A drubbing to the 49ers just three weeks ago must have woken Arizona up, because the Cardinals showed plenty of heart and fire this time around. Arizona was on a quest to put together a three-game winning streak after a slow start to what has been an up-and-down season.
For the 49ers, their offense found rhythm at times, but overall, Alex Smith had a day to forget. Frank Gore had a nice 37-yard TD run, but outside of that, San Francisco failed to score touchdowns in the red zone, settling for field goals instead.
Let’s take a look at some of the individual performances that propelled the Cardinals to their sixth victory of the season.
Arizona – Three Performances of Note
The Best of The Best
Another great game in the books for our top-rated safety, Adrian Wilson. It appeared as if he was the biggest contributing factor as to why Alex Smith was off his game. Wilson seemed to know what Smith was going to do before Smith had a chance to decide. Aside from the facemask in the first quarter, Wilson had an almost perfect day everywhere else. In the pass game, he was thrown at twice–allowing one completion for no gain with two passes defended–and on three blitz attempts, he picked up two quarterback pressures. The two passes defended both came in the third quarter (one at the 5:52 mark, the other at 1:21) and both were highly acrobatic, athletic plays where he was unfortunate not to end up with an interception as he anticipated where Smith would be throwing the ball.
Torching The Niners
The best way to sum up Larry Fitzgerald’s game against San Francisco would be to say he was “extremely impressive.” Look no further than his +3.3 grade and 60-yard touchdown reception, easily the best play of the afternoon. Fitz was targeted a team-high 10 times, hauling in seven of those targets for a cool 149 yards. He also piled on 73 yards after the catch en route to 21.3 yards per catch average. It seemed as if he equally beat up members of the 49ers secondary; Carlos Rogers allowed 53 yards against Fitzgerald, while Dashon Goldson allowed 51, and Tarell Brown, 37. His best game since Arizona beat the Eagles in Week 10.
Tomorrow’s a New Day
Overall, the low lights of the Cardinals’ performances have to be linebackers Paris Lenon (-3.3) and O’Brien Schofield (-2.6). Both looked out of position at times with Schofield faring the worst, considering he played less than half of the defensive snaps. Two plays in particular stand out when it comes to Schofield; both came in the second quarter and they came on back-to-back plays. The first was with 3:59 left to play–a breakdown in coverage where Vernon Davis was simply left all alone, which simply can’t happen. On the very next play, Schofield is out of position on outside contain which led to a 7-yard gain on a Kyle Williams end-around.
San Francisco – Three Performances of Note
Disappointing Anchor in the Middle
Sometimes it’s only fitting to deliver the bad news first. For a guy who has been pretty decent for most of the year it was surprising to see Jonathan Goodwin (-3.8) bomb by getting beat for three sacks and a pressure. Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett and Nick Eason all ate him up and got to his QB, but it seemed as if he had trouble all day long against the nose tackle position in general. David Carter and Eason combined for a +2.5 overall grade when going head-to-head with Goodwin. He had only given up two sacks previously.
Next Man Up
When Joe Staley left early in the first quarter with an apparent head injury, I was curious to see how his replacement Alex Boone would handle the pressure coming off of the edge. He played the 58 remaining snaps at left tackle and, in large part, handled himself quite well. His real only hiccups were the two pressures he allowed to Sam Acho and Dockett. Other than that, he was clean in pass protection and even had a really nice second-level block in the run game against Paris Lenon. In limited opportunities, Boone has proved that he can be effective, so if Staley is unable to go against the Steelers, the left side of the line should be just fine.
It feels as if every 49ers game I watch Aldon Smith just jumps off the screen with his relentless ability to rush the passer and his effortless ability to shed a block and lock in on the quarterback. There is no real way to describe the way he creates havoc; he just is a “handful” for anyone who tries to block him. This week he worked over the right side of the Cardinals’ line, no matter which right tackle or tight end that tried their hand at blocking him. It wasn’t his sack that impressed this week, but his hustle and pursuit of the football. Fast forward to the second quarter with 12:03 left to play where, on a quarterback scramble, Smith chases down John Skelton from behind and strips the ball clean on his way to the ground.
– Aldon Smith now has 11 sacks on 272 pass rush snaps.
– Patrick Peterson (+3.1) rarely let his man beat him and forced some incompletions with close coverage.
– When Alex Smith was blitzed, his quarterback rating was an awful 51.4.
PFF Game Ball
Larry Fitzgerald looked like a man possessed as he literally carried the offense all game by proving uncoverable.