Standing on the sidelines during the 49ers and Cardinals Week 12 “Monday Night Football” matchup, John Skelton didn’t like what he saw.
“I remember how bad it was for us offensively,” Arizona’s then-third-string quarterback said during his Wednesday conference call with the Bay Area media. “The Niners have a good defense and we struggled with some of the things they did and we couldn’t get much going.”
The 27-6 loss to the 49ers was a low-point of the season of the season, Skelton said, and after the game, coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t have to tell his team how “embarrassing” the defeat was. Whisenhunt said his players knew they needed to step their play up, and they couldn’t wait to get on the field the following Sunday.
“Playing as poorly as we did against San Francisco helped (turn around the season),” he said. “The sense of urgency came back a little bit.”
And along with the renewed sense of urgency, a lot has changed for the Arizona offense over the last five weeks. The Cardinals’ top two quarterbacks, Derek Anderson and Max Hall, have been sidelined with injuries, and their ground game has picked up to some degree as they ended their seven-game losing streak in Week 14.
Unlike the Cardinals’ offense, the 49ers’ defense had remained the same since that Nov. 29 game at University of Phoenix Stadium – until today. Interim coach Jim Tomsula announced Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis will not play in the season finale after undergoing a second surgery on his injured hand.
It’s a blow for the 49ers, but as Skelton put it, that’s good news for him and the Cardinals’ offense.
“He’s a great player… and I saw what he did the last time he played us,” the rookie signal caller said. “He’s a talented guy, so I guess that a big advantage for us.”
But even though the All-Pro will be sitting out on Sunday, Whisenhunt won’t change how his team plays offense. He already has his game plan in place, and teams don’t tend to change their defensive philosophy no matter who is injured, he said.
Like the 49ers, the Cardinals will not be playing in the postseason and their final game of the year will be Sunday at Candlestick Park. Also like the 49ers, the Cardinals want to finish their season with a win.
For Skelton and his teammates, there’s pride on the line, and that’s all the motivation they need.
“No one wants to walk off the field Sunday with a loss,” he said. “Regardless of what’s on the line, it’s all about winning that one game.”
To listen to Whisenhunt’s conference call, click here.
To listen to Skelton’s conference call, click here.
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