Behind Enemy Lines Week 3: San Francisco 49ers
When the Arizona Cardinals take the field Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium against the San Francisco 49ers, they will do so as the sole owners of first place in the NFC West.
The Cardinals have scored consecutive come-from-behind wins, most recently, a 25-14 victory over the New York Giants in Week 2.
The 49ers were on the other end of a fourth-quarter comeback against the Chicago Bears. Colin Kaepernick threw two picks while his counterpart, Jay Cutler, threw three touchdown passes in the final 15 minutes to give the Bears a 28-20 win.
San Francisco finds itself 1-1 after two weeks of play, and heads to Glendale having beaten the Cardinals four consecutive times. It’s only Week 3, but you can bet the Niners don’t want to fall two games behind the Redbirds at any point during the season.
Leading up to the game, we’ll go behind enemy lines to keep you updated on everything going on with the 49ers in Week 3.
Saturday, September 20
• 49ers top pick Ward gets baptism by fire (ESPN.com)
Rookie nickelback Jimmie Ward, all 5-feet-11, 193 pounds of him, had his NFL baptism by fire at the hands, and feet, of the Chicago Bears’ 6-4, 229-pound Brandon Marshall last Sunday.
• Uncertainty at tight end could lift Carrier into bigger role (SFGate.com)
As the 49ers packed up and headed to Arizona on Friday, their tight-end situation remained awash in uncertainty.
Maybe erstwhile starter Vernon Davis will play through the ankle injury he sustained against the Bears. Maybe top backup Vance McDonald will shake off his knee injury.
• Justin Smith the Same ‘Dude’ after 14 NFL Seasons (49ers.com)
Justin Smith the man could be an entirely different guy than Justin Smith, the menacing defensive tackle. Honestly, it’s hard to tell.
Smith is not the most approachable player in the San Francisco 49ers locker room, but we have seen him lift his sons up into the air with one arm during training camp; smile around his teammates as he’s walked off of the practice field; and be treated like a colleague by his coaches around the facility.
Friday, September 19
Josh Weinfuss and Paul Gutierrez discuss the 49ers’ psyche after Sunday’s loss, San Francisco’s pass rush with their missing defensive players, and the plans for both teams if Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer doesn’t play.
• The 49ers could get more out of their backfield (BleacherReport.com)
The dominant force behind San Francisco’s running game has been Frank Gore for almost his entire 10-year career. But with spry rookie running back Carlos Hyde, the 49ers could maximize their backfield by splitting carries evenly between the two players.
• TE Carrier brings his basketball skills to the position (49ers.com)
Injuries to tight ends Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald might have made 49ers coaches worrisome, if they didn’t already have a backup with the perfect history for the position. Derek Carrier is attempting to follow in the footsteps of former basketball players Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham by showing off his post-up skills and footwork at tight end.
Thursday, September 18
• Niners legend Rice is unhappy that McDonald is playing (CSN Bay Area)
Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice does not agree with San Francisco, as they allow defensive end Ray McDonald to play on Sunday amidst his domestic violence issues. Rice is echoing former 49ers teammate Steve Young’s call to deactivate the player until the allegations are sorted out.
• Rookie CB Ward will have another daunting challenge on Sunday (CSN Bay Area)
After he covered Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall for much of the game in Week 2, the gauntlet will not get any easier for Niners cornerbak Jimmie Ward. The rookie will be tasked on Sunday with stopping Cardinals Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
• The Ellingtons will make Sunday’s game a family affair (The Sacramento Bee)
Niners wide receiver Bruce Ellington and Cardinals running back Andre Ellington have already made Week 3’s game personal. The first cousins are ready to bring their lifelong rivalry to this NFC West matchup.
• The 49ers expect to get intense fan support in Arizona (CSN Bay Area)
Niners fans showed up in full force for the team’s week 1 win in Dallas, although coach Jim Harbaugh noticed room for improvement in last week’s home opener. The team is counting on fans to come back strong in Arizona, where San Francisco followers consistently let their presence known.
