Cardinals vs. 49ers: Post Game Grades

The 2009 season kicked off with a hard fought match up between the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers. The Cards started off sluggish and seemed to be mired in a Super Bowl hangover. Could Kurt Warner and Company shake off the rust and prevail? breaks down the contest and grades each aspect of the Cardinals performance.

Passing: C

Kurt Warner (288 yards, 1TD, 2 INTS) was lost in a haze for the majority of the game. His passes were often inaccurate and poorly timed. The lone bright spot in the passing game was Tim Hightower's 121 yards on 12 catches. Even Fitzgerald struggled in the first half. Anquan Boldin was a virtual no-show, contributing a meager 19 yards on 2 catches. The bothersome hamstring undoubtedly was behind those statistics. Warner was never allowed to get comfortable as the 49ers hurried him on over 50% of his pass attempts. The offense line allowed 3 sacks and Warner was hit 8 times. If it were not for Hightower's impressive performance this grade could have easily been an F.

Running: D+

Trailing for most of the contest, the Cardinals were never given the opportunity to run the ball. When they did, Hightower ran with power, but could not find any seams. Beanie Wells showed off why the Cardinals drafted him, running with a quickness and power not recently seen in the desert. Wells carried the ball 7 times for 29 yards, but his numbers did not reflect the quality of the runs. The offense line played a big role in offense's missteps. Next week in Jacksonville will only be more difficult. Coach Whisenhunt will be focusing on improving pass protection and run blocking in preparation for next week's contest.

Defense: B-

The Cardinals rush defense was superb; holding Frank Gore to 30 yards on 22 carries. Darnell Dockett consistently plugged the running lanes and prevented Gore from finding his groove on the ground. The rest of the defense played with passion, but seemed to lack intelligence at times throughout the game. Costly penalties were the achilles heel of the team during the game. The Cardinals racked up 12 penalties, totaling 82 yards. An inability to stop the 49ers on third down also contributed to their inconsistency. In the end, the Cardinals need one more stop, but were unable to get it done.

Special Teams: B

Neil Rackers made all of his field goals and was stellar on kickoffs. Rackers finished the game 3/3 with a long of 44 and 1/1 on extra points. Ben Graham was the star of special teams punting the ball 6 times with a monstrous 54.7-yard average. The Cardinals have been searching for a quality punter since the departure of Scott Player and Graham could be the missing piece. Antrel Rolle filled in admirably for the injured Steve Breaston while LaRod Stephens-Howling did an average job returning kicks.

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