ReFo: Cardinals @ 49ers, Week 17
The 49ers locked up the #2 seed and the NFC West, but what performances led to the win? Steve Palazzolo takes a look.
ReFo: Cardinals @ 49ers, Week 17
With the NFC West title at stake, the San Francisco 49ers took care of business against the lowly Arizona Cardinals who finished the season at 5-11 after a promising 4-0 start. San Francisco came out sluggish, but after falling behind 6-0, they went on to score the next 27 points as the game was well in hand by the fourth quarter. They now have a week off to regroup and prepare for an NFC playoff bracket that is loaded with competitive teams.
For Arizona, much of this season came down to the quarterback position, as they cycled through four different starters with Brian Hoyer getting his first nod in this one. His nondescript -2.2 grade fit the mold of the other options at the position as Arizona must spend the offseason deciding whether to bring in a new signal caller or enter the 2013 season with their current group. Regardless of the decision, it’s a long offseason ahead for the Cardinals as they look to rebuild a roster with weaknesses throughout.
Let’s take a look at the key performances from this Week 17 battle.
Arizona – Three Performances of Note
Tough Debut for Kelemete
Though he may have been involved in the most exciting play of the game, Senio Kelemete was largely ineffective for his 43 snaps in place of right guard Pat McQuistan. Kelemete made an amazing catch on a deflected pass, outmuscling defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga for the jump ball before rumbling for eight more yards and a first down. While it’s always fun to watch guards display their ball skills, Kelemete struggled at his conventional job of blocking. He graded at -3.0 overall, surrendering a sack and a hit, both of which came at the hands of outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks. Kelemete fell victim to classic 49ers’ stunting as he was unable to disengage from the defensive line in order to pick up Brooks on the twist, leaving a free run at Hoyer.
Tale of Two Defensive Ends
It was a disappointing season for defensive end Darnell Dockett who came out on fire with a +9.8 grade in Week 1, but curiously posted only one positive grade since that time. This was not that game as he graded at -2.4 with only two pressures and no tackles. He was consistently sealed by right tackle Anthony Davis in the running game. On the other side, DE Calais Campbell capped off a great season with a +1.6 grade, finishing at +33.7 for the year (third among 3-4 defensive ends). He picked up a sack, hit, and two hurries on his 27 pass rushes, while also adding a stop in the running game.
While Dockett’s position appeared to be a strength coming into the season, the Cardinals may have to explore other options to pair with the promising Campbell.
Strong Finish for Williams
Staying on the defensive line, nose tackle Dan Williams also had a strong finish to the season, grading at +2.4 for the game. He’s been a stout run defender in his first three years, finishing the season tied for sixth in Run Stop Percentage among defensive tackles, but he displayed some rare pass rushing ability on Sunday. He picked up a hit and two hurries on just 17 attempts for his best pass rushing effort of the season. Williams had his way with center Jonathan Goodwin on two occasions, throwing him aside before knifing into the backfield. If Williams wants to see the field more than 42 percent of the time as he did this season, he’ll have to need more days like this where he’s not just a one-dimensional run stopper.
San Francisco – Three Performances of Note
Kaepernick to Crabtree
San Francisco’s move to Colin Kaepernick as its starting quarterback has coincided with some of the best games of wide receiver Michael Crabtree’s career. On Sunday, he picked up a career-high 172 receiving yards, grading at +4.1 while Kaepernick posted a +5.9. The duo turned the game around on back-to-back plays in the second quarter as Kaepernick found Crabtree on a deep post before hitting him in stride on a corner route for a 49-yard score. They went to the corner route again later in the quarter as Crabtree reached out for a one-handed grab over safety Rashad Johnson. Perhaps Crabtree’s best play of the day came at the 12:52 mark of the third quarter as he took a three yard out route and picked up 25 yards after the catch by juking and weaving through the Arizona defense.
For Kaepernick, he made strong throws throughout the afternoon, including a perfect corner route to tight end Delanie Walker that was dropped in the end zone early in the third. The Kaepernick to Crabtree combination looks ready for the playoffs, and if the 49ers make a Super Bowl run, we may be looking at these two players as one of the major factors in their success.
Mauling at Right Tackle
While he’s played well for the majority of the season, right tackle Anthony Davis has been dominant the last two weeks and he posted a +5.8 grade in this one. As mentioned, he handled Dockett to the tune of a +3.6 run block grade and surrendered only one pressure on his 32 pass block attempts. Coming off last week’s perfect outing on 43 pass blocks, he’s now given up one mere pressure on his last 75 attempts. The 49ers offensive line has been one of the best in the league and Davis deserves credit for improving from a -6.1 grade in 2011 to +22.4 this season.
Rare Day for Culliver
Though he finished 10th among cornerbacks in Yards/Cover Snap, CB Chris Culliver was near the top of those rankings throughout the season before taking a step back in recent weeks. He was beaten by rookie wide receiver Michael Floyd on two deep balls, one of which was a garbage-time touchdown. Culliver was unable to find and adjust to the ball in the air on both throws. He also missed his first tackle since Week 3 of the season, all of which added up to his -2.1 grade on the day.
– Floyd set career highs in targets (14), receptions (eight), and receiving yards (166).
– Kaepernick was 4-for-7 for 130 yards and a dropped pass on throws beyond 20 yards.
– Facing 37 dropbacks, San Francisco did not blitz once.
PFF Game Ball
Michael Crabtree’s career day gets the nod as he picked up 172 yards and two touchdowns. He dominated the Cardinals at all levels of the defense.