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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports


49ers vs Cardinals: Five Keys to Victory and Score Prediction

Matt Andruscavage
Nov 16, 2019 at 2:53 PM1



It's a short week following the 49ers' 27-24 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks and now San Francisco has to brush the loss off and prepare for its third straight divisional matchup, this time against the scrappy Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals enter the game at 3-6-1, but anyone who has watched them a few times this season realizes they are better than their record and a team not to be taken lightly.

The 49ers are somewhat limping into this game after suffering a barrage of injuries that began against this same Cardinals squad. Joe Staley returned on Monday night, but suffered a fractured and dislocated finger that required surgery. He will miss a couple of games. Matt Breida re-aggravated his ankle injury and will likely miss the game. Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair has been ruled out as he has not cleared the concussion protocol. Defensive lineman D.J. Jones has a groin injury that will sideline him this week. Robbie Gould is still listed as doubtful with his quad injury and will likely sit this one out as well. The good news is, Al-Shaair, Jones, and Breida should all return against Green Bay. Gould may also be ready by then.

George Kittle injured his knee and ankle against Arizona and is doubtful, but is improving each week. He says he feels "excellent", but he will be a game-time decision. Emmanuel Sanders is fighting through a rib cartilage issue, but is intending on playing. Barring any setbacks, both Sanders and Kittle should be in much better shape for the key conference matchup next week against Green Bay.

In a bit of good news, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon appears to be on track to return to the secondary. He has been out since Week 3, when he suffered a stress fracture in his foot. Raheem Mostert is listed as questionable with a knee injury but will likely play. If he doesn't, Matt Breida will be active.

For the Cardinals, running back Chase Edmunds and defensive end Jonathan Ballard are out. Starting offensive tackle Justin Murray is still questionable and may miss the game. Also questionable are defensive tackle Zach Kerr, linebacker Terrell Suggs, and cornerback Tramaine Brock. Running back David Johnson is back and will be paired with Kenyan Drake, who gashed the 49ers in their last meeting.

Here are five keys to winning this game for the 49ers:

Where and When: Sunday November 17th at 1:05 PM PST at Levi's Stadium

1) Don't Let the Cardinals Have Continued Success on the Ground



Kenyan Drake hurt the 49ers with his surprising debut in a Cardinals uniform as he ran for 110 yards on 15 carries and scored the game's first touchdown. Kyler Murray is also dangerous when he runs, but for the 49ers to not have a serious problem on their hands, they need to limit the ground game and force Kyler Murray to throw the ball. If the Cardinals control the clock and the tempo the way they did a few weeks ago, this will be another difficult matchup.

2) Catch the Ball!



It's no secret as to how much the 49ers' receivers hurt the team on Monday night. There were nine drops and 108 yards that were left on the table. With Kittle and Sanders not fully back, the receivers have to step up and have a better game. Deebo Samuel is the most promising target, but even he has a 9.8% drop rate. Hopefully Sanders plays as that will open things up for this young group and we all remember how well he played against Patrick Peterson.

Jimmy Garoppolo hasn't been perfect, but there have been a lot of really good passes that have been dropped not only on Monday, but all season. If the 49ers can get some big plays from Kendrick Bourne (who has been good overall, just inconsistent), Dante Pettis, and Marquise Goodwin, that will greatly improve the 49ers' chances in this game.

It should also be noted that maybe it's time for Richie James Jr. to get more opportunities. Regardless of who is running routes, if the ball is there, the receiver needs to come down with it.

3) Do Not Allow the Big Play



Obviously, this goes without saying and could be a key every week, but against Arizona, it's a simpler key than against other teams. If the 49ers had stopped the few big plays in their last matchup, it would not have been a game, especially at the end. They need to keep the game in front of them and be patient. Kyler Murray thrives off big plays and breakdowns in coverage. It will be important to limit the ground game, but get enough pressure on Murray and force him into making errant throws.

4) Get Back to the Ground Game



The 49ers' strength on offense has been the success of the running game and it will be necessary to get it going again. The Cardinals should be vulnerable as they are 24th against the run, giving up 126 yards per game. Tevin Coleman and either Raheem Mostert or Matt Breida need to have a better game on the ground to chew up clock, tire the Cardinals out, and take the pressure off of Garoppolo.

5) Protect Jimmy Garoppolo and Pick Apart the Cardinals



The Cardinals enter the game as the 31st ranked defense, giving up 412.5 yards per game. There is no excuse for not having a good game offensively, but the protection will need to be there. Mike McGlinchey and Joe Staley got pushed around last week against Jadaveon Clowney, but the entire offensive line must rebound against the Cardinals. Staley will be out and Justin Skule will take his place, where he has fared pretty well.

The line has to take it upon itself to open running lanes, pass protect and simply take over the line of scrimmage to allow Garoppolo to pick apart this defense. If the line has a good game, expect the 49ers to look much better than they have the last two weeks.

Prediction



The sky is not falling. Despite a lot of things, the 49ers were still in position to win against Seattle, but the backup rookie kicker missed a difficult field goal. Jimmy Garoppolo is still a good quarterback and has made a lot of terrific throws, especially on third down. The team knows it needs to win this game and we should expect to see a better result than on Monday Night Football. The ground game will be better and the defense will rebound, not allowing Kyler Murray to make this a game.

49ers 34, Cardinals 16
The views 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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