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Notes from the Nest: Cardinals at 49ers

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — This isn’t Glendale.

The Cardinals are in Santa Clara for a Thursday night affair with the San Francisco 49ers. When the schedule came out, few probably saw this as a big game other than the fact that it was an NFC West matchup and on national TV. But now, it’s a game that could very well salvage (or doom) a season.

At 1-3, the Cardinals come into this one desperate for a win to not only stay in the division race, but also have some good vibes. They’ll have to get the victory without Carson Palmer, as the starting QB is back home recovering from a concussion.

The Cardinals won the toss and elected to receive. Let’s get to it.

1:51 left in fourth quarter

Cardinals recover the onside kick and that should about do it. Cardinals weren’t great, but they were good enough to beat a bad team. Arizona will move to 2-3 and lives to see another day. Time to head downstairs for post-game stuff. Should be a happy locker room.

1:52 left in fourth quarter

On fourth down Mathieu is flagged for pass interference in the end zone, and with the ball placed at the one Gabbert tucks it in and runs for a score. The PAT makes it 31-21, and we’ll get an onside kick now.

2:00 left in fourth quarter

D.J. Swearinger nearly picked off a pass and now the Niners face 4th and 6 from the Arizona 8.

2:25 left in fourth quarter

49ers get a first down on a pass to Kerley and they are knocking on the door at the Arizona 12. Garbage time stats here, but stats nonetheless.

3:08 left in fourth quarter

49ers are moving the ball, albeit slowly. A Chandler Jones sack was negated by a Tyrann Mathieu  hold, and then on the next play Jones got to Gabber again but drew a facemask penalty on the tackle. It was a good call. 49ers move to the Arizona 34.

4:44 left in fourth quarter

Kickoff is a touchback and 49ers begin at their 25.

4:44 left in fourth quarter

David Johnson punches the ball in from a yard out and people who wanted him to get the ball more should be happy. The Cardinals are up 31-14, and it looks like they will make it to 2-3.

7:35 left in fourth quarter

Johnson getting a breather as Ellington is the back, and he picks up a first down with a nice cut-back run. Ellington getting more burn this series. He picks up three on first down, David Johnson comes back in and it’s 2nd and 7 from the San Francisco 20.

9:00 left in fourth quarter

Cardinals got to third down but then found David Johnson open on a wheel route. Why would you cover him? Anyway, the Cardinals are now in 49ers territory, but needing another first to get into field goal range. At the 32 now.

11:56 left in fourth quarter

The stop was made, with Markus Golden getting to Gabbert on third down. He has two sacks tonight — the Cardinals have been in the backfield a lot — and the ensuing punt leaves the ball at the Arizona 24. If the Cardinals have one more scoring drive in them, you feel like that would be enough. Then again, their points have all come off of really short fields, so little reason to think they have a long one in them.

Might be time for a lot of David Johnson.

13:39 left in fourth quarter

Kickoff sails out of the end zone and the 49ers take over at their 25. Can Arizona’s defense come up with a stop to maybe put this game away?

13:39 left in fourth quarter

Cardinals gain just a few yards after a short David Johnson run is sandwiched between a pair of incomplete passes. Catanzaro is good from 36 yards out, and the lead is up to 24-14. Important to make it two scores again.

14:55 left in fourth quarter

First play of the quarter sees Marcus Cooper step in front of a Gabbert pass for the interception. Nearly a pick-six but he was too close to the sideline and stepped out at the San Francisco 24.

End of third quarter

The period ends with Carlos Hyde chewing up some yardage. When play resumes it will be 2nd and 1 for the 49ers from their 23.

:30 left in third quarter

A hold on the 49ers is offset by a personal foul on Brittan Golden, and the Niners take over at their 14. The defense failed in the last drive — this would be a good time to step up.

:30 left in third quarter

Stanton throws incomplete and Quigley comes on to punt. He blasts one 55 yards, but there are a few penalty flags down so we’ll see what comes out of this.

:45 left in third quarter

Cardinals have cost themselves on this drive as Hakeem Valles, just off the practice squad, drops a beautiful pass that would have gone for a big gain and then on the next play is flagged for offensive pass interference on a first down catch by Fitzgerald. David Johnson picked up good yards on a second-down run but a third down pass was incomplete. Cardinals bailed out, sort of, with an offsides penalty. So now it’s 3rd and 4 from the Arizona 26.

1:54 left in third quarter

49ers moved the ball fairly easily with the bulk of the damage coming courtesy of Gabbert runs. The drive ends with Carlos Hyde plunging into the end zone from a yard out, and we’ve got a game.

7:29 left in third quarter

Kick is returned to the San Francisco 18 and the Niners take over looking pretty shaky. Arizona has a lead, which is what this defense was built for.

7:35 left in third quarter

And just like that, the Cardinals look like the Cardinals again.

Stanton finds Larry Fitzgerald for a 29-yard touchdown pass on a play where the QB identified single coverage and threw the receiver open. Fitz made a nice grab after sealing his defender off, and with the PAT the Cardinals are up 21-7. This game has turned.

7:56 left in third quarter

Cardinals getting beat up with Evan Mathis out and now Mike Iupati limps off the field. Earl Watford and John Wetzel are your guards.

10:54 left in third quarter

49ers offense stalls and they are forced to punt. Cardinals take over at their 29 with a chance to do some damage, assuming their offense can actually do more than just score off of really short fields. With a lead, do they turn to the run more? Probably should, and perhaps that will set up a big opportunity down the field.

12:35 left in third quarter

Very first play from the new set of downs is a David Johnson touchdown run, so gift accepted. Cardinals now have the leads, 49ers have it at their 25.

12:50 left in third quarter

David Johnson picked up six yards on three runs which led to a Catanzaro field goal, but the 49ers are flagged for running into the kicker and now have a fresh set of downs at the San Francisco 8. 49ers are giving the Cardinals gifts — it would behoove them to accept.

14:55 left in third quarter

Cardinals kick to start the half but Ifeanyi Momah forced and recovered the fumble, giving Arizona the ball at the 49ers 14. One way to make up for a shaky offense is to give it short fields, so that’s a good thing.

End of first half

The 49ers run the ball a couple of times and that’s that. The game is tied at 7-7 and, well, it’s been about as you’d expect with that kind of score.

Neither QB has really established anything and while you’d like to praise the defenses (Arizona’s, especially, has been getting after Gabbert), it’s tough to give them too much credit.

:39 left in second quarter

Cardinals go three-and-out with a couple of passes that could have been intercepted. The punt is fair caught and San Francisco takes over at its own 15.

1:07 left in second quarter

Cardinals take over at their own 43 with a chance to score some points and take a lead into halftime.

1:17 left in second quarter

Cardinals get a stop when Markus Golden brings Gabert down, the Cards use a timeout and will get the ball back.

1:40 left in second quarter

One play later and the Cardinals are on the board, as Stanton found an open Fitzgerald and made a nice throw for the score. And just like that, this game is all tied up.

1:46 left in second quarter

Wow, did the Cardinals need that. Chandler Jones batted the ball in the air and Calais Campbell picked it off, so the Cardinals take over at the San Francisco 21.

1:55 left in second quarter

49ers got a nice gain on a pass to Hyde but he got up and flexed for Marcus Cooper and therefore drew a personal foul flag. An incomplete pass was followed by a run that went nowhere, and San Francisco faces a 3rd and 10 from their 24.

3:07 left in second quarter

And yet, that’s exactly what happened as Stanton avoided pressure and threw incomplete to Michael Floyd. The receiver bobbled the ball, which cost him any shot of barely getting both feet in bounds. Quigley’s punt is a solid one, and the 49ers take over at their 26. Arizona’s offense, outside of David Johnson runs, is a mess.

3:22 left in second quarter

A short swing pass to Johnson was followed by a deep ball to John Brown that the receiver made a great effort for but just couldn’t corral. The 49ers use a timeout and the Cardinals now with a very important 3rd and 6 coming up. The road team cannot respond to the 49ers’ score with a three-and-out.

