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Behind Enemy Lines - Another crack at SF
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Behind Enemy Lines – Another crack at SF

The only blemish on the Arizona Cardinals’ record in their
last 5 games is an ugly 23-7 loss to the San Francisco
49ers on November 20th.

The Cards accumlated only 229 yards of offense and
committed five turnovers in the loss against San
Francisco, which has now beaten the Cardinals five
straight times–a streak Arizona will try to break on
Sunday when the two teams meet at University of Phoenix
Stadium in Glendale.

The 49ers (10-2) have already clinched the NFC West title
after their 26-0 whitewashing of the St. Louis Rams on
Sunday.

All week long here on ArizonaSports.com, we’ll take you to
San Francisco to give you the latest on the 49ers as they
prepare to travel to the Valley.

Saturday, December 10th

Injured Patrick Willis
unlikely to face Cardinals
(San Francisco Chronicle)

Patrick Willis missed practice again Friday, and although the 49ers listed
him as questionable, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll play against the
Cardinals on Sunday in the desert because of his sore hamstring.

Willis has not practiced all week since getting injured in the first quarter
of Sunday’s game against St. Louis.

QBs offer strong tests for
49ers’ secondary
(San Francisco Chronicle)

Against the Cardinals on Sunday, the 49ers will face Kevin Kolb, who isn’t
tearing up the league but presents much more of a challenge, especially
to the secondary, than Skelton could when the 49ers dumped Arizona
three weeks ago.

Safety Donte Whitner thinks playing against Kolb and the Steelers’ Ben
Roethlisberger next week will help prepare the secondary for the
playoffs.

Could
Peterson spoil 49ers’ no return policy?
(San Jose Mercury News)

The Arizona Cardinals have one of the league’s most dynamic return
specialists in rookie Patrick Peterson, whose abilities as a raw cornerback
got exploited by Michael Crabtree when the 49ers won a Nov. 20
meeting.


Friday, December 9th

49ers try to solve offense’s red-zone
inefficiency
(San Francisco Chronicle)

With the Niners ranked next-to-last in the NFL in
touchdown percentage inside the red zone (38.1), Akers,
who has a franchise-record 32 field goals, is threatening
to rank first in the NFL record book. With four games left
in the regular season, Akers could break Rackers’ six-
year-old mark for field goals in a season (40).

49ers give tackle Alex Boone 4-year
extension
(San Francisco Chronicle)

Boone, who has lost about 40 pounds since he signed with
the Niners as an undrafted free agent in 2009, has played
on special teams and short-yardage situations as an extra
blocker this season. He’s also stayed out of trouble off
the field during his NFL career after he had a DUI and
public-intoxication arrest at Ohio State, where he was an
All-American as a senior.

San Francisco 49ers receivers carrying a
heavier load
(San Jose Mercury News)

The 49ers (10-2) have diversified. They’ve stopped relying
so heavily on receptions from tight ends Vernon Davis and
Delanie Walker. In Sunday’s shutout, they survived Davis’
drop of a potential 40-yard touchdown pass while Walker
went a third straight game without a catch.

Practice report: Rap anthem blares ‘Who’s
got it better than us?’
(San Jose Mercury News)

This wasn’ t just any artificial crowd noise. This was a
“Who’s Got It Better Than Us?” anthem by Bay Area rapper
Bailey. It blared over the loudspeakers as the 49ers
warmed up before Thursday’s team drills.

Rogers returns
to practice
(CSN Bay Area)

Cornerback Carlos Rogers returned to limited practice
Thursday after sitting out a day with a sore left knee.
Rogers said he will be able to play Sunday when the 49ers
take on the Arizona Cardinals.


Thursday, December 8th

49ers use plays from offense rarely seen
in pros
(San Francisco Chronicle)

In last week’s 26-0 win over the Rams, 49ers wide receiver
Ted Ginn Jr. ran the fly sweep for the third time this
season. Running in motion at close to full speed from the
left side of the formation, Ginn ran behind quarterback
Alex Smith, who took the snap, pivoted to his left and, in
one seamless motion, handed off to Ginn. Smith then faked
a handoff to Frank Gore, lined up on the left, attracting
the defense’s attention to that side.

Punter
Andy Lee gives 49ers a leg up
(San Francisco
Chronicle)

It’s a sweet gig, no question: punter for the 49ers, newly
crowned NFC West champions. And Lee is no ordinary punter,
standing second in the NFL (behind only Shane Lechler of
the Raiders) with an average of 50.4 yards this season.
Lee also ranks second in the league in net average, at
43.3.

LB Willis not practicing, nor apparently
is CB Rogers
(San Jose Mercury News)

Although linebacker Patrick Willis (right hamstring
strain) attended the morning walk-through session, he was
not on the field for the start of Wednesday afternoon’s
practice. Cornerback Carlos Rogers was an observer at
practice, though it’s unknown if he is injured or simply
given an extra day of rest.


Wednesday, December 7th

A look
ahead to the final four games
(San Francisco
Chronicle)

With the NFC West officially wrapped up, the 49ers are
looking ahead to their final four games of the regular
season, but with an eye on the bigger playoff picture.
While avoiding injuries and resting their starters are
important, retaining the position of the No. 2 seed in the
NFC playoff picture is vital to ensuring home playoff
games and a first round bye. How will Jim Harbaugh and the
49ers coaching staff walk this line in the next four
weeks?

49ers
WR Kyle Williams electrifies offense
(San Francisco
Chronicle)

After a sputtering performance by San Francisco’s offense
in the first half, Williams helped highlight a second-half
resurgence – running 25 yards on a reverse to set up a
David Akers field goal and adding a 56-yard touchdown
catch from Alex Smith in the fourth quarter in which he
outran the secondary for the final 48 yards.

Rookie Smith
in a rush even after sack
(CSN Bay Area)

Rookie pass-rusher Aldon Smith recorded two sacks on
Sunday in the 49ers’ 26-0 victory over the St. Louis Rams
to extend his team-lead to 9.5 for the season.

Larry Grant: Next man up
(49ers.com)

Grant, a Bay Area native, knows first-hand how important
San Francisco’s clinching of the NFC West was for the
team’s Faithful fans on Sunday. It also didn’t hurt that
Grant filled in for injured linebacker Patrick Willis,
posting five tackles, two tackles-for-loss and one sack
against his former team, the St. Louis Rams.


Tuesday, December 6th

Source: Willis
to miss practice time, ‘probably’ a game
(CSN Bay
Area)

Linebacker Patrick Willis is expected to miss practice
time and “probably” the 49ers’ game Sunday against the
Arizona Cardinals with a right hamstring injury, a source
told CSNBayArea.com on Monday.

49ers’ Larry Grant makes a lasting
impression
(San Francisco Chronicle)

Grant played most of Sunday’s game because of a hamstring
injury Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis sustained in the
first quarter. And it appears Grant will reprise his fill-
in role when San Francisco (10-2) visits the Cardinals (5-
7) on Sunday. According to ESPN, Willis has a Grade 2
hamstring strain and could miss “a little time.” Hamstring
strains are graded on a scale of 1 to 3, with 3 being the
most severe.

Gwen Knapp: With room to breathe, 49ers
can air things out
(San Francisco Chronicle)

The second seed in the playoffs, with all its attendant
perks, remains as an incentive, but the only team with a
genuine chance to move into the No. 2 slot ahead of the
49ers is New Orleans, which has a substantially more
difficult schedule in front of it. The 49ers’ main goal,
as several players said after the division-clinching rout
of the Rams, should be to keep upgrading. For this team,
that would mean pushing the tight boundaries around the
offense.

Frank Gore worthy of a statue, coach Jim
Harbaugh says
(San Jose Mercury News)

“There should be a statue of Frank,” Harbaugh said Monday.
“Maybe with the new stadium, there’ll be something
somewhere — a life-size statue of him, in one of those
cool positions he gets in, you know?”
Gore became the 49ers’ all-time rushing leader during
Sunday’s 26-0 shutout of the St. Louis Rams, a victory
that clinched the NFC West title.

Tomsula: 49ers
had the right people all along
(CSN Bay Area)

“I have gratitude to Jim Harbaugh,” Tomsula said on Monday
during an hour-long sitdown with reporters. “What I
appreciate right now, I think what the guys appreciate, is
coach Harbaugh, these guys who came in and what they’re
doing and how they’re doing it.


Monday, December 5th

49ers
clinch 1st NFC West title in 9 years
(San Francisco
Chronicle)

“We’ve talked about it since I’ve been here, and it’s no
different this year,” Smith said. “Every team talks about
it: Win your division. And it’s sweet to clinch it.”

Santa Clara lines up financing for 49ers
stadium
(San Francisco Chronicle)

“The wind’s at our back, and we’re moving down the field,”
Mayor Jamie Matthews enthused on the news that three banks
– Goldman Sachs, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch and U.S.
Bank – have pledged a combined $850 million to help pay
for the stadium whose price tag has ballooned to $1.02
billion from an estimated $854 million in 2007.

Joe Staley to fans: Wave good-bye to The
Wave, please
(San Francisco Chronicle)

Here’s Staley’s postgame tweet: “Thanks to the fans for
being so supportive and great this year so far. Keep it
up. Just don’t start the wave anymore when we are on
offense”

Tim Kawakami: 49ers
erase eight years of futility
(San Jose Mercury News)

All the way back, that long road, from eight seasons of
failure to Sunday, when their 26-0 victory over the St.
Louis Rams clinched the NFC West title with four games to
play.

Jed York: “Sometimes
celebrating this early isn’t always a good thing”
(San
Jose Mercury News)

Team president Jed York said he was a junior at Notre Dame
the last time his beloved 49ers clinched a division title,
in 2002. Wearing a three-piece suit and a restrained
smile, York shared his thoughts in the locker room Sunday
about what the latest NFC West crown means to the 49ers.

Smith gets big
plays in passing game
(CSN Bay Area)

Quarterback Alex Smith had his two longest pass plays of
the season and both went for touchdowns. And Smith made
another perfect deep pass on a ball tight end Vernon Davis
dropped in the end zone.

Willis set for
MRI, injury not believed to be serious
(CSN Bay Area)

Willis sustained a strain low on his right hamstring while
missing a first-quarter tackle on Rams fullback Brit
Miller. The injury is not believed to be serious, but
Willis told CSN Bay Area’s Mindi Bach that he would
undergo an MRI. He walked out of the 49ers’ locker room
Sunday evening without any difficulty.