The Arizona Cardinals overcame early turnovers against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. They battled back three times and kept it close throughout. But late turnovers doomed the Cardinals (3-3) as they lost to the 49ers (4-2) for the third straight time.
Teams rarely win games when losing the turnover battle. In fact, since the Cardinals moved to the desert in 1988, NFL teams are a combined 373-2,508-4 (.129) when losing the turnover battle by two or greater. Arizona is 12-111-0 (.098) over that time -- 123 total games is more than every other franchise.
That level of stink is simply astounding.
The defense played well enough to win. Without five costly turnovers, the game may have turned out differently. San Francisco turned those five turnovers into 25 points (I count safeties as turnovers, even though the league does not).
The 49ers had only one scoring drive that didn't come from a turnover. That's getting it done defensively.
Here is how ProFootballFocus.com graded the Cardinals in action on Sunday.
RB Andre Ellington (+2.6)
After Sunday's game, rookie running back Andre Ellington is the fifth-highest-rated RB in the NFL. He has fewer offensive snaps than everyone else in the top 11 does according to PFF, and yet he's rated third-best in the run game among every back with at least 25 percent of his team's snaps.
Ellington led the team in rushing yards for the third straight game despite having fewer carries than starter Rashard Mendenhall. Over that time, Mendenhall has toted the ball 39 times for 104 yards (2.7 YPC) and a touchdown.
The rookie? He has 18 carries for 137 yards (7.6 YPC) and a score.
At what point will coach Bruce Arians decide it's in the offense's best interest to give Ellington the bulk of the carries? He can ill-afford more running-game pestilence from Mendenhall as the lead back.
The time is now.
LG Daryn Colledge (+1.2)
Also one who keeps impressing, left guard Daryn Colledge has been the rock on the offensive line this season. He earned his fourth-consecutive positive rating from PFF on Sunday, allowing two quarterback hurries and sealing the back side on Ellington's first career touchdown run.
He's No. 5 overall in pass-blocking but has struggled a bit in the run game this season, earning a -2.4 rating that stems from a rocky start against the St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions' top-shelf D-lines.
LT Bradley Sowell (-6.8)
Bradley Sowell is struggling in the same area in which Levi Brown struggled: Pass blocking. However, at least Brown was an above-average run-blocker. In two games, Sowell has a -0.8 grade in the run game, though he did earn a +0.6 on Sunday against San Francisco's depleted defensive line.
The decision to trade Brown to the Pittsburgh Steelers still was the right one, as the former No. 5 overall pick injured himself before last week's Steelers game.
What makes Sowell's difficulties in the passing game less worrisome is that he has allowed only one sack in two games -- but 15 total pressures allowed is nothing to write home about.
SS Yeremiah Bell (+3.4)
Veteran Yeremiah Bell's best performance of the season came Sunday in San Francisco, as he was all over the place all game long. He did allow a touchdown in coverage of tight end Vernon Davis, but he did virtually everything right on the play leading up to allowing the over-the-shoulder grab -- he just missed knocking the pass away, getting the tip of a finger on it.
Jamming Davis at the line to disrupt his route would have been his best plan of action, but he nearly made up for the mistake.
Bell was solid against the run (+1.9) and in coverage (+1.5) despite being charged with both Davis touchdowns. He picked off quarterback Colin Kaepernick at the goal line following a tipped pass by inside linebacker Karlos Dansby and knocked away a pass on third down in the first quarter to set up a field goal.
CB Patrick Peterson (+2.6)
Third-year cornerback Patrick Peterson has returned to form after allowing a perfect passer rating through three games this season. In the three games since then, he has been targeted 24 times and has allowed six receptions for 74 yards, 3.1 YPA, 0 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and 7 passes defended for a 0.38 passer rating allowed.
No, that's not a typo. Peterson has allowed quarterbacks a 0.38 passer rating when targeting him the past three games. That includes being in coverage of Vincent Jackson, Steve Smith and Anquan Boldin most of the time those three games.
OLB Matt Shaughnessy (-1.6)
Outside linebacker Matt Shaughnessy was not the lowest-rated defensive player on Sunday (that honor went to nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu, with a -2.8). But I felt it necessary to highlight Shaughnessy because of his lackluster performance against the run.
Through five games, he had been one of the best run-defenders for the Cardinals. He still is No. 2 on the team behind ILB Jasper Brinkley, but a -1.4 performance on run defense marks his first such negative grade of the season and first since Week 16 of last year.
You shouldn't expect this to become a trend, as Shaughnessy makes his living stuffing the run. But it wasn't a good showing against a big-time division rival.