There are various things which I believe are clearly evident for both teams at this point in the season heading into Monday night. When I look at the Cardinals there is no doubt that they are considered the class of the NFC west, and deservedly so. Lets take a look at the quality games Arizona has won: the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings. Arizona has been able to face adversity and succeed. However, we must remember that experience breeds wins.
The 49ers in the other hand, are mirror images of the Arizona Cardinals, except when it comes to overcoming adversity. Lets take a look at the games the 49ers should have won: Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, and the Seattle Seahawks. You add those four games to a 5-9 record, the story for the 49ers this season would have been totally, if not, completely different than the situation they find themselves in now. This are games that they "gave away", and games that should have been theirs. Guess what though? This is the NFL.
In simple words: Arizona won the games they needed to win, and the 49ers did not.
However, the story for both these teams changes when it comes to analyzing short and long term goals for both these teams.
In reality, I do not see Arizona succeeding in the NFC West for a long term as they are right now in the short term. This all thus leads to the Monday night match-up--a game which I believe carries more implication than meets the eye. I ardently believe that this game will show which of the two teams will be the master of the NFC West for years to come.
What's holding the 49er's success back? it amounts to three crucial important factors:
- Lack of relationship
- Lack of true leadership
- Lack of finality
We have seen glimpses of a building relationship, but it's still not officially there. This was clearly evident in the lose versus the Seattle Seahawks. In many cases, there were crucial dropped balls. Even the win versus Jacksonville timing was not completely there. This, however, is normal. The team changed its offensive philosophical approach drastically. It take times to develop a relationship.
Moreover, the 49ers have leaders but not leadership. It's nice to have players such as Vernon Davis, Frank Gore, and Patrick Willis as inspiring leaders. Nonetheless, this are players that still lack true experience. They're leaders because of their work ethic and talent, not because of playoff experience.
Finally, what I believe to be their biggest setback is there lack of finishing games. Sadly, this is not something you learn through practice during the week; it comes through experience.
Until the 49ers overcome this barriers, they will continue to chase after the high flying Cardinals.