San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals: A Prospector's Guide

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The 49ers head down to Glendale, Arizona to face off against the Cardinals on Monday Night Football. At the beginning of the season I would argue that even with the Cardinals question marks, this looked like it might be a fairly intriguing NFC West battle on prime time. I know some of you know everything and knew the Cardinals and/or the 49ers were gonna struggle this year. But for the majority of folks, this was at least a little enticing.

Although the records certainly aren't pretty, this could still end up being a great football game. I say that because even when these two teams are struggling, they can put together some entertaining football. For example, in 2007 the 49ers finished the season 5-11 and the Cardinals were 8-8, but both games were wild affairs. Maybe neither team will be 8-8, but both are unlikely to make the playoffs. In 2007, the first game saw the 49ers win 20-17 on a game-winning touchdown drive by Alex Smith at the end of the fourth quarter. The second game went to overtime where the 49ers sacked Kurt Warner and recovered a fumble to win 37-31.

Both teams may be playing like crap but I actually think we'll see a fun game. It's entirely possible I'm kidding myself on this, but I'm willing to roll the dice based on some of the past matchups. Over the past twelve contests between the two teams, only three have been decided by more than a touchdown. And in games at Arizona, no game has been won by more than six points since 1999. It's not the largest sample size in the world, but it's still something to consider. 

It shouldn't be surprising then that the spread is no more than a point or a point and a half at many gambling sites. The 49ers are favored by a point or so at most of these sites. The Cardinals certainly have their share of talent, but things haven't been pretty down in the desert. One of the funnier lines came during Bill Simmons marathon chat yesterday:

Mike T. (Ann Arbor, MI)
In honor of all the kick returns we've seen the last few weeks, my buddy and I decided we absolutely needed to construct a film entirely of kickers/punters attempting a tackle. Any given return there's a 90% chance the guy makes a fool of himself. Tell me you wouldn't watch 45 minutes worth of clips of tiny white guys getting juked and then falling into the fetal position?

Bill Simmons  (3:26 PM)
I would love this. I'd also like to see a 10-minute montage of Larry Fitzgerald starting to jump for a Derek Anderson/Max Hall pass and then just stopping mid-jump as the life sinks from his body because he realizes it's 10 feet over his head.

So it's pretty rough all around. However, all of this is to say that I'll stick with my belief that this is going to be a fun game. As I mentioned yesterday, I'll be at Public House at AT&T Park for the game and while it should be fun no matter what, an entertaining game (be it a close see-saw game or a 49ers blowout) would certainly make the evening all the more fun.

Once again I've attached a prediction poll. Head after the jump for random tidbits about this matchup.

The 49ers will leave the friendly confines of Candlestick Park and hit the road to face the Arizona Cardinals for a Monday Night Football showdown at University of Phoenix Stadium. San Francisco owns the overall series record 21-16 and are 9-8 on the road vs. the Cardinals. The Niners have won two consecutive meetings and four of the past six, dating back to 2007.

San Francisco lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 21-0, this past Sunday at Candlestick Park. QB Troy Smith was the leading passer in the game with 146 yards and lost for just the first time as the starting quarterback for the Niners.

The upcoming game marks the third time this season that the 49ers will have played in prime time. San Francisco is 58-31 overall when playing in prime time, including 23-16 on the road. When playing on Monday Night Football, the Niners are 39-24.

49ers-Cardinals Connections
Coaches
- 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was a teammate of Cardinals assistant head coach/OL coach Russ Grimm with the Washington Redskins from 1988-91. Manusky played linebacker, while Grimm played offensive guard.

- 49ers tight ends coach Pete Hoener has had coaching stints with the Cardinals while they were in St. Louis (1978-84) and Arizona (2001-03). 

- 49ers wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan spent 3 seasons as the Cardinals offensive coordinator from 2001-03. 

- 49ers offensive line coach Mike Solari held the same position while with the Phoenix Cardinals during the 1989 season.

- Cardinals defensive coordinator Bill Davis was the 49ers defensive coordinator from 2005-06.

CARDINALS-NOR CAL CONNECTIONS: Cardinals FB Reagan Mauia is a native of Lodi, CA ... Cardinals ILB Reggie Walker is a native of Sacramento, CA

49ERS ARIZONA CONNECTIONS: 49ers special asst. to the head coach/secondary Johnnie Lynn began his coaching career at the University of Arizona from 1987-93 ... Assistant special teams Dave Fipp also begain his coaching career at the University of Arizona during the 2000 season ... Pass rush specialist Al Harris played collegiately at Arizona State University from 1975-78. Offensive Coordinator Mike Johnson also played his college ball at ASU from 1985-86 ... 49ers asst. offensive line coach Ray Brown was a player for the St.Louis/Phoenix Cardinals from 1986-88 ... 49ers LS Brian Jennings is a native of Mesa, AZ. He also played at Arizona State University ... 49ers WR Kyle Williams attended High School in Scottsdale, AZ and went to ASU. 

FORMER CARDINALS: 49ers LB Travis LaBoy played in 13 games (12 starts) for Arizona during the 2008 season ... 49ers K Joe Nedney played in 23 games for the Cardinals from 1997-99 ... G Tony Wragge was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cardinals in 2002. Wragge spent 2 seasons (2002-03) with Arizona. 

BULLDOG BOYS - 49ers QB David Carr and Cardinals TE Stephen Spach were teammates at Fresno State University from 2000-01. 

VANDALIZED - 49ers G Mike Iupati and Cardinals WR Max Komar were teammates at the University of Idaho from 2006-08. 

BAYOU BENGALS - 49ers DT Ricky Jean Francois and Cardinals WR Early Doucet were teammates at LSU from 2006-07. 

