QB Carson Palmer has been excellent throughout the entire season but Sunday in San Francisco was his worst performance to date. Palmer accumulated a QB rating of only 80.3 – his lowest of year – and failed to throw a touchdown for the first time in 2015.
The inept Cardinals running did Palmer no favors and the team just wasn’t able to find many big plays down the field like they usually do. One positive sign was the re-emergence of WR John Brown (5 catches for 99 yards) and the continued ascent of rookie wideout J. J. Nelson (two catches for 53 yards).
We mentioned the ineptness of the Arizona rushing attack above and that was confirmed by a miniscule 2.4 yards per carry on Sunday. Making matters worse were injuries sustained to Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington. Johnson will be missing some substantial time while Ellington is more day-to-day.
Rookie RB David Johnson and Stepfan Taylor are now in line to pick up the slack for the Cardinals but neither is an overly intimidating back for opposing defenses. If Arizona’s struggles on the ground continue it could prove to hamper the team’s overall offense in a big way.
Even more alarming than the Cardinals’ 2.4 yards per carry average against the 49ers was the 4.8 yards per play averaged by the entire offense. Palmer’s struggles were real as Arizona managed only 337 total yards on 70 plays. That by far was Arizona’s worst output of the season.
In order to finish the season strong, the Cardinals will need to return to their balanced ways offensively. Bruce Arians and company are hopeful that Ellington can return to action soon and that Palmer can revert to throwing the ball down the field with ease.
13, 1, 1 and 2
Arizona is so strong at safety that at least one has a banner game each week – this time it was Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu was all over the field on Sunday racking up 13 tackles, one tackle for a loss while intercepting one pass and defending two more on the afternoon.
If it’s not Mathieu having a big game it’s been either Tony Jefferson, Deone Bucannon or Rashad Johnson stepping up to lead the Cardinals secondary. Expect this tremendous group of four safeties to continue to excel for the remainder of the season.
It wasn’t a terrible performance by the Arizona defense but it did allow 368 yards to a relatively weak San Francisco offense. The Cardinals were able to force one turnover but allowing more yards than usual along with not forcing their customary multiple turnovers made this game closer than expected.
This was an easy game to overlook for Arizona as the 49ers have struggled mightily this year and winning on the road is never easy. You can’t argue with a victory but the Cardinals will need to be sharper going forward as their upcoming opponents will be much more challenging.