WR Steve Breaston's role has diminished of late, raising questions about his future in Arizona.
Cardinals @ 49ers: News & Notes
--Long snapper Mike Leach was named the Cardinals' Man of the Year. Leach held a mini-press conference this week, the first of his 11-year career. Quarterback John Skelton followed Leach and was asked why didn't get the Man of the Year award. "I'm still a boy, I guess."
--The Cardinals view the 49ers as their most bitter rival, and they've lost three straight to San Francisco. "To lose four in a row to a team is completely unacceptable," receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.
--The 49ers rushed for 261 yards against the Cardinals in a 27-6 victory five weeks ago.
"We got beat on both sides of the ball up front," strong safety Adrian Wilson said. "Whenever you're playing a team like that, that relies on running the ball, relies on being physical, it all starts up front. It starts with the D-line. It starts with the O-line.
"We can go back and look at the first game and say that we didn't play with any intensity. We just got beat. It's just something we don't want to go back to."
--Strong safety Adrian Wilson was the only Cardinal to be chosen for the Pro Bowl. Wilson, selected for the fourth time, admitted it wasn't his finest season. "I guess I'm as surprised as you guys are. "Someone told me, 'You always go in a year later than you're supposed to go, and always get that one last one when you really don't deserve it.' I hope this isn't my last one, and I understand this hasn't been one of my greatest years."
BY THE NUMBERS: 12 -- Return touchdowns the Cardinals have this season, a franchise record. They are one short of tying the NFL record set by the Seahawks in 2003.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think it's pretty apparent when you look at the Dallas game and the way we played and then you put on the tape of San Francisco, and you see two different teams." -- Coach Ken Whisenhunt, on how poorly his team played in the first game against the 49ers.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Cardinals continue to take a long look at their young players. The latest one is receiver Andre Roberts, who took snaps away from starter Steve Breaston. Roberts is probably the most improved player on the roster, but then the third-round pick had the furthest to go. He was awful in training camp.
In the last two games, the Cardinals have used more 4-3 defense than usual, especially on early downs. The coaches think it helps the team against the run, so look for more of it Sunday in San Francisco.
--WR Larry Fitzgerald caught only one pass last week, but the 26-yard reception gave him 1,012 yards for the season. It's the fifth time in seven NFL seasons that Fitzgerald has gained more than 1,000 yards.
--QB John Skelton is completing just 45.5 percent of his passes, but coaches think that's a function of inexperience rather than a lack of touch. They think Skelton's completion percentage will rise with more playing time.
--DE Calais Campbell didn't make much of an impact over the first half of the season, but he's played well in the last few weeks. Campbell has three of his six sacks in the last three games and has played the run better, too.
--OG Alan Faneca has not decided if he will try to return for a 14th NFL season. Faneca will take some time off before making his decision. He has performed well this season.
--CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has returned four interceptions for touchdowns in his career. That's tied for third in team history with Antrel Rolle. Hall of Fame safety Larry Wilson is second with five, and cornerback Aeneas Williams is in first with six.
GAME PLAN: The 49ers give the Cardinals more problems than any other team. In the meeting earlier this year, the 49ers beat the Cardinals up. San Francisco didn't do anything fancy, but it won at the line of scrimmage. Defensively, the Cardinals are using four defensive linemen on more snaps, and that plan likely will continue this week. On offense, the Cardinals need to concentrate on getting the ball to Larry Fitzgerald. They targeted him just once last week, and that's inexcusable.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Cardinals CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie vs. 49ers WR Michael Crabtree. Crabtree hurt the Cardinals five weeks ago, catching a 38-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Rodgers-Cromartie has played better over the past month.
Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. 49ers CB Shawntae Spencer. Both former University of Pittsburgh players, these two know each other well. Fitzgerald had just four catches for 37 yards in the first game.
Cardinals C Lyle Sendlein vs. 49ers NT Aubrayo Franklin. Sendlein has been solid this season, and the Cardinals desperately need to run efficiently. To do so, they must control Franklin.
INJURY IMPACT: OLB Joey Porter (triceps strain) didn't play last week, and he might miss another game. O'Brien Schofield replaces him.
--OLB Clark Haggans (groin) is limited in practice, but he has played through the injury.
--RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (hamstring) was limited in practice Wednesday, and he likely will be questionable for Sunday's game.
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