ARI-SF Grades: Defense clamps down, Palmer grinds out win

The top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Cardinals’ 19-13 win over the 49ers.

| 11 months ago
(AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

(AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

ARI-SF Grades: Defense clamps down, Palmer grinds out win

Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Cardinals’ 19-13 win over the 49ers.

Arizona Cardinals

– QB Carson Palmer (+3.5) did not have a huge game statistically, but he consistently made plays under pressure (8 of 18 for 128 yards, +3.5 PFF grade) and capped off an 85-yard drive by scrambling for the go-ahead touchdown late in the 4th quarter. Palmer’s ability to produce under pressure has been a huge part of his success this season. He leads NFL quarterbacks with a +40.1 overall grade in 2015, despite facing pressure on 42.8% of his dropbacks, the third-highest mark in the league. Palmer’s best throw of the day was a perfect deep ball to WR J.J. Nelson (+1.1) as the QB was being hit on the game-winning drive.

– Arizona’s rushing offense was ineffective throughout this game, as they gained just 70 rushing yards on 29 attempts (2.4 YPC), and six different players earned negative grades for run blocking. C Lyle Sendlein’s -4.2 run blocking grade was his worst of the season, and all three of Arizona’s tight ends finished with red grades for run blocking as well. Replacing the injured Jonathan Cooper, RG Ted Larsen (-6.9) struggled for the second game in a row. Larsen was responsible for five total pressures, and earned a -3.3 run blocking grade. He now has a -10.9 overall grade over the past two games. LT Jared Veldheer (+3.0 run blocking grade) was the only Cardinal to consistently win his matchups in the run game.

– San Francisco opted to stay away from CB Patrick Peterson (+1.7) in coverage; he was targeted just once and broke up the pass. 49ers WR Torrey Smith finished with 2 catches for 51 yards, but neither came against Peterson, who now ranks 9th among NFL cornerbacks with a +8.5 coverage grade for the season. CB Tyrann Mathieu (+1.7) allowed 8 of 11 passes to be completed for 123 yards, but he also intercepted a pass and five of his 12 tackles were stops. Mathieu leads NFL cornerbacks with a +22.5 overall season grade.

Top performers:

QB Carson Palmer (+3.5)
LT Jared Veldheer (+3.1)
FS Tony Jefferson (+1.9)
HB Andre Ellington (+1.8)
CB Patrick Peterson (+1.7)

San Francisco 49ers

– The Cardinals defensive game plan clearly centered around getting after QB Blaine Gabbert (-2.0), as they blitzed him on 27 of his 39 dropbacks. While they only put Gabbert under pressure 11 times, the 49ers quarterback responded by throwing underneath on the majority of his pass attempts. Just ten of Gabbert’s pass attempts traveled more than 10 yards, and one of those passes was intercepted.

– RG Andrew Tiller (-0.9) was average in his second start since replacing the ineffective Jordan Devey in the starting lineup last week. Tiller allowed three hurries, and finished with a -0.6 run blocking grade. He has added stability to the position since replacing Devey, who had started the first nine games at RG and graded negatively in all of them. Tiller began splitting snaps with Devey in Week 5, and has a +2.5 overall grade in his 288 snaps, compared to Devey’s -16.1 grade in 397 snaps.

– Starting DE Glenn Dorsey was lost for the season after suffering a knee injury last week, and preseason star DT Mike Purcell (+1.8) was his primary replacement in this game. Purcell had logged just 35 snaps in 2015, but played 51 this week and held his own, earning a +1.4 run defense grade and adding a sack and a pressure as a pass rusher. San Francisco had seven defenders earn green grades for run defense, led by DT Ian Williams (+2.5 run defense grade, three run stops) and OLB Aaron Lynch (+2.3 run defense grade). Lynch also finished with nine total pressures as a pass rusher in a dominant performance.

Top performers:

OLB Aaron Lynch (+5.1)
DT Ian Williams (+3.0)
LB NaVorro Bowman (+2.1)
LT Joe Staley (+1.9)
WR Anquan Boldin (+1.9)

  • Jason Williams

    Carson Palmer’s spike was maybe the worst celebration I’ve ever seen.

    • Bubs Solo

      He received a negative 2 grade on that play.

  • Al

    Palmer had a bunch of near picks. I really don’t understand your grades.

    • STAT

      I agree, even as a Cards fan

    • Barton Land

      Palmer was not pressured much and still had some careless throws. He should have had 2-3 picks and more sacks, but was saved by bad calls. Not sure how this equates to 5 puts better than Gabbert. Seems like a stretch.

    • Chris B

      “A bunch”= 2
      18/40 passes were under pressure. Which is more than “much”.
      But I still agree with your statement. Maybe he had a bunch of great throws (throws don’t necessarily mean completions) that made up for the stupid few.

    • MosesZD

      It’s subjective. When they like a QB, the subjective grading goes one way. When they don’t like a QB, the subjective grading goes the other.

      Same thing happens with ESPN’s QBR stat. Which is why Charlie Batch’s 186 yard, 3 TD, 2 INT game has a 99.9 QBR score. Even though it wasn’t a very good game and only a pair of dropped INTs saved it from being a 4 INT game.

  • Keith R Mathews

    After last week’s pounding, I predicted a three year building curve for the Niners, provided competent replacements were secured for all but the running coach, the management staff and many of the current players.
    After this week’s near win (close does not count) I stand by that prediction — three years.
    But I feel better about the defense than I have in a long time. Lynch is becoming an NFL star and a force to be reckoned with, mostly unsuccessfully. The corners stood up and were counted to limit the NFL’s most productive offenses to just 19 points. The defensive line took the Cardinal’s vaunted running game completely out of the game, making the passing game more defensible.
    But the offensive coaching still needs a new spark plug at tactics and strategy. Too few third downs converted because of short throws.
    Although Tiller (get the man some tea) is providing some stability in the OL, it still needs the bruiser guard from the draft to replace the loss of Iupati and to make it dominating once again. And Joe Staley, my favorite 49er, is nearing retirement, so a quality offensive tackle also needs be drafted.
    QB Gabbert is a quality number 2 quarterback but not the sensation Kaepernick can be, so I’m hoping a new coach will be available if, by some stroke of either genius or good luck, he stays with the Niners. Currently Kaepernick is out for the season because of a torn labrum, a no-clue coach and a loss of confidence brought on by being stripped unceremoniously of his favorite coach, Harbaugh. With a good coach and a heathy body, Kaepernick would have won this game hands down.

    • MosesZD

      Give up the fantasy. Kaepernick was never a good QB. He played a game of Street Ball and the NFL has long since figured out how to wreck him. His last 8 games last year — 77 QB rating. His 8 games this year — 79 rating.

      And there are fundamentals that make him actually worse the the rating. He creates pressure by holding the ball too long. Then, he plays badly under pressure.

      Gabbert has taken 4 sacks in 3 games because (a) he moves better in the pocket, (b) has better passing feel and (c) is better under pressure:

      Percentage of times getting sacked when pressured in 2015: Kaepernick 24.1%, Gabbert 10.0% Completion percentage when pressured in 2015: Gabbert 72.4%, Kaepernick 35.2%

      Gabbert is anything but perfect. But he’s playing well (as a QB, not a passing-fullback) under pressure, something Kaepernick is fairly poor at. And if you can’t play under pressure, you can’t play QB in the NFL.

    • Tim Edell

      The Cardinals vaunted running game?!!!! That’s funny

  • Jake

    Any average QB coming in after Kaep looks like Tom Brady but let’s not get too excited. Gabbert stupidly took that 3rd down sack that made it 4th and long and killed that last drive. Huge mistake.