49ers offense looks different this time vs Arizona
For months, Mike Singletary pounded home the notion that San
Francisco’s identity would be as a power-run offense, with Frank
Gore as the central figure.
Oh how that’s changed for the 49ers since they started the
season with a win at defending NFC champion Arizona. As Cardinals
coach Ken Whisenhunt prepared for Monday night’s rematch at
Candlestick Park, the gameplanning was much different – yet Arizona
is still counting on having to get through Gore if the Cardinals
(8-4) are going to clinch a second straight NFC West title by
winning this game.
“I know they made some changes offensively, but so have we. I
think that’s the natural part of the NFL season and how it goes,”
Whisenhunt said. “Just based on what I’ve seen the last few games,
they’ve thrown the ball a little bit more. They’re obviously doing
So are the Cardinals.
Kurt Warner shined last Sunday night in beating Brett Favre and
Minnesota, throwing for 285 yards and three touchdowns in the 30-17
victory. He topped the 3,000-yard mark for the season and earned
NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors to boot.
Warner and Co. would like nothing more than to beat their
division rival on national television and wrap up the division.
This team believes it can make another special postseason run after
reaching the Super Bowl last season.
“It has the biggest implications,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald
said. “We’ve got to get this win to win our division and stamp our
ticket to the playoffs. That’s why it’s so important.”
San Francisco (5-7) has switched quarterbacks since the last
meeting. Singletary promoted Alex Smith at halftime against Houston
on Oct. 25. Rookie receiver and top draft pick Michael Crabtree had
yet to sign the last time these teams played, too.
Singletary finally relented about his offense upon seeing the
success Smith was having out of the shotgun and in a spread
offense, with a handful of talented targets to choose from.
“We’re basically trying to be a balanced team. At the beginning
of the season we started out wanting to be a power-running offense
but they did a great job on Frank the first game and we didn’t end
up doing that,” receiver Josh Morgan said. “We just go how the
game goes. We have the type of offense to do a lot of different
things. We’re adding another dimension. We’re still going to have
that basic power-running attack with Frank and he’s going to do
some big things in the run game for us.”
Gore carried 22 times for only 30 yards in the first meeting
with Arizona, yet he followed that up by running for a season-best
207 in a win over Seattle the following week. In his last three
games, he’s had seven, 16 and nine carries – for 59, 33 and 25
yards, respectively. But he’s also had 15 catches during that
Tight end Vernon Davis has 11 touchdown catches, most in
franchise history at his position. He repeatedly said he could
produce this kind of big year if only given the opportunities.
With Gore and Davis and Morgan, even Crabtree, the Cardinals
could have their hands full. Smith is coming off a game in which he
threw for a career-high 310 yards in a loss at Seattle.
Arizona ranks 30th against the pass.
“I’m sure we’re going to run the ball. We’re not going to back
away from that,” Davis said. “We’ve definitely got to get Frank
Gore going. We’re going to pass the ball. We’re just pretty much
going to do everything it takes to win the game. We’re not going to
run from them.”
The Cardinals are still bitter about losing their opener 20-16
to the 49ers. San Francisco hasn’t won a road game since, going 0-5
with those defeats being decided by a total of 19 points.
“If no one else will say it, I’ll say it: Those guys
embarrassed us on our own field,” Arizona running back Tim
After a 3-1 start, the Niners had hoped this game would be a
showdown for the division. Instead, the 49ers are just hoping to
win and make a good impression while in the national spotlight.
Smith had a poor game in his last Monday night performance, going
12-of-28 for 114 yards in a 24-0 loss at Seattle on Nov. 12,
Arizona safety Adrian Wilson doesn’t care how many times Smith
throws or what Gore’s numbers are, the Cardinals know they must be
ready for Gore to come barreling up the middle.
“Let’s not make a mistake. Frank is the focal point of that
team,” Wilson said. “Frank Gore is undoubtedly one of their best
offensive players. We’re not looking past the fact that they can
line up and they can run the football on us. We’re expecting him to
get the ball 30 times. That’s the type of mindset that you have to