49ers v. Cardinals by the numbers

Is it possible the Cardinals recently have been playing better than the 49ers? Here is a statistical comparison of the two teams over the past three games.

49ERS DEFENSE (Last 3 games)
18.3 points per game allowed
0.325 points per play
5.0 yards per play
37.84% 3rd down conversions
3.4 yards per carry
6.2 yards per pass attempt
65.42 completion percentage
84.9 passer rating
6.14 sack percentage

18.0 points per game
0.298 points per play
5.0 yards per play
31.58% 3rd down conversions
4.6 yards per carry
5.7 yards per attempt
56.25 completion percentage
70.9 passer rating
8.94 sack percentage

59.49 completion percentage
6.6 yards per pass attempt
93.6 passer rating
8.14 sack percentage

CARSON PALMER (Last 3 games)
68.97 completion percentage
7.4 yards per pass attempt
84.4 passer rating
5.43 sack percentage

Which team currently is playing at a higher level?

  1. Selective stats. Include the teams turnovers and sacks given up and it will give you a better picture of what is going on….

    1. I accounted for sacks. Over the past three games, the 49ers’ have a +1.3 turnover margin per game and the Cardinals have a +0.7 turnover margin per game.

    2. Stats aside, the whole Arizona team has looked very good the last few games, except for the end of the 4th quarter against Tennessee. How do you let Fitzpatrick throw for 400 yards against you?

      1. I don’t like this game. We played them at home. Granted without Crabs and without Aldon. Those are two huge difference makers.
        However, Gore ran for over 100 and VD was superhuman that day. He went for almost 200 yards and 2 TD’s, yet in the 4th quarter it was only a 2 point game.
        We better contain Ellington who’s REALLY fast, and we better come up with a better plan versus the no huddle. Other teams have successfully used it against us, pretty sure Carson will run it on us too.

        Go RAMS…..

    3. Bay you beat me to the turnover thought, I would also like to know about time of possession. Having those two stats for me are great indicators how a team is doing.

  2. The Cardinals have been playing better than pretty much everybody the past few games. They are a good team no doubt, and every good team has their hot streaks. Sustaining that high level of play when you roll into the playoffs is what matters, and their chances of making it are slim. I still think the 49ers are the better team and will prove it this weekend.

    1. AZ gets killed by TEs and they’re giving up big yardage on the ground. I think their LBs are likely a step slow, and with Honey Badger out, their Safety coverage will be weakened. While Peterson is amazing, Crabs usually does well against him. The opposite corner looked like a player against Seattle. Hope to see a lot of play action early, quick slants, and Gore up the middle.

      AZ won’t get much if anything going on the ground, despite Ellington’s talent. Their WRs are big, strong and good, so we need to make Palmer move off his spot. Hopefully we’ll see a more aggressive passrush than we showed against ATL – it seemed like our DL was intentionally rushing conservatively rather than attacking the edges and forcing Ryan up in the pocket.

  3. I think the Cards defense is playing better, but Niners D has more playmakers,
    Carson at times has played consistently at a high level. But then he threw 4 picks in the Seattle game. And they still won!
    That TD pass was a great throw on a blitz, and h Floyd held on.

    Come game time Cards may already be out of it and have nothing to play for.

  4. Apples to oranges unless you compare stats against the same teams. In the past 3 games the only team both squads have faced is Seattle, those are the stats to compare.

    1. AZ vs SEA & SF vs SEA. Both games played within the last 3 weeks;

      Avg yards per offensive play:
      AZ 4.4 SF 5.0

      3rd down efficiency:
      AZ 31% SF 38%

      Red zone efficiency:
      AZ 0-3 0% SF 1-2 50%

      Avg gain per rushing play:
      AZ 3.2 SF 4.9

      Avg gain per pass play(including sacks)
      AZ 6.2 SF 5.0

      When both teams are compared to the same opponent which one looks better?

      1. First meeting between these 2 teams. 22-20, Cardinals driving until Fitzgerald fumbles the ball away deep in 49ers territory. Really happy the 49ers sewed up a playoff spot last week.

  5. They are playing very well…especially that defense….top 5 in the league for sure. I think it will be a very good game.

    Its ashame they will almost certainly not make the playoffs, its a tough pill to swallow that a 9-7 and a 9-6-1 team will make it ahead of a 11-5 team.

    Hey thats the NFL until they change it I guess.

  6. Sorry Grant I have to go with your Pops on this one, the 9ers are the best team in the NFC right now. The only thing that scares me and more than evens the playing field is the technologically produced noise advantage Seattle has at home.

    1. I still think the Seahawks and Panthers are better than the 49ers, and the Cardinals and Saints are at about the same level as the 49ers.

      1. Here is why you are wrong. We didn’t have Aldon Smith, Michael Crabtree or Vernon Davis when we played them. Yet we were a VMac drop away from beating them.
        Fast forward to today. It is us that is now at full strength, and they Carolina who is dinged up. Steve Smith will not be right for weeks with his knee injury. For that reason, Carolina does not worry me. We are built to beat them….

      2. Doesn’t matter. Carolina was already offensively inept. Losing Smith is a big blow.
        We’ve all seen what gaining Kaepernick means for us… Carolina is not a team that worries me at all, here or there.

        1. Smith will be back for the playoffs, and Hixon is a good replacement. Newton is better than Kaepernick, and that’s the biggest difference between these teams.

      3. Bay nailed it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! we didnt have 3 of our BEST players….and that team won by ONE POINT!!!!!! Same with Seattle, no VD no Crabb when we lost to them!!!!!!!!!! Got both players back……………and wa-la!!!! Beat them at the stick!

      4. Sorry I stopped reading when you said Hixon was a good replacement. Hixon who has 5 catches for 39 yards on the season?
        Smith is a huge part of Carolina’s success. He sprained his knee. With or without him, the Panther offense will be limited. Carolina needed a miracle to beat the Saints at home.
        They are more pretender right now than contender.

      5. The addition of Crabtree makes our team better than the Panthers. A lot of people have said that we need a WR that can stretch the field thus opening things up for Boldin and Davis in th passing game and Gore and the committee behind him in the running game. Crabtree is that WR, and having him in the lineup will make a big difference if/when we meet the Panthers in the playoffs.
        Seattle has been a completely different team since Browner disappeared from their secondary.

      6. Crabtree has the capability of turning short passes into long gains and/or TDs. That is what I classify as stretching the field.

      7. MidWest,

        Your original statement read like you were saying Crabtree was stretching the field, but thanks for clarifying. I think what Crabtree does more than anything is stretch the defense horizontally across the formation making it more difficult to double anyone.

      1. CB,

        Is it because the Cardinals have a better rushing offense than the 49ers and Grant didn’t want to upset us with that information?

      2. Jack:

        I didn’t mean to suggest that you were implying anything. I was doing enough of that for the both of us. Sorry for the sloppy wording.



    1. because both teams are known for having excellent defenses, I think.
      Grant also wants to humble us a bit, have us not be so attached to the belief that we’ll win every week. That’s cool. An attachment to the belief that “our 49ers are unbeatable, could be our downfall. ie Fan attitude and belief is an important variable in determining game outcome.

  7. Those stats are meaningless and cherry-picked, to paint a picture that Arizona is playing better than us at the moment. While that’s not a horrible opinion, the stats you displayed doesn’t mean jack either side of the fence you’re on. It’s not taking into account strength of opponent or game situations. For example, if you’re leading in the 4th quarter by 2 scores, you’re obviously going to allow underneath passes which are going to boost the opposing team’s comp. %, QB rating, yards per attempt, etc….

    And why did you display defense vs defense, and then QB vs QB? Why not show our entire offensive stats like you did with the defense, unless that would show a different narrative than the one you want to display? If you’re going to ask which team is playing better, I don’t understand how you could leave off an entire side of the ball and just compare 1 position instead. lol

    Great objective journalism grant!

    1. Do they paint that picture? The Cardinals are giving up 4.6 yards per carry right now. That doesn’t bode well against the Niners.

      1. If you’re going to start a discussion about which team is playing better, how do you leave off an entire side of the ball (offense)? We all know what you’re trying to do (spark controversy, get views to your blog, etc…) Why cherry pick the sack percentage of each QB, but conveniently leave out their INTs over the past 3 games?

        It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why. Not saying that we’re better or going to win. Your stats are just meaningless.

  8. Offensive points per game. Interceptions. Rushing yards per game. 3rd down concersion. Passing yards per game. Turnovers per game. You don’t think any of these stats are relevant in a discussion about which team is playing better?

