Tale Of The Tape: Arizona Cardinals At San Francisco 49ers
- QuarterbackCarson Palmer is not an elite quarterback. However, he understands what head coach Bruce Arians wants him to do with the offense. Palmer will make his share of poor throws – he has tossed nine interceptions – but he can also read defenses and find open receivers. The veteran quarterback also knows how to come through in the fourth quarter if the Cardinals have a chance to win the game.Colin Kaepernick was an NFL phenom a year ago with his spectacular athleticism and accurate passing. Kaepernick was expected to pick up from where he left off, but it has not been so easy for him. Kaepernick has not been able to go downfield with his passes and he is throwing for just 181.6 yards per game with a 6-4 TD-interception ratio. However, he is still a brilliant runner who can make big plays on the ground if the defense is unable to pen him in with the pass rush.
- OffenseThe Cardinals would like to help Palmer out with a consistent running attack, but Rashard Mendenhall has been a big disappointment because he rarely lowers his shoulder and attempts to take on a tackler. The Cardinals are having a hard time getting the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, and that’s a big problem. He has just 24 receptions through five games. Michael Floyd has six 20-plus yard receptions.The 49ers are a physical offensive team and option No. 1 is to put the ball in Frank Gore’s hands. Gore has 376 yards and is averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Anquan Boldin is Kaepernick’s go-to receiver. He has caught 26-393-2 through five games and consistently draws double coverage. Tight end Vernon Davis appears to be over his hamstring problems after catching a TD pass vs. the Texans in Week Five.
- DefenseThe Cardinals have been playing solid defense most of the season as they rank 14th in yards allowed. Linebacker Karlos Dansby has been a dominant player with 45 tackles, 6 passes defense and 2.0 sacks. Cornerback Patrick Peterson is a special playmaker who has 9 passes defensed and 3 interceptions. He is a threat to take the ball to the house any time he gets his hands on it.The 49ers held the Houston Texans to three points and seized control of the game when Tramaine Brock returned a Matt Schaub interception for a touchdown at the 1:30 mark of the first period. NaVorro Bowman is once again doing a sensational job going sideline-to-sideline to make plays. He has a team-high 47 tackles. Fellow linebacker Ahmad Brooks has 28 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
- Special TeamsThe Cardinals have done a decent job with their punt and kickoff coverage. Peterson can give them a big punt return any time he gets into the open field and Javier Arenas can do the same with a kickoff return. Jay Feely has a big leg and has made 9-of-10 FG attempts this season.The 49ers are ordinary in their special teams play. It seems unlikely that punt return specialist Kyle Williams will break a big return any time soon since he is averaging 6.1 yards per return. Phil Dawson has not been the kicker the Niners expected, as he has made just 5-of-8 FG attempts.
The Cardinals are a gritty team that can hang in there when average opponents don’t put them away. However, the 49ers are not an average team. If the offense can generate a couple of early touchdowns, this game could be over early. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor