have scored touchdowns. And 32-year-old Larry Fitzgerald’s game has acquired a youthful sheen. He’s averaging nearly 100 yards receiving per game and has scored three times.

But on to current business.

Arizona hosts a NFC West division scrap against San Francisco today. The 49ers were an off-season train wreck, when Coach Jim Harbaugh’s, um, resignation touched off a flurry of retirements and player cuts. Still, the team looked solid in a 20-3 win against visiting Minnesota in week one. But this was followed by a near-biblical 43-18 smiting at the hands of Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh, and the murmurs in San Francisco rose audibly.

Today’s game will be played under clear skies, and scenario-runners’ forecasts are equally sunny. Remember, Seattle has limped out of the gate 0-2, but should take care of Chicago today, and 1-1 St. Louis has to contend with high-flying Pittsburgh. When the dust clears Sunday evening, optimists feel that the Cardinals might sit at 3-0 and enjoy a two game lead over every team in the division.

Today’s matchup against the 49ers exudes the essence of a key early season test. To the hardcore Arizona fan, it smells like victory.

Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation