49ers aim to bounce back from first loss of the season when they host reeling Cardinals
After a short week and an overtime battle on Monday night, the San Francisco 49ers (8-1) will host the Arizona Cardinals (3-6-1) in a rematch of a game on Halloween night when the 49ers knocked off Arizona 28-25 down at State Farm Stadium in Glendale.
It was an all-out physical war last Monday in Santa Clara as San Francisco lost to Seattle 27-24 in overtime for its first loss in 2019. The Seahawks loaded the box to stop the run, which they did pretty well, holding the 49ers to 87 yards on 27 carries. Jimmy Garoppolo had a steady dose of pressure coming at him and ended up with three turnovers. The Niners' defense got pressure on Russell Wilson and held the Seahawks' offense in check until the latter stages of the game. DeForest Buckner had a scoop-and-score 12-yard fumble return for a touchdown that cut the Seattle lead to 21-18. However, it was points off of turnovers that decided this one, as San Francisco was outscored 21-7 in that department. Chase McLaughlin made three field goals, including a 47-yard field goal that sent the game to overtime. But when it came time for the game-winner in overtime, he shanked it wide left. That missed kick led to Jason Myers' game-winning 42-yard field goal on the final play of overtime.
Arizona couldn't finish the job down at Tampa Bay, losing 30-27 to the Buccaneers. Kyler Murray completed 27-of-44 passes for 324 yards, three TDs, and one costly interception. Murray had a quarterback rating of 97.2, his third-best rating of the 2019 season. Christian Kirk took a step toward emerging as a top pass-catching target for Murray, catching six passes for 138 yards and three touchdowns.
The lack of a running game was a problem for Arizona as David Johnson and Kenyan Drake combined for 37 yards on 15 carries. Defensively, the Cards showed an inability to slow down Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers' passing game. Winston torched the Cardinals for 358 yards with one touchdown pass and was able to overcome two interceptions.
Arizona at San Francisco
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 17 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: 49ers -10
Three Things to Watch
1. 49ers' passing attack
Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 317 yards and four touchdown passes back in Week 9 against a Cardinals secondary that needs a healthy Patrick Peterson on Sunday. Peterson is dealing with a calf issue but expects to play. Last week against the Seahawks, Garoppolo was under duress all night and started to get happy feet at times in the pocket, which contributed to the interception by Quandre Diggs. Emmanuel Sanders is battling a rib cartilage injury that leaves his status for Sunday up in the air. Deebo Samuel caught eight passes for 112 yards, which is encouraging for the 49ers as they move forward. The next step for Samuel will be replicating this performance on Sunday while catching the ball more smoothly. The rest of the receivers didn't do much to help Garoppolo on Monday night and will need to do a better job of catching the ball this week. Tight end George Kittle has not been officially ruled out, but he is battling knee and ankle injury issues. Kittle's absence would be a challenge for this offense, as he is one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league.
2. Arizona’s offensive balance
The Cardinals did a pretty good job in the last meeting of maintaining some level of balance on offense. Kyler Murray was asked to throw the football only 24 times, and the offensive line was able to get some semblance of a running game going, as Kenyan Drake rushed for 110 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Thus, it is going to start up front with the offensive line being able to hold its own against a ferocious San Francisco defensive front. Staying committed to running the football even if it doesn’t produce big plays is going to be very important on Sunday. Murray will need to use his legs to try and slow down Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and company. The passing game will face some tough sledding at times, as the 49ers secondary led by Richard Sherman is very good. However, if the Cardinals can hit a couple of explosive pass plays to Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, and Andy Isabella, they will have a chance to stay competitive for four quarters.
3. Which pass rush makes its presence known?
Both teams rank in the top 10 in sacks. San Francisco has 35, good for second in the NFL, while Arizona has 27 (tied for 8th). The 49ers sacked Murray three times and collected three quarterback hits back in Week 9. Meanwhile, the Cardinals got to Garoppolo for one sack and five quarterback hits. The key on Sunday for both teams is to create a consistent amount of pressure all game long to force Murray and Garoppolo out of the pocket. Murray has superb mobility and can make plays on the run better than most quarterbacks. Garoppolo has some mobility himself, but in an ideal world, the offensive line will keep linebacker Chandler Jones away from him as much as possible this week.
The 49ers should be able to patiently grind things out on the ground with the running game, even with a finger injury to left tackle Joe Staley that will cause him to miss some time. Running the football is the identity of this offense, and getting back to basics should help this week as they have a clear advantage talent-wise. There is a potential for a little bit of a hangover effect from the loss to the Seahawks, but San Francisco will get things back on track and improve to 9-1 on the year by a couple of scores.
Prediction: 49ers 31, Cardinals 20
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.