• Niners “dodged a bullet” with TE Davis’ injury (ESPN.com)
Pro Bowler Vernon Davis came down with a left ankle injury in Week 2, although things could be much worse for the 49ers tight end. Davis avoided any structural damage to his ankle and was diagnosed with a deep bone bruise, which has coach Jim Harbaugh breathing a sigh of relief.
• Video: 1-on-1 with 49ers rookie LB Aaron Lynch (49ers.com)
Niners linebacker Aaron Lynch made a strong impact for San Francisco in the first home game of his career, blocking a punt that led to a touchdown. The rookie talks about how the team is handling the loss and their plans to contain Cardinals running back Andre Ellington on Sunday.
Wednesday, September 17
• Why San Francisco 49ers Must Lean on Frank Gore in Week 3 (BleacherReport.com)
There is a correlation between the number of carries Frank Gore has in a game and the result. In order for the 49ers to get a win in Glendale Sunday, they will need to turn to their all-time leading rusher consistently throughout the game.
• Will 49ers be more aggressive in Arizona? (ESPN.com)
The 49ers spent the second half of their Week 2 game playing conservatively, and ended up with a loss. Running back Frank Gore said their lack of aggression was a problem. “When you’re up like that,” Gore said after the game, “you’ve got to go for the kill.”
• 49ers recover after loss under Harbaugh (ESPN.com)
With Jim Harbaugh as their head coach, the 49ers have a 9-2 record immediately following a loss, including winning their first 7 games following a loss. This ability to bounce back will be needed when San Francisco faces the Cardinals Sunday.
Tuesday, September 16
• Harbaugh is “hopeful” Anthony Davis can practice this week (Niners Nation)
The 49ers are in dire need for a healthy offensive line after quarterback Colin Kaepernick was sacked four times on Sunday night. With starting offensive tackle Anthony Davis still recovering from a hamstring injury, coach Jim Harbaugh hopes he can get Davis some practice time this week.
• 49ers are early favorites on the road against Arizona (Niners Nation)
Despite trailing Arizona in the NFC West standings and coming off of Sunday’s rough loss, the gambling line has the 49ers as a two-point favorite at the Cardinals this week.
• Harbaugh desperately needs to rally the 49ers despite issues (MercuryNews.com)
Three straight trips to the NFC Championship game and one Super Bowl appearance have made it look like the 49ers can find success through any turbulence. But amidst a slew of injuries, off-the-field issues, and Sunday’s blown lead, coach Jim Harbaugh will have to fight to retain success in San Francisco.
San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh was irate after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on quarterback Colin Kaepernick Sunday night for apparent inappropriate language. After the coach’s issues with the call and a lack of explanation by the referees, the NFL is investigating the flag’s legitimacy.
Monday, September 15
• Kap’s meltdown echoes 49ers’ collapse (ESPN.com)
Kaepernick completed 21 of 34 passes for 248 yards and a touchdown. But he was picked off three times, was sacked four, lost a fumble and had a passer rating of 57.0, the third lowest of his 25 career starts.
• Kaepernick: ‘I didn’t say anything’ (ESPN.com)
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick insisted he said nothing to Bears defensive end Lamarr Houston to warrant an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for inappropriate language, which fueled speculation he used a racial slur.
• Plenty of problems for 49ers to fix (SFGate.com)
On Sunday, their franchise quarterback committed four turnovers, their first-round pick was exploited on three touchdowns, their Pro Bowl tight end exited with an ankle injury and a parade of players combined to produce 16 penalties as the 49ers squandered a 17-point lead en route to a 28-20 loss to the Bears.
• Ray McDonald’s court date canceled; investigation ongoing (SFGate.com)
McDonald, 30, was arrested about 2:45 a.m. Aug. 31 for allegedly causing “visible injuries” to his fiancee at his home on the 2500 block of Bentley Ridge Drive in San Jose. He was later released from jail on $25,000 bond and had been given a court date Monday.
• 49ers-Bears Game by the Numbers (49ers.com)
T Joe Staley started his 100th game with the 49ers, becoming the 20th offensive lineman in franchise history to have played in 100-or-more games.
• Four Turnovers Spoil Levi’s® Stadium Debut (49ers.com)
“It stings,” Jim Harbaugh said after the 49ers dropped to 1-1. “It stings to lose.”