The San Francisco 49ers are coming off a loss to the Dallas Cowboys, so after that beating they’ll be hoping to take advantage of home field in a very short turnaround time since Sunday, to put a check back in the win column, when they host the Arizona Cardinals on the NFL’s Thursday Night Football.
Not a lot of fans for football experts would have been surprised by the San Francisco 49ers’ 1-3 record a quarter way through the season, but not many would have predicted that the Arizona Cardinals would have the same floppy record too.
Both teams are currently tied for last in the NFC West division and the loser of this one will then be chilling in the basement on their own.
Much like the Niners, the Cardinals have some injury questions this week, especially at quarterback.
Arizona QB Carson Palmer had to go through the NFL’s concussion protocol on Monday after being knocked hard in Sunday’s game. Arizona coach Bruce Arians told media he wasn’t ruling out the quarterback for Thursday night’s game at San Francisco.
Not having Palmer calling plays will be another blow to an Arizona team that has had a hard time out of the gate, barely notching a 1-3 start, after they opened the season with the highest of hopes for a winning season. Palmer’s head was slammed hard into the turf on a sack made by Aaron Donald late in the Cardinals’ 17-13 home loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
“He got better last night and improved,” Arians said. “I talked to him last night, and his wife. Like I said, it’s all up to the doctors.” When media asked him if he was encouraged by the signs, Arians said, “Yeah. From what I thought yesterday, I thought there was no chance.”
Palmer had to do some physical activity as part of the concussion protocol on Monday as doctors did some tests on him, but if cleared, he would not have to practice in order to play against the 49ers, Arians said.
“He doesn’t practice on Wednesdays anyway,” the coach said. “It’s not like they’re doing something he hasn’t seen before. He’d be more than ready to go.” Arians said a decision on whether Palmer will play tonight probably won’t happen until the last miniute, “probably about the time we get on the plane” on Wednesday.
If Palmer can’t go, that means Drew Stanton will get the job, he was re-signed this off-season to return as the Cardinals’ backup just in case this kind of scenario happened. Hopefully for Cardinal fans he’ll be able to pick up the slack.
Before this past Sunday, Stanton hadn’t had a lot of meaningful playing time. The last time was when Palmer went down with a torn ACL in the 2014 season. Stanton went 5-3 as a starter back then. In nine games played, he threw for 1,710 yards and seven touchdowns with five interceptions before he too got injured and was lost for the rest of the season due to a knee injury.
The Cardinals still had a chance to win after Stanton took over for Palmer in Sunday’s game against the Ram, but soon after he threw an interception with only 1:34 to play which sealed their fate. Stanton got Arizona to the Rams 37 yard-line in the final seconds, but his desperation pass was intercepted as the game ended. It just wasn’t mean to be, so hopefully he’s learned something from that.
Stanton has been with Arians since he was at Indianapolis and the two came to Arizona as a pair. “I think that is why I’m here, to fulfil these kinds of opportunities if it presents itself,” Stanton said. “That all remains to be seen, and again, last game is behind now and unfortunately I didn’t do what I was hoping to do and really what I thought I was going to do. Now it’s time to move on and prepare for San Francisco and try to win a division game.” Arians said he had faith in Stanton and that the game plan would’nt change due to the QB situation. “Not one bit,” Arians told local media. “They’re so similar and we don’t have to change anything when he’s in there.”
The Cardinals are still trying to figure out what went so wrong on Sunday. It’s obvious though that some of their problems were turnovers. There could some miscommunication, especially in the revamped secondary. “We’re just not playing our best football,” Tyrann Mathieu said. “Defensively, we’re not creating enough turnovers. Critical situations in the game we can’t get off the field on third downs. I think that’s what it really comes down to. Plays we made in the past, we’re just not making those plays right now.”
Mathieu is taking advantage of the situation, though. “Backs against the wall, we’re 1-3,” he said pre-game. “Everybody that believed in us, they don’t believe in us no more so it’s just us now. We prefer that.” Mathieu, is playing only in the free safety position, keeping away from his typical do-all role while he recovers from knee surgery. On Monday, he said that it’s time to get back to his old job, where he play’s all over the field and “in the box” being the disruptive force he is known to be league wide.
“We’re 1-3 man,” he said. “It’s not really time for me to sit back and play it slow. I feel great. I look forward to wherever coach puts me at. But if I have anything to say about it, I’ll be back in my normal spot. … I’m ready to cut it loose.”
Arians reported that he was waiting for Mathieu to come to him to tell him his knee was ready, and he could play that “Honey Badger” role again. Mathieu has done just that: “That’s what I just did,” he said smiling to media in their latest press cpnference.
The Cards have other injuries too, with running back Chris Johnson out with a groin injury, so Andre Ellington will move to the backup spot behind David Johnson. Safety Tyvon Branch is out with a hurt groin, tight end Darren Fells is out due to shoulder, defensive tackle Ed Stinson will not play due to his toe, and defensive lineman Josh Mauro has a chest injury and also didn’t participate in Monday’s practice.
Meanwhile, on the 49ers side they are also dealing with their own injury issues. Aside from Navorro Bowman’s season-ending Achilles injury sustained against the Cowboys last week, San Francisco won’t have defensive tackle DeForest Buckner on Thursday. The Niners defense has played its best football at Levi’s Stadium, will have to compensate for the loss of Bowman on the field by mixing and matching their players in certain packages for special plays. If they use Carlos Hyde against the Cardinals porous run defense, he could have several big runs that could give the 49ers a victory.
If the 49ers can take advantage of the uncertain QB situation with the Cards they might be able to get the win they are looking for.