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Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Will the 49ers face unexpected issues for the second week in a row with the Cardinals?

Rohan Chakravarthi
Jan 6, 2023 at 2:30 PM--

Last weekend, the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Las Vegas Raiders 37-34 in a thrilling, overtime bout, improving their winning streak to nine games.

However, it came in a much closer fashion than anticipated, as the Raiders had struggled for significant portions of the year and were down to their second-string quarterback, while missing key defenders Chandler Jones and Denzel Perryman as well.

In the 49ers' final regular season game against the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday, which holds significant playoff implications for seeding, San Francisco is currently a 14-point favorite.

However, similar to how the Raiders posed a challenge last week, should the 49ers be concerned with their matchup against the Cardinals this weekend?

What went wrong against the Raiders

Going into last weekend's matchup, the 49ers were ten point favorites over the Raiders, but the final outcome was just a three point deficit.

So, what went wrong?

Offensively, it came down to execution.

Quarterback Brock Purdy missed open receivers, either overlooking the read or making poor throws.

While Purdy continued to make plays with his legs that provided beneficial for the 49ers, the mistakes left several opportunities on the board.

Defensively, the 49ers got to quarterback Jarret Stidham, recording 26 pressures, but struggled to finish, as they ended with zero sacks.

Additionally, the secondary consistently allowed explosive plays, which hadn't been a theme all season up until the previous two weeks.

Matchup vs Cardinals

Offensively, on paper, the 49ers have the clear advantage with their set of skill-position players, especially with Deebo Samuel expected to return.

In the running game, they've rushed for 4.7 yards per carry, which ranks 10th in the NFL, while the Cardinals have given up 4.5 yards per carry, ranking 19th in the NFL.

Moreover, the 49ers have been hot on the ground recently, rushing for 5.7 yards per carry over their past three games, which ranks only behind the Buffalo Bills, while the Cardinals have improved during that stretch, allowing just 4.2 yards per carry.

In terms of yards per play, the 49ers have been efficient all season, especially over the second half of the year, averaging 6.0 yards per play, ranking fourth in the NFL, while the Cardinals allow 5.5 yards per play, ranking 18th in the NFL.

Once again, both teams have done well as of late, with the 49ers' 6.9 yards-per-play average ranking second in the NFL over the past three games, while the Cardinals have allowed just 4.9 yards per play defensively in that same stretch.

Offensively, the Cardinals have done a good job of keeping the quarterback clean, allowing a sack rate of 6.3%, ranking 12th in the NFL, which has significantly improved over the pas three weeks to 4.7%, despite the loss of Kyler Murray.

For the 49ers to keep their distance in this game, it's clear what their directive should be.

Offensively, they should implement a similar approach to last week, heavily involving the run to wear down Arizona's defense, while scheming up downfield throws for Brock Purdy that attack all three levels of the field.

While Purdy has made his fair share of mistakes, he's been good with improving on them, which has sometimes occurred within the same game.

Defensively, the 49ers need to get pressure and finish in the backfield.

Arizona has done good in keeping their quarterback clean this season, be it due to their elusiveness or the quick-game element of their offensive attack.

When the opportunity presents, the defensive line needs to help out the secondary by finishing, rather than allowing for extended plays that lead to coverage busts.

Additionally, the 49ers must limit explosive plays in the air. That was a huge issue against the Raiders and Commanders, which exposed flaws in the backend of the defense.

Now, the Cardinals possess a different personnel.

They will be on their fourth starting quarterback of the year in David Blough, while missing top wideout DeAndre Hopkins, meaning that the passing game should take a hit, which could benefit the 49ers in getting back on track in regards to their secondary.

However, it's clear that, even with the several different playoff scenarios, Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers are solely focused on the Cardinals this week, with defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans understanding the importance of improved play on his end as well.

All of these factors should set up for an intriguing final week of the regular season, where the 49ers will figure out their playoff seeding and who their first-round matchup will be, if they even have one.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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