Coach Ken Whisenhunt largely blamed the Arizona Cardinals' defeat Sunday on quarterback John Skelton. There was ample evidence to support that line of thinking. Skelton was so bad, in fact, that it was tough giving the San Francisco 49ers' defense the credit it probably deserved.
But there are room for other views.
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic thought the Cardinals seemed a little too pleased with their effort on defense and a little too resigned to their fate during a 23-7 defeat to the 49ers at Candlestick Park. He questioned the Cardinals' toughness. Bickley: "The problem here is bigger than the quarterback. The Cardinals have lost five consecutive games to the 49ers, outscored 132-45 in the process. Even when Kurt Warner was leading the charge, some Cardinals coaches felt the 49ers' physicality got under his skin, negatively affecting his play. That's obviously not going to change under Jim Harbaugh, who delights in agitating the opponent." Noted: I'm more apt to write off this game as a reflection of Skelton's poor play more than anything else. The team lost a few games solely on quarterback play even when Kurt Warner was behind center. The difference then was that Warner had the ability to win games with brilliant play. Right now, the Cardinals' quarterbacks appear capable of losing games, but not playing well enough to carry their team.
Also from Bickley: a look at one of the key plays Sunday.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic said there was little mystery behind the Cardinals' struggles, pointing to a 5-1 turnover deficit. Somers: "Skelton missed on his first five passes, four of which didn't come close to a receiver. The Cardinals didn't gain a first down until midway through the second quarter and had just two in the first half. Their longest possession lasted 2:36, and they never started one outside their 39."
Also from Somers: what he learned from the Cardinals' performance.
More from Somers: The Cardinals and 49ers do not like one another, and it showed. He also thought the 49ers had success attacking Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson.
More yet from Somers: postgame notes, including one about a gesture from the Cardinals' best player. Somers: "Nice move by receiver Larry Fitzgerald giving Rich Bartel the ball after the two hooked up for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. It was Fitzgerald's 71st touchdown but it was the first touchdown pass of Bartel's career. It came in crummy circumstances, but it had to mean a lot to Bartel. A year ago, he was a backup in the UFL. He's spent time in the NFL with the Cowboys, Browns, Jaguars and Redskins before signing with the Cardinals almost a year ago."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com offers postgame notes, including this one: "Here was one piece of good news: running back Chester Taylor made a 34-yard run in the fourth quarter, the longest run against the stingy 49ers defense all season."
Also from Urban: Whisenhunt wants his offense to play as well as his defense played Sunday. Noted: There's a turnabout from early in the season.
More from Urban: Calais Campbell thinks the team's ability to block kicks plays on the minds of opposing kickers. Noted: I had the same feeling in the first half. The 49ers' David Akers couldn't focus completely on making his attempts. He had to first worry about getting the ball past Campbell and friends. Campbell now has five career blocked field goals.