Cardinals’ Gannon addresses defense vs. 49ers: ‘We got to coach our eyes to be better’

Dec 19, 2023, 9:06 AM | Updated: 9:27 am

Christian McCaffrey...

Christian McCaffrey #23 of the San Francisco 49ers runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on December 17, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon called Sunday’s matchup with the San Francisco 49ers an apt measuring stick for his team 15 weeks into his tenure considering the quality of the opponent.

The 49ers are 11-3 and the NFL’s top team in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), which was on display in a 45-29 win in Glendale.

“I thought we battled, we hung in — we just didn’t do enough to win the game,” Gannon told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Monday. “So it kind of gives you a good measuring stick of, ‘Hey, this is the one seed as they sit here today. This is where we’re at and this was what we need to do to improve and then OK, now from there once we learn that, let’s bury that and put our energy and focus into Chicago.'”

Arizona’s defense was coming off a game in which it allowed 10 points in a game against the reeling Pittsburgh Steelers before the bye week.

Chunk plays hurt the Cardinals on Sunday against a deep arsenal of weapons for quarterback Brock Purdy.

Purdy completed 10 passes to targets with at least 3 yards of separation on Sunday, according to Next Gen Stats, and the defensive-minded head coach said his unit needs to improve its eyes placement. He referenced two specific plays, open touchdowns to wide receiver Deebo Samuel and running back Christian McCaffrey.

“We’ve got to coach our guys’ eyes to be better on those two plays and that’s making sure they know exactly where to put their eyes when guys are moving when the play breaks down,” Gannon said. “That’s why I always say, “‘Guys, it’s a coaching issue of do we know exactly where to put our eyes?’

“… (Purdy) extended some of that, not Deebo’s but McCaffery’s he kind of extended it. So we got to put our eyes in the right spot, get on the right people and cover them for the length of the down.”

Arizona also did not get to Purdy often with no sacks and four quarterback hits, one by Dennis Gardeck that gave Purdy a stinger and knocked him out for a few plays.

Purdy got the ball out quickly when he needed to but took an average of 3.15 seconds to throw, per Next Gen Stats, which is on the longer side.

“You always want to affect the quarterback, but then from there comes, well let’s account more assets into affecting the quarterback,” Gannon said. “It didn’t make a lot of sense going into that game with how fast he plays and how fast he gets the ball out. So we actually decided to put more in coverage yesterday. But I think on passing downs, some of those second-and-pass or known passes, as I call them, or third downs, we got to do a better job of getting him off the spot and making him feel uncomfortable.”

The Cardinals get a Bears team this week that is bottom 10 in offensive DVOA and in sacks allowed but has improved as the season progressed. Chicago does not have the same caliber weapons as San Francisco, but wide receiver D.J. Moore and tight end Cole Kmet are very capable targets for dual-threat quarterback Justin Fields.

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