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.
– 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.
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.
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)