Without Palmer, Cardinals look to end 49ers’ domination
TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona coach Bruce Arians summed up the supposed Cardinals-49ers rivalry in blunt terms this week.
"It can’t be a rivalry if you get your ass kicked this many times," he said. "I’d imagine they think the Seahawks are their rival, not us."
Indelicateness aside, there is no debating the 49ers’ recent domination of the Cardinals. San Francisco has won nine of the past 10 meetings. The Cardinals’ last win came on Dec. 11, 2011 when they beat the 49ers 21-19 in Glendale.
The most frustrating aspect of last year’s two losses was that the Cardinals were in position to win both games before letting them slip away in the fourth quarter. They were poised to take the lead in the fourth quarter at San Francisco before Larry Fitzgerald fumbled in 49ers territory in a 32-20 defeat. San Francisco won the final meeting on Phil Dawson’s 40-yard field goal at the end of regulation in Glendale.
"I’ve only beaten these guys once in my four years here," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "We’ve got to make sure we play physical football for four quarters; make sure we play smart football as well and make sure the Cardinals aren’t beating the Cardinals."
Following surprises losses by the 49ers (to the Bears) and the Seahawks (to the Charger), the Cardinals find themselves alone in first place in the NFC West after two games. But if Arizona wants to take the next step in its evolution, it has to find a way to compete consistently with the division’s elite teams.
Arizona beat Seattle last season on the road to earn a measure of respect, but still went 2-4 in the division because of those two losses to the 49ers.
The 49ers also had a handful of key players who did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday this week including tight end Vernon Davis (high-ankle sprain), right tackle Anthony Davis (hamstring) and cornerback Tramaine Brock (toe).
The Cardinals have had other concerns this week as well. They witnessed the arrest of No. 2 running back Jonathan Dwyer, who was pulled from practice on Wednesday and charged with multiple counts stemming from a domestic incident. Then linebacker John Abraham was placed on season-ending IR.
"Adversity comes in all different sizes, shapes and forms. You have to be prepared to deal with it," Fitzgerald said. "Come Sunday, it doesn’t matter. The best team has to go out there and win.
"There will be excuses made, but we can’t make them. If we want to be the team we know we’re capable of being, this is a game that has to be won."
The respective pass rushes: Both teams have struggled to generate pressure without key personnel (Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman for the 49ers; Darnell Dockett and John Abraham for the Cardinals). Cardinals coach Bruce Arians praised Bears QB Jay Cutler for getting rid of the ball fast in a win over San Francisco last week, but the 49ers also struggled to get to him when they had time. As for the cardinals, they know now that Abraham won’t be returning after he was placed on season-ending IR Friday. Finding a replacement won’t be easy. Thomas Keiser and Sam Acho will get the opportunity.
Cardinals QB Drew Stanton: Beating the Giants with Stanton at QB is one thing; beating the 49ers is quite another. Given San Francisco’s staunch run defense and the Cardinals’ middling run game, Arizona will need to throw the ball and stretch the defense to score in this game. Palmer gives them a much better chance of accomplishing that task, although Stanton is more mobile, which could help against the Niners’ front.
The Cardinals’ secondary vs. the 49ers’ passing game: Peterson and Antonio Cromartie will have their hands full with Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and offseason addition Stevie Johnson. If both team’s run defenses live up to their billing, this matchup could play a major factor in the outcome.
— Cardinals running back Andre Ellington and 49ers receiver Bruce Ellington are cousins. They grew up in Moncks Corner, South Carolina and attended Berkeley High School before playing at rival colleges; Andre at Clemson, Bruce at South Carolina.
— Cardinals WR Ted Ginn, Jr. played in 40 games with the 49ers from 2010- 12. In the 2011 season opener against Seattle, he became the first player in franchise history to return a kickoff and punt for a TD in the same game.
— Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles played for the 49ers in 1991, and defensive line coach Brentson Buckner played three seasons (1998-2000) for San Francisco. 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin played for the Cardinals for seven seasons (2003-09).
— The Cardinals first two opponents, San Diego and the New York Giants, have had a total of seven fourth quarter drives. They consisted of two punts, two fumbles, two drives ended on downs and an interception