The San Francisco face the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12, marking the second half of the season series. The Cardinals dominated the 49ers in Glendale, and now the 49ers will look to try and return the favor in Santa Clara. The Cardinals have a three game lead in the NFC West, and a win over the 49ers would boost their divisional record to 3-1. Jess Root of Revenge of the Birds was kind enough to answer five questions about his Cardinals.
Niners Nation: This team lost to the Rams at home, and lost to a Landry Jones/Mike Vick led Steelers squad, but then beats the Seahawks and Bengals. What was the difference between the former and the latter?
Revenge of the Birds: It comes down to execution and self-inflicted errors. Against St. Louis, the Rams executed a perfect game plan and still almost lost. Arizona dropped passes in the end zone and inside the 10. They missed easy throws without pressure when it counted. Against the Steelers, they were dominating until Landry Jones came in. Then the defense sort of let up and James Bettcher was outcoached by Todd Haley. They had no film on Jones and Haley got Martavis Bryant involved. The Cardinals couldn't adjust. Plus there were execution issues and penalties in the red zone.
Since rallying from 10 down in Cleveland, they sort of figured things out. They are putting up points on everyone now. They are executing better and are avoiding boneheaded mistakes in the red zone.
NN: Chris Johnson has quietly emerged as a comeback player of the year candidate, but seemed to struggle in the last two wins. What do you make of CJ2K at this point in the season?
RotB: He has been much better than expected. Even now he is doing exactly what the Cardinals need. They need him to get tough carries and be productive. The last three weeks he has not had the breakaway big plays. That's all that is missing. But his ability to gain yards oopens the passing game. Could it be that his age is catching up with him at this point of the season? Perhaps, but the thought is to run him into the ground and let Andre Ellington and David Johnson be fresh late in games.
NN: How much do y'all like Bruce Arians? Does he actually have any weaknesses as a head coach? Any good Arians stories worth sharing?
RotB: BA is so good. Everyone LOVES him here. How could you not? 10-6 in year 1 after 5-11, then 11-5 and the playoffs despite playing Ryan Lindley down the stretch and now 8-2 and looking like one of the best in football? Anyone who doesn't like him is just dumb.
As for weaknesses, he has a couple. He will abandon the running game early if the Cardinals are behind at all. He sometimes will make emotional challenges that don't necessarily make sense at the time. He goes bonkers on officials.
Stories? He is always a good quote. It seems he always brings up a few things. In the offseason, he talks about how no one is playing football. They are playing soccer until training camp. He doesn't have the team do organized team stretching, and always brings up at some point in the offseason how when someone with a gun comes at you or if a doberman with a shotgun comes at you, you don't stretch, you just run.
NN: John Brown was emerging, and then he got hurt and Michael Floyd seemed on his way back. What do you make of the wide receivers behind Larry Fitzgerald?
RotB: Bruce Arians schemes the WRs so well. If he has a Fitz (who is a better version of Hines Ward late in his career), he can take anyone with speed and make them productive. They have up and down numbers because of game planning, but Floyd is a monster. He is tall and fast, but the Cardinals use him down the field. Brown is the same way, only littler. Now we have a fifth round rookie have four catches and over 140 yards? The Cardinals have great balance and depth at receiver. If I had to describe them all, they would all be better than their role on their team, which is exactly what you would like. Fitz, Floyd and Brown could be number ones on some teams, but bounce between two and three here. J.J. Nelson could be a three or a four, but is a four-five here. Jaron Brown, if he were consistent, could be a two or a three, but is a four/five here. It's a good problem to have.
NN: What do you think happens in this game? No need for a specific score, but how do you see it playing out?
RotB: At a glance, I see it going as badly for SF as it did in Arizona. However, I'm sure if there is any pride left on that team, it will not go that badly. That said, if the Cardinals can get points early, it could get out of hand. Personally, I think the Cardinals will control this game, but it will not be an embarrassing score this time around.
NN: As a bonus, what do you make of this Cardinals team come playoff time?
RotB: The bar has been raised. It will be disappointing if they don't end up in the NFC Championship Game at least. If they have to travel to Carolina, I like how they stack up. If any team has to come to Arizona, Arizona should be a Super Bowl team. And they have shown they can beat the Bengals. Can they beat the Patriots? That's a tossup. I think the Pats, Bengals and Steelers all match up well enough against Arizona because their offenses can keep up. At this point, I don't know if there is a team that can keep the Cardinals from scoring points. The only team who can stop them is themselves.