Arizona Cardinals Flight Plan Against the San Francisco 49ers


The Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers will close out the regular season by facing one another on Sunday Afternoon from Levi Stadium.

San Francisco doesn’t have anything to play for, but Arizona certainly does. With a win and a Seattle Seahawks loss, the Cardinals will win the NFC West and a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

Here’s a breakdown on how the Cardinals can shock and everyone and get their 12th victory of the season.


With Logan Thomas getting his first career start, the Arizona Cardinals must utilize his strengths, as shown in 2011 when he succeeded with a great supporting cast, which was lacking the past two years, when Virginia Tech receivers had a problem with dropped passes. Arians must utilize Thomas’s strengths, which was shown in this video where I broke down all the different things he can bring to the table for Arizona.

Thomas is already the perfect fit for Arians’s vertical passing attack. He’s a big, tall, strong quarterback that can take hits and throw the ball deep. Not only that, but he has the mobility to escape pressure.

Arians must design certain plays that can get the defense off guard, with various option plays and really utilize the play-action pass if Arizona can get a running going. That way Arizona can build around Thomas’s mobility and arm strength. Otherwise, against a tough pass rush from San Francisco’s defensive line and a defense that rarely blitzes, Arizona must spread the field, which is the best way to get a passing game going against the 49ers.

San Francisco is fifth in yards allowed on defense, fifth against the pass and seventh against the run. I would expect to see bunch of tight end sets in the play-action passing game, and formations with at least three receivers in obvious passing situations.


San Francisco’s defense has overachieved with a lot of injuries, but offensively has been a different story. Head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman have mysteriously abandoned the run too often and are trying to turn quarterback Colin Kaepernick into a pocket passer.

In the past, I declared that the read-option is not an every down offense, and that the 49ers made a mistake trading away Alex Smith. Kaepernick does not go through his progressions and locks down on the primary target.

Defensively, the Cardinals must tackle better (which did not happen last week) and use safety Deone Bucannon as a quarterback spy on Kaepernick. Last week ,Arizona didn’t do that until the second half against the Seahawks, when quarterback Russell Wilson killed the Cardinals defense with his legs.

If San Francisco is getting Frank Gore and the running game involved, that will be tough for Arizona. If f San Francisco decides to pass, that will make it easier for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.


Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro should be considered a candidate for team MVP for making a bunch of clutch kicks in a bunch of close games this year. For San Francisco, Phil Dawson only made 23 out of 29 field goal attempts, and is 5-of-8 from attempts of 50+ yards. The 49ers haven’t gotten much of a return game from return man Bruce Ellington.

My Take:

The 49ers have lost four straight games, have lost four games already at the brand new Levi’s Stadium, and are playing like they know Harbaugh won’t be back next year. With the playoffs out of sight, San Francisco could have quit last week, but they still played hard against the San Diego Chargers, before blowing a 21-point lead.

Thomas will play much better than in his NFL debut against the Denver Broncos with a full week of reps and practice with the first team offense. This game, I think the Cardinals will get a much better performance from the offense with the talented dual-threat quarterback, and I think the defense rebounds against a struggling offense.

Arizona Cardinals 21 San Francisco 49ers 17