The Arizona Cardinals were one of just three teams to hand the 49ers a defeat in the 2011 regular season and the two NFC West foes are set to renew their rivalry on Monday night in the desert.
The landscape of the once-maligned division has changed drastically in 2012, as the NFC West now totes four quality teams with top-notch defenses. Heading into his team’s first matchup with the reigning division champions, Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt knows what type of game to expect.
“All of the teams in the NFC West have a defense that’s strong, that’s very physical,” Whisenhunt told Bay Area reporters in his Wednesday conference call. “That’s a great quality for our division to show to the rest of the league. I know that it will be a physical game on Monday night. It always is when we play the 49ers.”
Patrick Peterson has only been in the league for a year and a half, but he has already established himself as one of Arizona’s marquee players, along with receiver Larry Fitzgerald and defensive linemen like Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell. Peterson returned four punts for touchdowns last season but has been shut out of the end zone so far in 2012, as teams are paying extra attention to the talented athlete.
“They’re not giving me a chance, really,” Peterson said.
Looking at the 49ers, Peterson certainly has his work cut out for him. Punter Andy Lee was recently named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for Week 7, while Peterson also said Lee was “probably the best punter in the National Football League right now.” Peterson also commended C.J. Spillman and Chris Culliver on their ability to cover punts from their positions at gunner.
When he’s not returning punts, Peterson is busy at cornerback. But before the Cardinals try to slow down the revamped 49ers passing attack, they’ll have to try and contain the No. 2 run game in the NFL.
“It seems to me they run the ball on everybody,” Whisenhunt said. “It doesn’t matter who it is, they’ve done a nice job. They’ve got a good scheme, they’re well-coached. I’ve watched Frank Gore for a number of years and have great respect for him as a player.”
As it stands now, the 49ers (5-2) are alone atop the division standings, while Arizona (4-3), Seattle (4-3) and St. Louis aren’t far behind.
“Those guys are definitely where we want to be,” Peterson said. “Those guys are the NFC West champs as of right now. As an Arizona Cardinals team, we have a lot to prove and we want to get where those guys are.”
Tags: Ken Whisenhunt, Patrick Peterson
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