    1. Offensive points per game are almost identical. I posted passing yards per attempt. I’ve never heard of 3rd down concersion but I’ll look into it.

      1. We’re also about even with them on concersions – on any given play, each player doing his job to contribute to a concerted effort.

  9. Just admit that you cherry-picked stats to paint a picture that Ari is playing better? We all knew their defense is awesome, but their offense isn’t on the same level. If you would’ve shown both teams offensive stats, it would’ve favored us on offense. Which is why you left it out on purpose.

    1. Actually, we all knew the Cardinals’ rushing stats were not on the same level as the Niners’, but I bet we didn’t all know that Carson Palmer has outperformed Kaepernick recently, interceptions aside.

      1. Carson Palmer has outperformed Kaepernick recently, interceptions aside.

        But, why would we put interceptions aside? That would be like judging Frank Gore’ performance this season only after taking away his long runs. Who would do that?

        Oh, right.

      2. Here you go Grant! Its almost a new year and you are still making statements without facts and call yourself a journalist! I agree that AZ has been playing well and Carson Palmer has boosted their offense but its just silly to make a statment that Carson palmer is a better QB:

        CP 22 TD, 21 INTs, 3867 yards, RTG 83.4
        CK 19 TD, 8 INTS, 2887 yards, RTG 89.9

      3. claude this is the same method of journalism that only includes information to impact public opinion in a certain way! In another word it is more propaganda than journalism. Grant should join one of the political parties and right for them, he would do an amazing job since so many people believe what they read with selective information.

      4. Chicago:

        To be fair, Grant isn’t performing a news-reporting function. He’s a columnist.

        That said, I would prefer it if he would study the relevant data first and then form his opinions rather than form his opinions first and then limit his presentation of the data to only that which supports his opinion.

      5. Interceptions aside? Palmer is an interception machine, he’s right there with your beloved Cowboy’s Romo..
        Grant, I have notice how you leave or add small details to make your assertions seem stronger. Your work is slanted and that may not work at the next level for you.

      6. Good point Claude, But please keep in mind this a 49er blog! Yes, I am a silly fan and i am bias however if the columnist wants to make plain statements about the 49ers then why not look at it from strengths and opportunities rather than always focusing on the potential issues or shortcomings!!!

      7. Oh, it’s pretty obvious why Grant does what he does. He’s from the old Glen Dickey school of saying outrageous stuff that he doesn’t even believe if he thinks it will make readers pay attention to him.

  10. Grant – I remember Harbaugh in the offseason not wanting Kap to lift to heavy on the upper body. Are there any grumblings as to the heavy strength training contributing to some of his accuracy issues? Or do they think it’s his footwork and mechanics? Pitchers often refrain from heavy lifting and chest work outs as it reduces flexibility, fluency, and arm whip/torque.

  11. Tampa Bay was also playing well over their previous 5 games before the 9ers went out and beat them up. The 49ers are a better team than the Cardinals and they should win this game even though they are in Az. People are propping up the Cards now because they held on to a win in Seattle. The truth is that Seattle has played poorly over stretches in many games at home this season and have almost lost to bad teams. The Cards found a way to hold on for the win and good for them. The Cardinals are not a bad team but if the 9ers can’t beat them then the 9ers probably aren’t good enough to win in the playoffs anyway. I expect a hard fought 49er victory this weekend. It won’t be a blowout but I expect the 9ers to win.

  12. Grant Cohn says:
    December 26, 2013 at 10:57 am
    “Smith will be back for the playoffs, and Hixon is a good replacement. Newton is better than Kaepernick, and that’s the biggest difference between these teams.”

    Hope you and your family had a great Christmas.

    Although Cam’ numbers are better than CK’ I’m not completely sold on Newton. I’ve yet to see CK sulk on the bench when things are going bad the way Newton has. Cam has come a long way in that dept., but things have also gone fairly well for him this season. For this reason the true measure of his mind-set has not really been tested imo.

    Newton’ composure can be easily rattled at a moments notice and that makes him unstable for such an important position. CK has shown himself to be very strong minded even in his most adverse moments during this season.

    Newton has had the full support of his offense weapons (until recently with Smith’ injury) throughout the season whereas Kaep has had to play more than half the season without his go-to WR.
    We’ve all been witness to how important Crabtree is to the offense in just the few games in which he’s played. I can only imagine how much more potent this team would have been with a healthy Crabtree for the whole season, but that’s neither here or there.

