GLENDALE, Ariz. — If there's going to be a Colin Kaepernick Redemption Tour, this would be a good week for it to happen for the San Francisco 49ers quarterback.
Nothing has been going very good for the spiraling 49ers, losers of seven straight games, but it couldn't have been worse the last time Kaepernick started against the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium.
In a 47-7 loss, he completed only 9 of 19 passes for 67 yards with no touchdowns and had four passes intercepted — two of which were returned for touchdowns by Arizona.
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“Yeah, definitely,” Kaepernick said. “Last time we played down there, that was probably the worst game of my career that I can think of.
“It's an opportunity to go down there and redeem myself, and also try to help this team get a win and get back on track; start by breaking our current losing streak and trying to get on a winning streak.”
A win might not do much for the 49ers (1-7) in the grand scheme of things, but a victory could certainly benefit the Cardinals (3-4-1), who are struggling their own right.
Considered legitimate preseason Super Bowl contenders after a 13-3 finish a year ago, the Cardinals have been beset by injuries, deficiencies as well as expectations.
The offense that set multiple franchise records in 2015 barely resembles the one that has dropped games to the equally struggling Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers this season.
The deep passing game that has become a staple of coach Bruce Arians' regime has been hit and mostly miss thus far and quarterback Carson Palmer doesn't look much like the MVP candidate he was a year ago.
In Palmer's mind, however, Sunday's game against the 49ers gives the Cardinals an ideal chance to hit the re-set button as they try to turn things around and make an improbably push toward a playoff spot with a strong second-half finish.
And regarding which part of their game do the Cardinals need to refocus?
“Everything,” Palmer said. “You come back and you try to improve on the things you looked at over the last eight weeks. Not make those same mistakes, but you're focused on everything. Situational football, technique, footwork.
“Even, we're talked to about our diet, our rest, all those things, and our sleep. So, you focus on everything. There's too many things going on and too many things to improve that you don't just worry about one thing or two things.”
If there is one thing the Cardinals hope to exploit this week, it's the 49ers' knock-kneed rushing defense, which ranks last in the league and is allowing a staggering 193 yards per game.
San Francisco is the only team in NFL history to allow a 100-yard rusher in seven consecutive weeks.
Given that Arizona has one of the league's best running backs, David Johnson, who is fourth in the league with 705 rushing yards, don't be surprised if the Cardinals look to run the ball as often as they can.
“I love getting the ball,” Johnson said when asked if he was wary of being overloaded come Sunday. “I love getting the touches. It doesn't matter to me.”
Both teams will be playing without several key players.
The Cardinals, who have 10 players on season-ending injured reserve, lost two more starters during their last game at Carolina. Left tackle Jared Veldheer sustained a torn biceps tendon and all-purpose safety Tyrann Mathieu suffered a shoulder subluxation that is expected to keep him out for another week or two.
Losing Veldheer will sting, says Palmer.
“Huge,” Palmer said. “He's been our most consistent, probably one of the better tackles in the league, one of the best tackles in the league for a long time. Three years, I think now here. His production, his professionalism, his athleticism, his power, his leadership. It's irreplaceable.
“You just don't find a guy that replaces what he brings to the team, aside from he brings to the field of play — what he brings to the locker room, what he brings to that group in their meeting rooms.”
San Francisco, which lost its best defensive player, linebacker NaVorro Bowman, to an Achilles injury, also has to play without young defensive end Arik Armstead, who is done for the season because of a shoulder issue.
“Well, any time you lose those guys — we've also lost Ray-Ray Armstrong, our other inside linebacker for the year,” coach Chip Kelly said. “He's on IR also, but you can't feel sorry for yourself. Unfortunately, no one else does.
“It's really about getting the other guys ready to play. It's an opportunity for some other guys to play and to carry on. You kind of play in their honor and the best way you can show the impact of NaVorro and Arik and Ray-Ray is for the guys that replace them to go in and play to the standard that those guys have, and that's what we're looking for with those three guys out.”
Kaepernick, at least, looks like he might be on the verge of returning to form. During last week's loss to the Saints, he passed for 398 yards and two touchdowns, and had a 102.3 passer rating.
“I think it's getting back into a rhythm,” he said. “It had been almost a full year since I had been back really in live action in games. So it just took a little bit to get comfortable really. Now that comfort is starting to come back.
“Seeing the concepts that we're running, how things flow together, in live action on game day, is important as well. Now getting to see those things and getting those reps, I think that's something I get more and more comfortable with.”