Arizona Cardinals Beat Niners 23-13: Offensive Breakdown

The Arizona Cardinals strolled into San Francisco and used brute force to get the first win of the season and even though the offense wasn't spectacular, they did what they had to do to win the game. It was a workman-like performance with no one player sticking out as the key to the offense but a good job of every player doing his part.

Quarterback: If you had told me going into the game that Warner would throw 30 passes but less than 200 yards, I'd have been awful worried about the outcome of the game. Efficient would be the best way to describe his game though, with 63.3% completion and a QB rating of 93. His yards per attempt (6.6) was a full yard and a half below his career average but the best stat of the for Kurt was zero turnovers and if he's not turning the ball over, this team will difficult to beat. The Niners seemed content with sitting back and trying to take away any kind of down the field passing game and Warner did a good job of taking what he was given. Grade: BEdge5_medium

Running Backs: Edgerrin James is the epitome of a blue-collar back these days. He carried the load again yesterday and finished with his sixth 100 yard game as a Cardinal. His longest run was only 10 yards and his yards per carry wasn't great (3.8), but when the offense needed to grind out some yards and let the clock run, he was at his best. Together he and Hightower just kept pounding out the tough yards and putting the offense in manageable third down situations. Hightower only added 13 yards on 8 carries but his fourth down TD run in the third quarter was crucial. He also added 3 receptions for 21 yards. With the Niners defense focused on making the running game beat them, Edge and Hightower did enough to make them pay.  Grade: B

Wide Receivers: The receivers ended up playing less of role than we thought going into the game but we saw some promising things from each of the big three. Anquan Boldin was the leading receiving in both receptions and yards, but his biggest contribution was being Kurt's go-to receiver in the second half. The Cardinals finished the game with ten first downs via the pass and Boldin had six of them on his eight catches. Fitz didn't get many opportunities with only four passes thrown his way but he hauled in three of them, including a beautiful one yard TD on a perfectly thrown fade route. Steve Breaston had a really good game as the #3 receiver and is proving that he's better than Bryant Johnson already. His forty yard reception was the biggest play of the game and he had a crucial third down catch in the third quarter on the drive that the Cardinals took the lead. The tight end duo of Pope and Patrick were virtually non-existent. Grade: B+

Boldin4_medium

Offensive Line: This is obviously the hardest unit to judge when watching a game and if anyone really broke down the play of the offensive line, please chime in with your observations. From what I could tell though watching the game at full speed, it was a mixed bag. I wasn't overly impressed with the group but they stepped up when they were really needed, after all it's nearly impossible to dominate the time of possession like they did without a good offensive line. The team as a whole only averaged 3.2 yards per carry (not counting Warner's four kneel downs), but they also only allowed one rush for negative yardage. While they weren't spectacular in the running game, I thought that they were good enough to give Edge and Hightower a chance to succeed. In the passing game, they struggled more than I thought they would giving up three sacks but overall they gave Warner enough time to get rid of the ball more times than not and at least one of the sacks could be a result him not wanting to force the ball. Grade: C+

Play Calling: Overall the play calling was more conservative than I would have imagined and I'm not sure if that was the gameplan going in or if Todd Haley just decided to take what the Niner defense was giving them. The first down play calls were pretty even with 15 rushes (not counting Warner's kneel) to 12 passes and my only real complaint is that the offense seemed to get even more conservative as the offense neared the end zone. Hopefully it was just some opening day jitters or it could have been the Niner defense forcing Warner to take check downs, but they'll have to improve in the red zone if they want to make a run at the West. Grade: B-

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Overall not bad for the first game out of the gate and there were definitely some bright spots and areas that need to be improved. Thoughts? Agree/Disagree? How would you grade each unit?

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