49ers vs. Cardinals: Preview, prediction, what to watch for

An inside look at Sunday’s Cardinals-49ers week 4 matchup at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Marquee Matchup

49ers LB Fred Warner vs Cardinals RB James Conner

Shutting down James Conner puts the game on the right arm of Joshua Dobbs. Arizona’s quarterback has attempted just 82 passes, the fewest of any starter in the NFL.

Conner is a bruising runner who has rushed for 98 and 106 yards over the last two games. As a result, the Cardinals offense has scored 28 points in consecutive weeks.

When asked what he thinks allows Arizona to be successful running the ball 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks pointed to Conner.

“I think number one, Conner runs the ball hard,” said Wilks. “Very determined guy makes a lot of people miss after contact.”

As the leader of the 49ers defense, it will be on Fred Warner to bring Conner down on first contact.

Conner has had success against San Francisco in the past. In a 31-17 win over the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in 2021, Conner ran for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. He picked up another 77 yards and a touchdown on five receptions.

Jack’s Pick

The 49ers have been dominant through 10 of the first 12 quarters this season.

Despite a 1-2 record Arizona has taken a lead into the fourth quarter in each of its first three games.  In week one at Washington, a pair of fumbles by quarterback Joshua Dobbs was the Cardinals undoing late. The following week Arizona saw a 28-7 lead to the Giants disappear as the offense generated just 48 yards of total offense over its final four possessions and the defense could not stop Daniel Jones.

Arizona finally put it all together last week, using a bruising running game and a timely defensive takeaway to upset the Dallas Cowboys 28-16.

San Francisco is on a different level when it comes to talent than any of those three teams. This one will be close early, but the 49ers will pull away in the second half.

49ers 27 Cardinals 13

Four Downs

Run, Joshua, Run: New Arizona head coach Jonathan Gannon came over from the Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia’s offensive scheme can be seen all over the Cardinals attack.

As you would expect, Arizona’s offense asks its quarterbacks to do many of the same things the Eagles ask of Jalen Hurts. Like Philadelphia, much of Arizona’s run game goes through quarterback Joshua Dobbs in the form of option runs.

Last week against Dallas, Dobbs broke a 44-yard run. A couple series later Rondale Moore took an option give 45-yards around the left side for a touchdown.

San Francisco’s defense must be disciplined in its responsibilities against the option and rush lanes to eliminate a big play.

If the 49ers can force Dobbs to beat them with his arm, they will win this game going away.

Under Pressure: Brock Purdy has faced pressure on 40.6 percent of his drop backs this season, seventh most in the NFL.

On Sunday he will face an Arizona defense which has been able to pressure opposing quarterbacks 60 percent of the time they have dropped back to pass, the second highest total in the league. The Cardinals have been able to do this despite rarely blitzing.

Facing pressure, especially without it coming from a blitz, has been an area Purdy has struggled with. Through the first three games the 49ers quarterback has completed just 48.6% of his passes when pressured.

He may catch a break if Jonathan Ledbetter is unable to play due to a finger injury. The defensive tackle leads all Cardinals defenders with seven hurries from inside.

Man Down: The 49ers may be without a starting wide receiver for the second consecutive game.

Brock Purdy and the 49ers offense managed to put 30 points on the scoreboard against the Giants despite playing without Brandon Aiyuk on a short week.

Deebo Samuel is listed as questionable after injuring his ribs and knee against New York last Thursday. According to Samuel, the knee injury is more of an issue than the ribs. He will be a gametime decision.

The 49ers went 3-0 late last season without Samuel and averaged just under 30 points per game.

San Francisco is likely to be without Jauan Jennings. The wideout has missed practice all week with a injured shin.

Player of the Month: Christian McCaffrey was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for September. McCaffrey’s 353 rushing yards leads the NFL, as does his nine runs of ten or more yards.

On Sunday he will face an Arizona defense which has allowed the seventh most rushing yards in the NFL through its first three weeks. The Cardinals are coming off a game in which they allowed Dallas running back Tony Pollard to rush for 122 yards despite missing three starters along the offensive line.

This article has 19 Comments

  1. Jack,
    I liked your 5 burning questions articles but I might just like your new approach a little more. I think this game may be closer than you think especially if Deebo is out. I think we will get a clearer picture of whether this O line can pass block with Ariz rushing 4 most of the time, I worry that if they can’t slow down this Ariz rush that they will get killed by the Dall pass rush. You say BP has a completion rate of 48.6% when pressured. How does he rank among the other QBs in the league? Thanks Jack keep up the good work.

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  2. Jack
    I like the new format that includes Arizona’s strengths, Arizona VS 9er player match ups (game within the game) and the Arizona player(s) the 9er D must stop to win.
    * Both Mitchel and Mason will need to step up, move the chains and keep CMC fresh!
    * IMO, the key to the 9ers beating Arizona will be…..
    1) the running game controls the clock and scores TD’s in the red zone.
    2) Kittle scoring a TD as well as Bell and Ray Ray contributing on 3Rd down and in the red zone9ers
    9ers 28 VS Arizona 17

  3. “Officially questionable, Mitchell injured his knee in practice on Thursday. Coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Friday that it happened at the end of the the session.
    “His knee, got tripped up and dinged his knee, Shanahan said.”

    I like Eli, but after getting action in the game against the NYGs, he’s already experiencing a knee issue which occurred in practice. As CMCs backup this is a little concerning. If Mitchell is out on Sunday, CMC may be asked to carry the RB load. Hopefully, Mason is ready to help.

    1. AES
      As much as I like Mitchell, his history of injuries has become a problem! If he continues to miss games due to injuries, I don’t see him in the 9ers future next season…….DO YOU?
      NOTE, Per Spotrac: In 2024, Mitchell will earn a base salary of $1,055,000 carrying a cap hit of $1,100,892 and a dead cap value of $45,892.
      If Mitchell is out against Arizona and Dallas, IMO, both Mason and DPT should be evaluated to assume the # 2 RB spot and help prevent CMC from being over used or injured. If Mason, or DPT, replaces Mitchell, The 9ers should sit Mitchell until the end of the season and keep him healthy for the post season.

      1. GEEP,
        Mitchell’s low-end contract would not effect the 49ers whether he remains or is gone next year. Mitchell showed well against the Giants and it might be enough to garner some trade attention this season.

        Perhaps another venue could be helpful for him.
        He’s in the not dependable category at this point.

          1. allie,
            Me too. But Mike McDaniels going to Miami was a god-send for him. Glad to see that it’s working well for both of them.

  4. Jack great to see you finding your own format!
    You left out Bell. I think he will do fine as a WR, actually he might do great!

  5. Jack,
    Since you are making changes, I have an idea. How about post game grades. I know its not very original but I think it will create a great deal of discussion here on the blog. Well just an idea.

    1. And, while we’re at it, either remove or update that poll periodically. It’s been stuck on the same question for years.

  6. Conner has had success against San Francisco in the past. In a 31-17 win over the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in 2021, Conner ran for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. He picked up another 77 yards and a touchdown on five receptions.

  7. I like the new format. Good writeup and good content. The stats around the Cardinals pressures was something I didn’t know. I might just call it Preview & Prediction. I would also put the prediction at the end of the post.

  8. I go to University High School in SF and we have exams next week so I must study..will depend on Jack for summaries and commentary. Good luck to our Niners!

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