    Point, the 49ers have been getting healthier and stronger with each game. Sure, the game against the Falcons was a hard fought victory, but I have to give a great amount of credit to a Falcon’ team that came to play and felt they had a score to settle after their embarrassing loss in last years championship game.
    But the 49ers are ascending at the right time and I feel they can beat any team in the playoffs (that includes the c-hawks in Seattle) to continue their quest to win Lombardi #6.

    1. Yeah, I’m not sold on Newton either. Both guys are similar in that their physical abilities are awesome and may be unparalleled in the game. They both need to improve in their pre-snap and post-snap reads to take the next step from great athlete to great QB. Some of the backside blitzes Atlanta was running should have resulted in big passing yards for the 9ers but CK didn’t read it. Several of those blitzes left wide open men with no defender within 10 yards. The good news for 9er fans is that CK seems to be a hard worker who cares enough to do whatever it takes to get better.

  13. We can’t disregard interceptions and turnovers, as those are two of the most important statistics that can directly impact wins and losses. That’s why it’s laughable to leave them out, just to try and portray Palmer > CK.

    1. Dan, Turnovers are one of the most important factors that will impact the outcome of the game. If you take a look at statistics for the entire season you will find the teams with higher number of turn overs have a much higher likely hood of losing the game.

      Homer frenzy?
      Well, that would be subjective accusation coming from someone other than yourself.

      OREGONINER says:
      December 7, 2013 at 11:24 pm
      “I am in full agreement with your analysis; if the niners do not win this game, I see some major personnel changes coming …. not all on the field. Niners 20 Hawks 28″

      Also, in the same thread you said that CK was thrown in two years to early.
      So obviously, your accusations of homerism is to be taken with a grain of salt.

      BTW, I’m not caught up in the numbers/stats game like many here are. Not saying its wrong, just saying that the game of football is not a robotic game of machines that depend solely on stats to predict wins and losses.
      If that were the case than the recent win against the c-hawks was a complete misnomer because according to the numbers (especially in the Wilson/CK category) leading up to that game we were supposed to lose.

      Yeah, I involve a great deal of support for my team with my heart and if that makes me a homer, than I’ll wear it proudly.

  14. These stats are for those concerned by how the 49ers defense plays too soft in the secondary.

    The 49ers defense has given up a QB rating of 75.2 to opponents.

    When the 49ers are up by 2 scores the rating is 77.03, which would still put them at 7th in the NFL.

    On all other plays the rating is 70.13, second only to Seattle.

      1. MidWest,

        In their 4 losses the 49ers defense has given up a QB Rating of 75.3.

        The recent argument is that the defense is struggling with the no huddle and that is a “blueprint” for defeating the 49ers. The numbers don’t show that to be true.

      2. Jack do you have numbers that show a % of no huddle plays that have been used vs our defense and how they’ve played against it? I haven’t seen a team use it the whole game, but I’m pretty sure when they have they’ve been successful.

      1. CB and Jack,

        Didn’t a certain columnist for the Press Democrat, whose name rhymes with Rant Alone, opine, earlier in the year, that Justin Smith was finished as a dominant force? Hmmm, I’m not sure if that’s actually a myth, it might just be a crackpot notion. I’ll bet Grant’s tin foil hat was securely perched on his head when he came up with that one.

  15. Here’s how we’re going to win: After studying Arizona-Seattle film, the coaches will realize that a mid-range passing attack, across the middle and along the sidelines, will be effective against the Arizona defense. That defense will be difficult to rush against and difficult to sustain a pocket against. But Arizona will have to guard against our deep threat and our running game. That opens the mid-range 5-to-20 yard pass attack. On one play, we will streak Crabtree and Davis long – and connect with Boldin underneath; on another play, we’ll streak Boldin and Crabtree long – and connect with Davis underneath; and on yet another play, we’ll have Boldin and Davis go long – and have Crabs come back underneath. These tactics time-wise don’t place unreasonable demands on our offensive line and they effectively counter the blitz. They have the added advantage of flexibility: when Arizona does not blitz, Kaperdini may have time to hit one of the deep guys who now and then are bound to get enough separation to justify a long throw. Not to mention the possibility of throwing to someone out of the backfield. Go Rams!

