The 49ers and Cardinals will reprise their NFC West rivalry on Sunday in the desert. Though the 49ers have already wrapped up the division title this season, the Cardinals have won four of their last five, the only loss being a 23-7 defeat at Candlestick Park in Week 11.
With such a short time between contests with the 49ers, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt admitted game planning will be a bit different this week.
“It’s always strange,” Whisenhunt told Bay Area reporters in Wednesday’s conference call. “Because you don’t have a whole lot of new tape on them, but you do know the guys and you’re better prepared for their personnel. But it is an interesting thing.”
The last time these two teams met, it got a bit heated both before and after the whistle. Though the 49ers have won the last five contests between the two teams, both sides acknowledge there is a bit of a rivalry element when they meet.
“Any time a team in your division has clinched when they have, you have respect for what they’ve done,” Whisenhunt said. “But it also means more to you because they are the division champs for this year and this is a chance for us to go against them. If we can get a win it always is a sweet win; it always means something.”
Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb was sidelined due to injury in Week 11, but returned last week to lead Arizona to a 19-13 overtime win against the Dallas Cowboys. Sunday will mark the first time Kolb will face the 49ers as a Cardinal, but he said he learned a lot from watching the 49ers from the sidelines in the previous contest.
“(I learned what) big, athletic players they got,” Kolb said. “They got a good squad that’s stocked with a lot of studs. When you start going down the list and looking at all the first-rounders and talented players, it adds up on you.”
Kolb also revealed he had a dialogue with the 49ers this offseason and was impressed with what the organization had to offer, but that he thinks the situation worked out best for both sides. Still, Kolb is trying to overcome the shortened offseason and missed time due to injury as he builds a rapport with his receivers.
The Cardinals might face a 49ers defense without Patrick Willis, who is recovering from a hamstring injury suffered early last week. And though Whisenhunt said the 49ers defense still played well without Willis in last week’s 26-0 shutout of St. Louis, Arizona clearly has plenty of respect for the four-time Pro Bowler.
“He’s the best in the business as far as we’re concerned,” Kolb said. “We think he’s the best linebacker in the NFL and he covers up for a lot of things out there.”
Click here to listen to Whisenhunt’s conference call
Tags: Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb
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