4:08 left in second quarter

Arizona’s offense takes over at its own 24 after the kickoff, now trailing for the first time tonight. Can Stanton get in a groove? Will the Cardinals keep riding David Johnson and the running game?

4:12 left in second quarter

It got to third down but on that play Tyrann Mathieu lost track of Jeremy Kerley, who was open for an easy TD. Looked like the Badger got picked by his own guy on the play. The PAT was good and now the 49ers are up 7-0. Never before has a one-score lead seemed so insurmountable with this much time left.

5:17 left in second quarter

The 49ers are deep in Arizona territory as Gabbert has suddenly started making plays with his legs and his arm. They are at the Cardinals’ 12 and in good shape.

8:58 left in second quarter

Cardinals moved some with more runs and short passes, but Stanton throws high to Fitzgerald on third down and the receiver couldn’t come down with the ball, so Arizona punts. It was a catchable pass, albeit not a great one.

The punt is fumbled by Kerley, but the 49ers fall on the ball and prevent disaster for them. San Francisco sets up shop at its 13.

11:48 left in second quarter

49ers got a first down and then nothing more as Gabbert continued to misfire before being tripped up for a sack by Calais Campbell on third down. John Brown fumbled on the punt return, but Brittan Golden recovered so crisis averted. Arizona takes over at its own 27.

13:41 left in second quarter

Stanton was sacked on the first down play, and after that the entire drive was basically dead. On second down the QB threw to John Brown, who may have been held some without a flag and was unable to make the grab. Third down pass was short, and Quigley punted. Niners take over at their own 22.

End of first quarter

Stanton missed an open JJ Nelson a deep ball that was slightly underthrown (and likely a pass interference that was not called), but then the QB finds John Brown streaking across the field for a gain of 11 and a first down. The quarter ends with no points for anyone and the Cardinals at their own 35 with a fresh set of downs.

A defensive battle? Sure. Or just two inept offenses.

:40 left in first quarter

Cardinals gave up a first down but got off the field after Gabbert airmailed a wide open receiver on what would have been a long TD and then Markus Golen and Alex Okafor combined for a sack on third down. Cardinals take over at their 24.

2:59 left in first quarter

The Cardinals picked up a couple first downs via more David Johnson runs and a couple completions to Larry Fitzgerald. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the drive ended with an incomplete pass to Fitz on a play where it looked like Stanton didn’t even look at any other option. Quigley got off a good punt and the 49ers will take over at their 16.

Barring something crazy here, it looks like the Cardinals will go another first quarter without any points.

7:13 left in first quarter

49ers moved the ball well with a couple of Blaine Gabbert runs. Yeah, you read that right. The Cardinals ultimately force a punt but only because a wide open Garrett Celek dropped an easy pass that would have gone for a third down. The punt bounces and is downed at the Arizona seven, so the good field position the Cardinals had the first two drives does not carry over to a third.

10:13 left in first quarter

A couple more good David Johnson runs were followed by an incomplete pass to Johnson (throw was a bit high), and on a 3rd-and-6 Stanton hits Larry Fitzgerald but the play didn’t count because of a false start on D.J. Humphries. Ensuing 3rd-and-11 is an incomplete pass to Johnson.

Cardinals have consistently found ways to make life difficult for themselves, and a penalty cost them a first down on that drive. The punt forces the 49ers to start from their 11.

12:28 left in first quarter

A Carlos Hyde run that went nowhere (because of Chandler Jones) was sandwiched between a couple of  incomplete passes (one of which was broken up by Tyrann Mathieu) gets the Cardinals’ defense off the field with a three-and-out. The punt is fair caught at the Arizona 38.

13:17 left in first quarter

That ideal start was followed by Drew Stanton throwing the ball way over Michael Floyd’s head, a David Johnson run that went for no gain and then an incomplete pass on a deep ball to Jaron Brown, who was not open.

Stanton struggled with keeping the ball down in the preseason, and that was a problem here. Quigley’s punt was good for just 19 yards, and the 49ers take over at their 20. So, another great start wasted.

14:33 left in first quarter

JJ Nelson returned the opening kick to the Arizona 43, and on first down David Johnson ran for 17 yards. Ideal start for the Cardinals.


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