  16. For every negative experience there is a positive takeway. Although many Niner fans were disappointed in our teams inability to dominate Atlanta there are so many positives that will help this team in the playoffs:

    1) Our future hands team will most likely include Crabtree :)
    2) Crabtree had another great game and he is getting back to the game shape
    3) Defense will learn how to communicate and adjust when playing a fast pace offense
    4) Fangio is rotating more defenders to keep the defense fresh
    5) This team is building confidence to come back from behind to get a W even in a very difficult situation.
    6) Colin had the opportunity to see a whole new defensive strategy from Nolan
    7) most importantly we still beat the Falcons and clinched the playoffs

  17. How come we’re only comparing CK and Palmer’s numbers on the passing game? How about CK’s running game (threat)? Shouldn’t that tilt the argument in favor of CK?

  18. Grant is not a journalist, he is a blogger. Journalism = fact-based reporting. Blogging = expression of opinion. As he himself has said, he is a “conversation starter”. I’d say it a bit differently … Grant states opinions on this blog that he knows will drive Niner fans to post responses. He gets the benefit of higher page traffic. I come to this and other Niner related sites to get insight and perspective on a very complex sport. I get more of that on this blog from the respondents [like Jack, Bay, Dan, Chicago, others] than I do from Grant’s opinions. I wish there was a site where former players/coaches could chime in with their inside/educated perspective.

    1. Mr. Sunshine, journalism can be either objective or subjective. There are no rules about it having to be fact-based. Of course the new name for subjective journalism nowadays is “advocacy journalism.” I think that fits Grant pretty well at times.

      1. Spaceborn subjective journalism has been around for years, The OP ED page has been major part of news papers forever. Opinion editorials are an important part of covering politics. In sports journalism its the roll columnist fill. Sometimes we forget sports coverage is informative AND entertainment

      2. Coach, yeah, I know subjective journalism has been around for a long time. I have a newspaper collection going back to the 1860′s and it was around back then, though mostly political. I was just responding to Mr. Sunshine’s comment that Grant isn’t a journalist, which, in fact, he is.

  19. This is boring….
    CK is a dual threat QB that is responsible for just as many TD’s as Palmer. CK is much better at protecting the ball and also boasts a high 3rd down conversion than Palmer.

    AZ gave up 180 yards to VD last time. They couldn’t guard him and we didn’t even have Michael Crabtree on the field. This time with Crabtree playing, AZ will be even more challenged in guarding our receiving weapons.

    Our rushing offense is ranked 3rd while Arizona is ranked 23rd.
    Last time we beat them we did it without Aldon Smith. Arizona has given up 40 sacks which is 6th highest in the league. I am sure Aldon will add to that total.

    Doubt we run away with this one, but we will win. Especially with AZ coming off a very emotional physical matchup with Seattle.

    Final score 33-23 Niners…..

      1. Bad news for any team that is going to play him. Every time you face a QB like Aaron Rogers it will make it difficult for the defense. I would rather face cutler than AR

    1. Bears still roll the packers. Division game at home???
      Gotta always go with the home team. Close game but I believe Chicago pulls it out Nd mustache/welcher goes home for the winter.

    1. I want Carson to find out SF can get pressure up the middle; that’s his kryptonite. Calling Mr. Dorsey. Calling Mr. McDonald.

  20. Space-
    Those old newspapers are probably fascinating. I came across some historical stuff on Congress in the 1840s. Their hijinks then are kind of like the dysfunction in Washington, DC today. And that refusal to negotiate compromise lead to the Civil War. I was stunned to learn that group was just as stupid as the knuckleheads currently occupying The Capitol.

    1. Brotha, some things never change, lol. The stuff I enjoy the most are the stories about the current events in whatever city the newspaper was published in. Those are what really give me a flavor of what it was like to live in those days. An article titled, “All a man needs is a good hoss and a dog” comes to mind that was written about a trapper/mountain man in Missouri. I’d go find out which paper that was, but all that stuff is still in boxes since moving. Pretty sure it was a Springfield, Missouri newspaper, though.

  21. How about a more important stat…
    SF 11-4 5 game winning streak (longest of the season) 8-2 in their last 10
    Arz 10-5 3 game winning streak and 7-3 in their last 10.
    I’d say the 49ers are the hot ones coming in, and playing better as of late.

  22. Does Carson Palmer’s completion percentage include interceptions as completions? That’s the only way it could be that high.

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