Cardinals Likely Ignoring 24 Hour Rule

Arizona Cardinals players typically talk about Ken Whisenhunt's "24 hour" rule. But it's hard to imagine that the Cardinals attention hasn't turned to next Monday night's game in San Francisco.

The Cardinals have been talking about their rematch with the 49ers since losing to them, 20-16, in the season opener.

The game could have taken on even more importance had the 49ers not lost to Seattle. A 49ers victory coupled with a Cardinals loss would have meant the Monday night game would have been for the division lead.

Instead, the Cardinals have a chance to clinch their second consecutive NFC West title.

The Cardinals (8-4) have a three-game lead over the 49ers with four games remaining.

As motivated as the Cardinals will be, defeating the 49ers won't be easy. The 49ers might have the best defense in the division, and they have given the Cardinals considerable trouble over the past few years.

Many other clubs copied the 49ers' defensive game plan against the Cardinals: keep the number of blitzes at a minimum; hope the front four can pressure Kurt Warner and vary coverages, but try to always keep two people around receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

Brett Favre and Larry Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald had six catches for 71 yards and a touchdown in that first meeting, but he was unable to get deep for big plays. It's important to remember, however, the Cardinals were hindered by injuries at receiver in that game.

Steve Breaston, their No. 3 receiver, was out with a knee injury, and Anquan Boldin hobbled through the game with a hamstring pull. It wasn't hard for the 49ers to concentrate their efforts on stopping Fitzgerald.

It should be more difficult Sunday night. The Cardinals receivers are healthy, and the running game has shown improvement lately. That makes it more difficult for teams to keep both safeties deep, because the Cardinals have been effective running against that alignment.

The biggest key for the Cardinals is the health of Kurt Warner. He appeared to suffer no setbacks in terms of the concussion he's been dealing with for two weeks. He did suffer a bruised hip, but not the one that was surgically repaired in the offseason.

Warner, however, didn't miss a snap against the Vikings and is expected to be able to play.

LINEUP WATCH: Cornerback Michael Adams replaced Ralph Brown in the team's dime package against the Vikings and played well. He had two tackles, intercepted a pass and broke up another. Adams is only 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds but he a fierce tackler, and that's a big reason he's playing now. He can defend the slot receiver and he's willing to come up and play the run. Adams is the team's third best cornerback, but he struggles sometimes playing one of the outside spots because teams take advantage of his lack of size. But Adams compensates with his competitiveness, and he's an excellent special teams player.

BY THE NUMBERS: 31 -- That's how many consecutive starts the Cardinals offensive line had made before left tackle Mike Gandy missed last Sunday's game with a pelvic injury. It's the first game Gandy has missed since 2004 and the first start he's missed since signing with the Cardinals before the 2007 season. Jeremy Bridges took Gandy's place and likely will continue to play there if Gandy's injury keeps him out of the 49ers game Monday night.


--WR Larry Fitzgerald caught a 34-yard touchdown pass, his longest reception of the season. Fitzgerald had 143 yards receiving on eight catches.

--WR Anquan Boldin looks 100 percent healthy after suffering hamstring and ankle injuries this season. Boldin scored twice against the Vikings and had 98 receiving yards.

--OT Jeremy Bridges made his first start at left tackle and held Jared Allen without a tackle. He was replacing Mike Gandy, who missed the game with a pelvic injury.

--WR Steve Breaston returned a punt 55 yards, his longest return since scoring a 73-yard touchdown against the Steelers two years ago.

--P Ben Graham continues to have a fine season. Two of his three punts were downed at the Steelers 9. A third punt traveled 52 yards.

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