Game snapshot: 49ers vs. Cardinals

KICKOFF: 2:15 MT</p> SURFACE: Grass</p> TV: FOX, Dan Miller, Dave Wannstedt</p> SERIES: 27th meeting. The 49ers lead the series 16-10 after winning seven of the past eight games between the two teams, including a 31-28 overtime victory in San Francisco on Oct. 10 - the 49ers' only win this season.</p> 2004 RANKINGS: 49ers: offense 25th (31st rush, 19th pass); defense 15th (16th rush, 17th pass). Cardinals: offense 29th (24th rush, 27th pass); defense 18th (30th rush, 10th pass)</p>

KEYS TO THE GAME: Arizona's blitz packages have not been as effective in recent games, and the defense has created just two turnovers in the past three games. But the 49ers offense that has struggled all season will be starting QB Ken Dorsey and RB Maurice Hicks due to injuries to Tim Rattay and Kevan Barlow. Because the offensive line struggles so mightily in pass protection, Hicks should get plenty of early work. Cardinals RB Emmitt Smith could miss his second consecutive game, putting more pressure on QB Josh McCown in his return to the starting lineup. But WRs Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald will face big mismatches against the 49ers' injury-ravaged corners. If the Cardinals have any success running the ball to set up the play-action pass, San Francisco will have a tough time putting McCown in situations in which he might make mistakes.

FAST FACTS: 49ers: Have not finished a season ranked lower than 21st in total offense since the league started the rankings in 1972. Cardinals: McCown threw a season-high three touchdown passes in the first meeting. ... DE Bertrand Berry is the first Cardinal with 10 sacks in a season since Simeon Rice in 1999.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

49ERS

--- C Jeremy Newberry, who played in just one game this season due to knee and back injuries, was placed on injured reserve. Newberry was considered the team's best offensive lineman when the season began, as he made the Pro Bowl in two of the last three seasons.

--- QB Brandon Doman was signed to the active roster to serve as the 49ers' No. 3 quarterback Sunday. Doman was among the 49ers' final cuts out of training camp, beaten out for the third-string job by rookie Cody Pickett, who will be Ken Dorsey's backup.

--- RB Maurice Hicks will get his first NFL start Sunday against the Cardinals. In four games, Hicks has carried 31 times for 144 yards and a touchdown. He gets the start because Kevan Barlow is out with a concussion.

--- DT Anthony Adams, who has started every game for the 49ers this season, ranks seventh with 49 tackles. He does not have any sacks, but he has four tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.

--- FS Ronnie Heard is sixth on the team with 57 tackles. He has one interception and has broken up five passes.

--- QB Ken Dorsey said he is feeling healthy after having six weeks to rest injuries to his thumb and groin. Dorsey returns to the starting lineup in place of starter Tim Rattay, who is out with a partial tear of his right plantar fascia. "He never makes excuses," 49ers coach Dennis Erickson said. "He's a tough guy. I believe, particularly against Chicago, he played hurt and wasn't as efficient as he can be. He's been able to sit back and look at things right now. I believe he'll be better than he was.

CARDINALS

--- RB Emmitt Smith was upgraded from doubtful to questionable Thursday as he participated in practice on a limited basis. Smith missed last week's game with a sprained toe. It seems doubtful, however, that he'll play this Sunday against the 49ers since he has not being running full speed.

--- OLB Karlos Dansby was upgraded to probable for this week. He has been hampered by a sore knee, but practiced Thursday and should be able to play.

--- TE Freddie Jones has been used more as a blocker than a receiver this year but hasn't been complaining about his role. Jones, however, is a poor blocker. The team has been using him to block because it has had trouble protecting the quarterback.

--- WR Anquan Boldin is due for a breakout game this season. He's healthier than he has been this season, and he has been close to making several big plays. Josh McCown is expected to look his way often Sunday.

--- WR Bryant Johnson has watched his role in the offense diminish, but he has started returning kicks. He seems to be feeling his way around the position, but he did have a big return last week against Detroit.

--- QB John Navarre is out at least two more weeks with a broken finger. He suffered the injury to his right ring finger in his first NFL action last week.

--- OT Leonard Davis has loose particles in his left knee but is expected to play Sunday. Davis' practice time, however, has been limited and he might have surgery after the season.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

49ERS

Defensive tackle Bryant Young has undergone a rejuvenation this season, as he has definitely earned another season with the team.

"Bryant Young has had a very productive season this year," 49ers general manager Terry Donahue said. "He's one of the mainstays of the organization and he's going to be back with the team."

There were some questions about Young's future with the 49ers, as the club has been cutting many of the high-priced veterans from its roster in recent seasons. Young is set to make $2.25 million in salary, in addition to a $2 million roster bonus next year.

But that appears to be a small price to pay for what Young has brought to the 49ers.

"He sets a good example for the younger guys, which is pretty much the whole team," defensive end Andre Carter said. "He leads by example and a lot of people feed off that. He's always gotten better since I've been here. Who wouldn't look up to him? He sets the tone for the whole defense, if not the whole team."

Young said this has been a difficult season, but he has taken pride in continuing to work hard no matter how things are going in the won-loss column.

"No matter the outcome or how things are looking, I think it's important that every individual in the NFL takes approach to work hard and put your best foot forward," Young said. "Sometimes the outcome not going to be the way you want it to be, but as long as you come in and say, 'I've done my best,' that's all you can do. A lot of times other stuff is out of your control."

Young leads all 49ers defensive linemen with 60 tackles, including a team-high eight behind the line of scrimmage. He also has three sacks and six quarterback pressures.

CARDINALS

Josh McCown insists he won't be seeking redemption Sunday when he returns to the starting lineup. The most important thing, he said, is to win.

That may be true, but these last four weeks will play a huge role in determining McCown's future with the club.

He was benched three games ago in coach Dennis Green's most controversial decision this season. The Cardinals were 4-5 at the time and had won two straight and four of six.

But they've lost three straight since McCown's removal, and Green has gone through two other quarterbacks, Shaun King and John Navarre.

King was benched after two starts, and Navarre suffered a fractured finger in his only start. He would be getting a second start Sunday against the 49ers if not for the injury.

Instead, it's back to the future with McCown, who passed for just six touchdowns in nine starts but was intercepted only four times.

King and Navarre each had four interceptions and the club scored just 25 points in their starts.

McCown insists he has no animosity toward Green and respects his authority.

"He did what he thought was best for the team," he said.

But McCown admitted his future is in doubt.

"My role as of last week was as the backup quarterback," he said. "Now the starter is injured and the backup quarterback goes in there. The good thing about our situation, I guess, is that our backup quarterback happens to have started the first nine games of the year."


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