Saturday, November 26, 2011
2011 Cardinals Week 11: Five observations
By Mike Sando
Five things I noticed while watching the Arizona Cardinals' most recent game, a 23-7 road defeat to the San Francisco 49ers:
- Beanie Wells at less than 40 percent. The percentage reflects how much Wells played in this game, a season-low 36.7 percent of the offensive snaps. The Cardinals possessed the ball for 15:44, their lowest total for a game since at least 1981. That meant their starting running back was hardly on the field. Wells played 18 snaps, nine fewer than veteran backup Chester Taylor. This was probably a good thing for Wells in retrospect. He's been dealing with a knee injury. The Cardinals weren't likely to get much going on the ground against San Francisco. They fell behind, anyway. Wells should be healthier against St. Louis this week.
- Dan Williams' bulk missed. The Cardinals' second-year nose tackle suffered a season-ending arm injury, leaving Nick Eason and David Carter as the remaining nose tackles. Williams, though not yet injured, was not on the field when the 49ers' Frank Gore broke his longest run of the game, a 14-yarder up the gut in the first quarter. Gore and fullback Bruce Miller lined up in the I-formation on first down. Delanie Walker and Justin Peelle were the tight ends. Michael Crabtree was the lone wideout. Formation and personnel said run, run, run. Miller blocked linebacker Daryl Washington. Center Jonathan Goodwin cleared out Eason. Guard Mike Iupati shoved aside Carter. The 49ers averaged only 3.3 yards per attempt overall, but they carried 49 times. This one was too easy.
- Stewart Bradley got more snaps. Of course, there were more to go around. The Cardinals' defense was on the field for 87 plays, most in the Ken Whisenhunt era. Bradley played about a third of them. He has played less than 20 percent of the defensive snaps this season despite signing a five-year, $30 million contract. Bradley wanted to escape the 4-3 scheme he ran previously in Philadelphia, but the transition to Arizona's 3-4 has been tough for him, particularly without the usual offseason work. Bradley would have fit better initially in St. Louis' scheme, although the Rams did not need a middle linebacker. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo left Philadelphia before the Eagles drafted Bradley in 2007, but there would have been carryover.
- Cardinals hurt themselves, literally. The final play of the first quarter summed up the Cardinals' experience in this game. Quarterback John Skelton slipped. Skelton dropped the ball when bracing himself. Tackles Brandon Keith and Levi Brown knocked helmets when diving toward the ball in case Skelton could not make the recovery. Keith suffered a concussion on the play. Cameras then showed Cardinals' medical personnel tending to Skelton's finger. I couldn't see whether one of the 49ers' players stepped on the finger or if Skelton injured it on another play, but whatever the case, this play was packed with all-around Cardinals badness and misfortune.
- Cardinals hurt themselves again. Williams was pursuing 49ers running back Kendall Hunter toward the sideline late in the game when Bradley converged with him in an attempt to make the tackle. Williams stuck out his left arm to grab Hunter just as Bradley arrived. Bradley's helmet hit Williams' outstretched arm near the elbow. Microphones captured what sounded like a primal scream following the impact. The only breaks Arizona got in this game showed up on X-rays.
Arizona's defensive players kept hustling late in the game despite being on the field so long. Probably should have included that in the "silver linings" file earlier in the week.