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Defensive Lesson From San Francisco

Posted Dec 27, 2013

Notebook: Cards' run D ready; Mendenhall's future; Floyd and 1,000

Defensive end Calais Campbell tries to pull down 49ers running back Frank Gore during the Cardinals' game in San Francisco earlier this season.

The 49ers took the ball and ran it down the Cardinals’ throats, and the Cardinals remember.

These days the Cardinals are sporting the No. 1-ranked run defense in the NFL. But the game-clinching 18-play touchdown drive by the 49ers in the teams’ October meeting featured 12 runs, including five straight runs up the middle by running back Frank Gore.

“That was about the only time this year that anybody has run it on us,” coach Bruce Arians said. “I’m sure we haven’t forgotten about it.”

Gore, with 101 yards, is the only rusher to crack triple digits against Arizona this season and “it can’t happen again,” nose tackle Dan Williams said.

That’s easier said than done, because the 49ers commit to the run more than most teams and are good at it. Arians believes the Cardinals’ run defense has improved from that trip to the Bay Area, in large part because of that singular drive.

“We learned a lot from that day of staying in your gaps and staying with your assignments and not trying to do too much,” Arians said, “because you’re just going to open a big hole for Frank.”

Defensive end Calais Campbell said Gore is “awesome” and will be the Cards’ focal point.

“They ran the ball over and over again,” Campbell said. “We’ve got something for them. We’ve got a good game plan.”

BRACE-LESS MENDENHALL DELIVERS ON GROUND

Running back Rashard Mendenhall does not believe there is much difference between how he is playing now and his performance earlier in the season. He does believe, however, that finally shedding a knee brace a few games ago – it was in place on doctor’s orders to stabilize the area – has helped him.

“I think it was playing in a brace and feeling restricted in a brace,” Mendenhall said. “Getting the brace off, I have felt a lot different.”

Mendenhall has 640 yards this season (at only 3.1 yards a carry) and eight touchdowns. He will be an unrestricted free agent in March, but said he hasn’t given any thought to his future status yet.

“I’m fully here and after the season is when I will look at things and kind of figure it out,” Mendenhall said. “I want to take care of business fully here before I think of anything else.”

FLOYD CLOSES IN ON 1,000

Wide receiver Michael Floyd had just one catch for 31 yards last week, as he slowly moves toward the benchmark of 1,000 yards receiving. Floyd stands at a team-best 950 yards for the season heading into Sunday’s finale.

“It was a goal to be productive and do whatever I can to help my team win week in and week out,” Floyd said. “(Getting 1,000) is obviously a goal for any receiver. I go into this game trying to get the ‘W.’ ”

The Cardinals tried to get Floyd the ball a couple of times earlier against Seattle but the Seahawks excellent pass defense made that difficult. One possible touchdown catch was wiped out when Floyd interfered with cornerback Richard Sherman. Another attempt to get one to Floyd in the end zone fizzled when quarterback Carson Palmer was hit as throwing, leading to an easy Sherman interception.

Third time was the charm, as Floyd hauled in the game-winning TD toss.

“During the big moment, you always want the ball in your hands,” Floyd said. “Carson has a lot of trust in me, they gave us the coverage, he threw a great ball and I came down with it.”

ABRAHAM BACK AND SHOULD PLAY

Linebacker John Abraham (groin) returned to practice on a limited basis and is officially questionable, but Arians said everyone should be available Sunday against San Francisco. Guard Daryn Colledge (back) and safety Rashad Johnson (ankle) were also limited and listed as questionable.

For the 49ers, wide receiver Mario Manningham (knee) was placed on injured reserve Friday. Linebacker Dan Skuta, who did not practice all week with a bad foot, is listed as questionable. Everyone else is listed as probable.

 

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