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49ers vs. Cardinals: 3 things to watch for San Francisco in Week 8

Oct 28, 2018 at 9:20 AM


The San Francisco 49ers look to avenge an ugly, turnover-prone loss to the Arizona Cardinals earlier this season when both teams face off again on Oct. 28. For the Niners, chances for a win fall upon these three elements.


The San Francisco 49ers should have beat the Arizona Cardinals back in Week 5. Instead, five turnovers ultimately led to the Niners' 28-18 loss to the previously winless Cardinals at Levi's Stadium. And outside that ugly number, which has been a problem for San Francisco all year, head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad absolutely dominated a rebuilding Arizona group.

At 1-6, both teams are bad, sure. But the 49ers offense has come nowhere close to experiencing the same kinds of problems as the Cardinals, who fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy earlier this year.

Arizona's scoring offense ranks 31st in the NFL, while its offense has garnered just 1,545 all-purpose yards -- dead last in the league.

While there will always be an argument that one-win teams this deep in the season should tank for a better NFL Draft pick, the Niners losing this game and continuing a losing streak to the Cardinals that dates back to 2014 would be a major embarrassment.

So if San Francisco wants to pick up win No. 2 on the year, it will have to focus on the following three elements Sunday.

Playing Turnover-Free Football


The 49ers defense doesn't force turnovers, boasting just three takeaways on the year. It's not likely this will change anytime soon.

But when paired with the also-troubling stat of 18 turnovers lost, the minus-15 turnover differential is easily the worst in the league.

Quarterback C.J. Beathard was pegged with four of those five turnovers (two interceptions and two fumbles) when these two teams last met back in Week 5. Over four starts in 2018, Beathard has tossed seven interceptions and has fumbled five times. Not all of the picks are squarely on Beathard's shoulders. But it's pretty clear ball security has been problematic for both Beathard and the Niners offense.

Nearly half of the 12 turnovers Arizona's defense has forced this season came during that Week 5 contest.

If Beathard and the offense can maintain control of the ball, the 49ers should have little trouble securing win No. 2 on the season.

The Effectiveness of Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert


One of the best ways to prevent Beathard from tossing unnecessary interceptions will be to establish a solid running game early and use it often. After all, no other team has given up more rush yards than the Cardinals this season (1,038).

No. 1 running back Matt Breida (ankle) is officially listed as questionable for the event. But according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Breida is expected to play but will be on a proverbial "pitch count."


Breida is still leading all rushers across the league with 6.5 yards per carry. But Shanahan limiting the number of carries opens the door up for backup running back Raheem Mostert, who has essentially taken over the No. 2 duties from the veteran, Alfred Morris.

Mostert has rushed for a combined 146 yards the past two games and has averaged well over seven yards per carry each contest. Look for him to be a key X-factor in Arizona as well.

Avoiding Missed Tackles on David Johnson


Cardinals running back David Johnson is one of the few offensive weapons head coach Steve Wilks has at his disposal. And as a likely result of Arizona's offensive woes, Johnson is averaging 3.2 yards per carry this season.

Still, he's a significant threat and managed two touchdowns against San Francisco back in Week 5.

Johnson's ever-present potency and the Niners' issues with tackling this season could be an issue. Two of the players primarily responsible for limiting Johnson, linebackers Reuben Foster and Fred Warner, have been the 49ers' biggest culprits in missed tackles in 2018. Foster, who has notably regressed since his standout rookie year, leads the team with 12 missed tackles, per Pro Football Focus. Warner isn't far behind with eight.

Despite Johnson's apparent down year, he's averaging 2.63 yards after first contact, per PFF -- a career high so far.

Needless to say, Foster and Warner effectively bringing down Johnson at the soonest opportunity will be a necessity for San Francisco's defense.

The 49ers and Cardinals kick off on Sunday, Oct. 28 at 4:25 p.m. ET from University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.
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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