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Cardinals Glad To Return To Field Against 49ers

Back to business after an eventful week

WR Larry Fitzgerald hauls in a touchdown against the Broncos.
WR Larry Fitzgerald hauls in a touchdown against the Broncos.

Happy Gilmore succeeded on the golf course by traveling to a happy place in his mind before crucial shots.

For the Cardinals, the football field itself is their happy place these days.

It's been a tumultuous week-plus for the team, as it dealt with a 35-point loss to the Broncos, the firing of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and a trade demand by star cornerback Patrick Peterson in quick succession.

The players and coaches aren't just managing a 1-6 record, but all the adversity that comes with it. State Farm Stadium will feel like a sanctuary on Sunday, and the Cardinals hope to emerge from the Week 8 matchup against the 49ers with better vibes.

"When you look at everything that's been going on – we talk all the time: block out the outside noise," coach Steve Wilks said. "Once you get out on the football field, everything that's been said or mentioned doesn't really matter anymore."

With the playoffs a long shot for the Cardinals, the focus shifts to progress. Byron Leftwich will call regular season plays for the first time after his promotion to offensive coordinator last Friday. He is a Bruce Arians disciple, and talked warmly on Thursday of everything he learned from the Cardinals' former coach.

Arians was famous for his "no risk-it, no biscuit" offensive style, and everyone is waiting to see how much of it returns under Leftwich. Even if the former NFL quarterback wants to sling the ball around against the 49ers, expectations should be managed.

"I think he is trying to ease in," quarterback Josh Rosen said. "He's not trying to, he says, 'go cold turkey on it' and switch everything. I think it's going to be a slow, gradual process. I think he has a really good plan over the next couple weeks."

The Cardinals are 31st in the NFL in scoring at 13.1 points per game. If Rosen can feel more comfortable and running back David Johnson gets the ball in better spots, improvement could be forthcoming. But after execution issues all year, it will take a confluence of several factors to take a true leap forward.

"There's not going to be any miracles overnight," Wilks said. "But we're definitely looking for improvement, and improvement this week."

The 49ers are also 1-6, and turnovers have been the big culprit. They lead the NFL with 18 giveaways and haven't forced a turnover since an interception return for a touchdown by safety Antone Exum in Week 4 against the Chargers.

The 49ers have 12 turnovers and zero takeaways in their past three games – losses to the Cardinals, Packers and Rams.

"It is very tough to win when you play like that," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said.

The 49ers laid the blueprint for building excitement after a slow start last year. They lost their first nine games but finished 6-10 after quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo entered the lineup.

Both teams would love to find that type of groove the rest of the way to brighten the prospects for 2019, and neither coach will tolerate any lack of effort that would thwart it.

"If people are thinking of shutting it down or that there is not much to play for, they are dead wrong," Shanahan said. "This is our job. This is what we do for a living. This is what we are all evaluated on. We have to do everything we can to turn this around. If people aren't feeling that way, then we have to make sure that we don't keep them a part of us."

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