Niners Live broke down every angle of the blowout loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, after playing two games against the NFC East, the 49ers play their first of three straight home games as they take on the division rival Arizona Cardinals. In Arizona, week four, Larry “Niners Killer” Fitzgerald, caught a walk-off touchdown in overtime to once again nail shut the 49ers’ coffin. Our coverage continues as we preview the week #9 rematch against the Arizona Cardinals. We will break down the key offensive and defensive matchups.
This week has seen its share of roster moves as the team continues its rebuild for the future, and most importantly, looks to replace injured players at key positions on both sides of the ball for the game on Sunday. A Monday trade for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo began a surprising week of events as the 49ers fielded a bevy of calls for players. While one would think Garoppolo will not be under center for this game, many players who were not on the active roster to begin the week may see time on Sunday.
Patchwork Offensive Line vs. Arizona Front Seven
Lost during last week’s contest, a 33-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, were both offensive tackles who started the game. Left Tackle, Joe Staley, was blindsided on an interception returned for a touchdown by Eagles defender Fletcher Cox and was forced to remain behind for an extra day due to a broken orbital bone. Staley will continue to be monitored over the course of the week, but has already been ruled out until at least the bye week. Right Tackle Trent Brown was ruled out of last week’s game while in the concussion protocol. His backup, Gary Gilliam, was lost during the game and placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. The team hopes to get back Brown. The question now becomes, if Brown does come back does he play on the left or right side? Right guard Brandon Fusco battled through the game with an ankle injury and then was replaced by rookie Eric Magnuson. If Fusco cannot go, look for Magnuson to get the first start of his NFL career as Zane Beadles may be needed to fill in one of the tackle spots like he did after Gilliam went down. The Arizona Front Seven employs the 3-4 system. The defensive tackles are led by Corey Peters, veteran Frostee Rucker and Josh Mauro. The inside linebackers are led by Karlos Dansby, who returns to Arizona for his 3rd campaign. Dansby is accompanied by Haason Reddick. The Will linebacker spot is played by Markus Golden, while the SAM linebacker is played by pass-rusher Chandler Jones, who will give fits to whomever plays right tackle.
C.J. Beathard vs. Chandler Jones
C.J. Beathard fought hard and showed his trademark toughness while being hit and sacked relentlessly last week throughout the game. His job, like it was for Brian Hoyer in week four, will be to know where Chandler Jones is at all times. Jones himself is one of the premiere sack artists in the NFC West, and sixth in the NFL, while currently leading the Cardinals with 8 sacks.
49ers WRs & TEs vs. Arizona’s Secondary
Another huge test awaits 49er Receivers and Tight ends. Forty-niner Pierre Garcon leads the team with 40 receptions(13th in NFL) and will be going against Right Cornerback Justin Bethel, and should probably be the primary target in the passing game. Marquise Goodwin will be matched up against perhaps the best Cornerback in the game in All-Pro Patrick Peterson. However, don’t be surprised to see Peterson match up on Garcon at times throughout the game. Perhaps the weak link in the secondary is former 49er Antoine Bethea, who was always the best against the run but has always been exposed on passing plays, which should be an advantage for Tight End George Kittle. Both Aldrick Robinson and Trent Taylor saw a decreased in production last week. Expect that to reverse this Sunday if the team hopes to attack in the passing game. When they are in the slot, they will be opposed by Brandon Williams. Of course, we would be remise to not mention Free Safety Tyrann Mathieu, aka “The Honey Badger”. He switches as the Nickel Corner on third down to take away the slot and as the saying goes, HE’S ALWAYS AROUND THE FOOTBALL.
49ers Front Seven vs. Arizona’s Offensive Line and Running Backs
The good news for the 49ers Front Seven is they will not have to face Running back David Johnson who is still out because of a wrist injury. Instead, Arizona will rely on former NFL’s scariest back, Adrian Peterson, for running plays, and Kerwynn Williams on passing downs. The strength of the Cardinals’ offensive line is on the left side, led by former Pro-Bowl and 49er Guard Alex Boone and Tackle D.J. Humphries. It will be a huge test for DeForest Buckner. With Tank Carradine placed on the injured reserve list and rookie Solomon Thomas battling a MCL Sprain, in season pickup Legar Douzable, will be counted on to pick up the slack. The man anchoring the Cardinals’ offensive line at Center is A.Q. Shipley. As the left side of the line is the strong side, the right side is a vulnerability; in particular, Right Tackle Jared Veldheer and Guard Evan Boehm, who has given up countless sacks this season. It could be a huge game for both Douzable and Earl Mitchell on that left side of the front four. The middle linebacking unit, led by Reuben Foster and Ray-Ray Armstrong filling in at the Will spot with Eli Harold at the SAM, will try to make up for their poor performance last week which, again, saw many missed tackles.
Drew Stanton vs. Elvis Dumervil
The health of Carson Palmer was always a topic of big concern for Head Coach Bruce Arians, particularly with the poor performance on that right side of the line. He is now gone, replaced by backup Drew Stanton. Now Elvis Dumervil (5 Sacks) is licking his chops at the thought of multiple sacks, especially after being the closest to causing havoc this season. As Palmer’s health left, so did the hope of Arizona making the playoffs. Former 49ers Guard Alex Boone will be the Right Guard to try and stop any havoc.
49ers’ Secondary vs. Arizona’s Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
More honesty; the secondary has been torched all season. Corner Dontae Johnson looks every bit like a rookie (in his fourth season) and, early season starter Rashard Robinson was demoted and then (traded to the Jets) in favor of rookie Ahkello Witherspoon, in part, due to his team-high pass interference penalties. You can bet perennial All-Pro and future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, along with Jaron and John Brown (no relation), are looking to put up some big numbers on Sunday. The big question everyone wants an answer to is: Will Weakside Linebacker Eric Reid be moved back to Strong Safety with Jimmie Ward, the team’s Free Safety, being placed on injured reserve with a broken forearm? Meanwhile, Jaquiski Tartt had some big hits as Reid’s replacement this season and the coaching staff seems to like him as the Strong Safety as his tackling performance has improved weekly. Jermaine Gresham is a presence at tight end in both blocking and passing.
Storylines: The ties that connect the 49ers and Cardinals
One More Thing
It’s truly a new day that sees the Los Angeles Rams leading the NFC West tied with the favored Seattle Seahawks at 5-2, while Arizona is sitting in third at 3-4. The 49ers have no chance in the division, sitting winless at 0-8 for the first time in team history. They need to continue to evaluate the young players and vets to see which ones will be around to help continue the rebuild next season. It’s also should be noted that the 49ers are 1-6 against the Cardinals in the last 7 games.
Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, of course.
All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Edward Erving Staff Writer @NinersLive.net and Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims