Tuesday, November 11, 2008

MNF Thoughts: Cardinals-Niners

A wildly entertaining game in the desert tonight between two teams that really aren't going to have history books written about them. The Cardinals' first MNF win since beating Tom Landry (!) had the following quick notes...

> A 104 yard kickoff return from Allen Rossum opened this one, and Cardinal Fan had to know there were in a dogfight. Emphasis on dog.

> Most of the game, the Niners were unable to get pressure and Kurt Warner was exceptionally accurate. That they scored only 29 tells you just how sloppy this one was.

> With 11:30 left and the Niners clinging to a one point lead, Frank Gore dropped a sure first down pass in the flat. When your best player can't make the play to more or less ice it... well, there was More To Come. Let's just say Gore's not going to remember this game fondly.

> How you know that the Cardinals aren't really a contender, Clue #8006 -- being unable to run the ball at all against the Niners. At home. Even with Tim Hightower taking nearly all of the snaps. Sheesh.

> Yes, Vernon Davis caught a touchdown pass tonight... then cost his team a 15 yard penalty for removing his helmet while celebrating. It didn't cost the Niners anything, and Singletary laughed about it on the sidelines... but man alive, is this guy a moron.

> 45% of the time that he plays a game, Kurt Warner throws for over 300 yards. Your second place guy on that list is Dan Fouts, at 28%. Now, others will break on to this list as they meet a 100 game minimum, but still, ye gads. Mr. Warner has had some moments.

> The teams combined for 20 flags tonight for 162 yards. Yes, the refs matched the level of play of the teams.

> In the first half of this game, Shaun Hill did something I've never seen in on a football game before. On a 3rd and 11, the Niners called a quarterback draw to the left. Hill got popped a few yards short of the sticks, and had his helmet removed in the contact. He then fought through the tackle and dove, without protection and head first, for the first down.

Hill's not terribly gifted physically, and he cost his team the game tonight with some breathtaking mistakes -- two in the fourth quarter, both of them inept, and others that were called back on penalties. He doesn't have the confidence of his coordinator, the pass-wacky Mike Martz, and there's a good reason for that, in that his decision-making is bad, even for a Martz QB.

But on the strength of diving for a first with a bare head, he's going to draw an NFL paycheck for five years. He also gets every ounce of performance out of his ability with offside snap draws, the ability to get rid of the ball under huge pressure -- tonight at one point, 17 hurries, no sacks -- and just pure ballsiness. You don't really want him quarterbacking your team, but many teams employ a lot worse. Of such things are practice squads made... and no, JT O No Sullivan is *not* getting this job back.

> Tonight's Niners team were physical on defense despite facing a red-hot Kurt Warner in the second half, covered the 9.5 point spread with ease, had any number of chances to win, and fought hard. They might be the second best team in this division. And oh, my, what a horrible, horrible division it is...

> Twice in the second half of this game, the Cardinals were over-aggressive at the line, drawing ticky-tack five yard flags that wound up costing them defensive turnovers and touchdowns. It's a snakebitten franchise, folks.

> The last five minutes of this game simply defied description. Hill threw an inexcusable pick. The Cardinals couldn't get a first, and punted. After some of the worst prevent defense pass coverage you have ever seen, the Niners get the ball to the 1 with 40 seconds left, and inexplicably take 20 seconds to spike it. No, I'm serious.

The Niners then bounce Gore to the left, and on not enough contact to take a man down in two-hand touch, their star loses his balance before he can get in. The Niners then spike it with two seconds left, and the final play of the game is an Andy Reid-esque fullback dive from the three with Michael Robinson. The Cards stopped it and escaped with the win.

Honestly, this was wild fun, but I can't wait to wager against this Cardinals team in the playoffs... even though, with a four-game lead in their division, they will have the franchise's first home playoff game since 1949.

Yes, 1949. The franchise was in Chicago then.

(Oh, and having Warner and the balls-nasty Anquan Boldin in my points league got me to second overall tonight... after being last in Week 1 after The Brady Moment. What a ride.)

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