MICHIGAN MEN - 49ers C David Baas, Cardinals DE/DT Alan Branch, DT Gabe Watson and WR Steve Breaston were all teammates at Michigan during the 2004 season. 

GOOD "OLE" BOYS - 49ers LB Patrick Willis and Cardinals CB Trumaine McBride were teammates together at the University of Mississippi from 2004-06.

"THE" BUCKEYE BROTHERS - 49ers QB Troy Smith, WR Ted Ginn and Cardinals RB Beanie Wells were all teammates at The Ohio State University during the 2006 season. 

PANTHER PRIDE - 49ers CB Shawntae Spencer and P Andy Lee both were teammates of Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald and ILB Gerald Hayes during the 2002 season. 49ers TE Nate Byham and Cardinals RB Larod Stephens-Howling were teammates at Pitt from 2006-08. 

LONGHORN LOVE - 49ers CB Tarell Brown and Cardinals C Lyle Sendlein were teammates at the University of Texas from 2004-05. 

TROJAN TIES - 49ers G Chilo Rachal and Cardinals G Deuce Lutui were teammates at USC from 2004-05.

Series Highlights
Matchups: 37
Series Record: 49ers Lead Series 21-16
49ers Away Record vs. Cardinals: 49ers lead series 9-8
First Meeting: 11/18/51, Cardinals win 27-21, at San Francisco
Last Meeting: 12/14/09, 49ers win 24-9, at San Francisco
Current Streak: Won 2
Longest 49ers Win Streak: 5 - 2 times (9/14/80-10/18/87, 10/24/93-12/21/02)
Longest Cardinals Win Streak: 4 - 2 times (10/6/74-12/2/79, 10/2/05-12/24/06)
Most 49ers Points: 50 (12/7/03), 50-14 at San Francisco
Most Cardinals Points: 34 (2 times) Last - 9/10/06
49ers Shutouts: None
Cardinals Shutouts
: None

ARIZONA 9 SAN FRANCISCO 24
At San Francisco, CA, December 14, 2009

The home team brought a physicality to the game that the Cardinals could not match, as RB Frank Gore pounded out 167 yards and 1TD on the ground and the defense forced 7 turnovers on the night (5 FRs and 2 INTs). The 49ers tied a franchise record as they forced 5 turnovers in the 1st half (3 FRs and 2 INTs). Cardinals QB Kurt Warner was held without a TD pass for the first time this season. He was also held to his lowest quarterback rating (44.9) and lowest passing yardage (178) since week 16 of 2008. Defensively, LB Ahmad Brooks (3.0 sacks & 2FFs) and S Dashon Goldson (1INT & 2FFs) pestered Warner all evening.

After turning the ball over on their opening drive when an Alex Smith pass was batted in the air and intercepted by Cardinals DT Darnell Dockett, the 49ers defense played inspired football. On the Cardinals 2nd possession, Goldson hit RB Tim Hightower at his own 8 yard-line, jarring the ball loose into the hands of CB Dre' Bly. Two plays later Smith hit TE Vernon Davis in the back of the endzone for the game's first points.

The SF defense stood tall again on the Cardinals ensuing possession, as LB Patrick Willis hit RB LaRod Stephens-Howling with a thunderous blow that shook the ball loose and into the hands of S Mark Roman, who returned the ball 25 yards to the AZ 28. 49ers K Joe Nedney later drilled a 37-yard FG to give his team a 10-0 lead. The Cardinals got the ball back, but not for very long as Goldson intercepted Warner at the SF 9, thwarting the Cardinals first scoring threat. Two possessions later, Nedney had a chance to up the lead, but missed a 53-yard FG attempt wide right.

Again the defense stepped up, as CB Tarell Brown stepped in front of a Warner pass intended for WR Anquan Boldin with 2:53 left in the half. With momentum in their favor, the Niners embarked on a 68-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 35-yard catch and run by WR Michael Crabtree for the game's 2nd TD, sending the 49ers into the locker room with a 17-0 lead at the half.

The Cardinals registered the only points of the 3rd qtr. as K Neil Rackers connected from 48 yards out. On the next drive, Smith threw his 2nd INT of the day into the hands of Cardinals S Adrian Wilson. Arizona converted the takeaway into a RB Beanie Wells TD run, but 49ers DT Ray McDonald blocked the PAT. After a San Francisco possession that stalled at midfield, the Cardinals got the ball back at their own 11 yard-line. On their first play though, Goldson stuck Wells and forced him to fumble the ball away to LB Parys Haralson. The home team quickly converted the theft into 7 points as Gore plunged into the endzone from 2 yards out. With a 24-9 lead, San Francisco sealed the game, utilizing their ground game to chew up the clock as well as their defense, who forced another turnover with 2:41 left, as S Mark Roman forced and recovered a Boldin fumble.

2010 Statistics

49ERS (rank) CARDINALS (rank)
3-7 (t-3rd NFCW) Record 3-7 (t-3rd NFCW)
16.0 (31st) Points per game 18.8 (26th)
313.7 (25th) Total Offense 275.7 (31st)
95.8 (25th) Rushing Offense 84.5 (28th)
217.9 (19th) Passing Offense 191.2 (28th)
28:50 (23rd) Possession Avg 29.2 (32nd)
21.9 (16th) Points allowed/gm 22.9 (32nd)
328.2 (13th) Total Defense 396.8 (29th)
106.8 (15th) Rushing Defense 135.1 (28th)
221.4 (17th) Passing Defense 261.7 (27th)
22 (12th) Sacks 20 (t-16th)
45.7 (7th) Punting Avg (Gross) 43.5 (t-15th)
-6 (t-24th) Turnover Differential -8 (t-27th)
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