The San Francisco 49ers host the Arizona Cardinals this weekend, looking to improve to 9-1, further secure the NFC West and move themselves a little bit closer to a potential first round bye. The good news about these remaining games is that with Green Bay staying one game ahead of them, every game has tremendous value. The Packers could very well go undefeated, but the 49ers need to continue keeping pace in case the Packers do slip up.
The Cardinals remain an old favorite as the 49ers and Cardinals have put on some fun matchups in the past. As we get ready for Sunday's game I took a few minutes to chat with Jess Root from Revenge of the Birds. The Cardinals got off to an incredibly poor start, but they quietly started to turn things around the last few weeks. Hopefully the 49ers can just roll right through the Cardinals, but I suspect it won't be quite the walk in the park. We'll see. If you head over to Revenge of the Birds, my responses to his questions should be up shortly.
Niners Nation: What's up with your QB situation? The Cardinals gave up a lot for Kevin Kolb, but are finding success with John Skelton. Why are they suddenly winning under Skelton, and what does the future hold?
Revenge of the Birds: The future? That will be interesting. As for the wins, it is likely the combination of a couple of things. First of all, Skelton has a year on Kolb in the offense, which makes a difference when Kolb did not have an offseason and the offense is fairly complex. Secondly, the defense has been superb the past two games and also the in the first half of the game against the Ravens. The defense allowed 9 points to the Rams and only 10 to the Eagles (and three were from a field goal that was the end of a three-play, seven yard drive after a Skelton interception).
The fan base is torn. As prisoners of the moment, many want to continue to see Skelton because he just looksmore comfortable and poised. Some say patience and others just want to kick Kolb to the curb.
If the defense continues to play the way it has, then we will get to see whether Kolb can lead the team to victories when he recovers. However, if the Cardinals win against the Niners and Skelton plays well again, this time against a legit defense, Skelton might not be able to sit for long, or at all, behind Kolb this year. If that happens, I imagine next season will be an open competition to open camp.
NN: You guys have given up 31 sacks on the season. Is it all on the offensive line, or other issues of running back pass protection and/or QBs holding onto the ball too much?
RotB: Believe it or not, it is little about the running back protection. Beanie Wells is so much better than he was before this year. The sacks fall mainly on the offensive tackles, but several are because of the QBs. Kolb bails quickly and has drifted back too far, putting himself right where rushers are being blocked. Other times it is holding the ball too long, but the line has been awful on the edges. Levi Brown can't keep up with anyone with a quick first step.
NN: Patrick Peterson has been a beast as a punt returner. Feel free to gloat about that, but also, how has he developed as a cornerback?
RotB: Peterson is a stud -- a special kid. To give you an idea of how he is, Darnell Dockett said this about him: "He (Peterson) walks around like it's his world and we're just living in it. I ain't mad at him, I like it actually."
As for pass coverage, he is becoming a very, very good cover guy. He regularly is glued to the opposing team's top or fastest receiver. His only bugaboo is the tendency to use his hands too much and get flagged. Several have been questionable, but that is one are he needs to improve on.
NN: Which player(s) should the 49ers keep an eye out for that we don't know as much about?
RotB: If you haven't heard of him already, there is a pretty good receiver Larry Fitzgerald...Seriously, linebacker Daryl Washington is going to be all over the field. He is fast and is looking a lot like Karlos Dansby when he was making plays here.
NN: What Arizona Cardinals team can we expect this week? The one that has won two straight (and almost a third), the team that lost six straight, or some unknown third entity we have yet to see?
RotB: Considering the play of the defense the past couple of weeks, I expect that team to show up. They will be ready and will be ready to take the Niners' punches and even return a few. Even the team that lost six straight had a chance to win four of them in the closing minutes. It should be a good game.