Setting the Stage
The injury-plagued 5-9-0 Niners are out of the playoffs and just struggling to remain respectable. The 8-6-0 Caardinals have won their past 2 games and are knocking at the door of the playoff picture. Contest reflects the unorthodox way schedules unfold during COLVID-19 (State Farm Field in Glendale has become the three-week "home" to the Niners whose between-game regimen was limited by California's pandemic control measures).
Cards won their first meeting, 24-20, but bespite being left out of the playoff hunt, the Niners are a well-managed/well-coached team that the Cards cannot take lightly.
Most Recent Game
Dallas opened up a 14 - 0 first quarter lead and then answered every Niner scoring response with one of their own - after SF tied the score 17 - 7 early in the 3rd quarter, long rambles by Tony Pollard (40 yd run) and CeeDee Lamb (47 yd kickoff return) iced it for the Cowboys.
Dal 5:26 Tony Pollard 1 run (Greg Zuerlein Kick) Dall 7 - SF 0
Dal 8:21 Michael Gallup 3 pass from Andy Dalton (Greg Zuerlein Kick) Dall 14 - SF 0
SF 14:48 Jordan Reed 5 pass from Nick Mullens (Robbie Gould Kick) Dall 14 - SF 7
Dal 3:23 FG Greg Zuerlein 48 Dall 17- SF 7
SF 10:00 Brandon Aiyuk 2 pass from Nick Mullens (Robbie Gould Kick) Dall 17 - SF 14
SF 4:12 FG Robbie Gould 41 Dall 17 - SF 17
Dal 7:25 Dalton Schultz 12 pass from Andy Dalton (Greg Zuerlein Kick) Dall 24 - SF 17
SF 12:52 Jeffery Wilson 1 run (Robbie Gould Kick) Dall 24 - SF 24
Dal 4:52 FG Greg Zuerlein 46 Dall 27 - SF 24
Dal 12:33 Tony Pollard 40 run (Greg Zuerlein Kick) Dall 34 - SF 24
SF 14:20 FG Robbie Gould 31 Dall 34 - SF 27
Dal 14:26 CeeDee Lamb 47 kickoff return (Greg Zuerlein Kick) Dall 41 - SF 27
SF 15:00 Kendrick Bourne 49 pass from C.J. Beathard Dall 41 - SF 33
Niners Offensive Starters
QB ...03 Beathard...04 Mullens (inj)
RB....26 T Coleman...28 McKinnon...30 Wilson Jr...31 Mostert
WR... 19 Samuel...15 T Taylor..86 Cracraft
84 Bourne...11 Ayuk...13 James
TE...81 Reed...82 Dwelley
LT....71 T Williams
LG...75 Tomlinson...62 Bergstrom
OC...60 Brunskill...50 Grasu
Niners Defensive Starters
LDE...91 Armstead...96 Jordan
LDT...99 Kinlaw...90 Givens
RDT...xx Jones...95 Street
RDE...92 Hyder Jr...78 Willis
SAM..51 Al Shaair
MIKE...54 Warner...53 Nzeocha
WILL...57 Greenlaw....45 Flanigan-Fowles
LCB...25 Sherman...41 Mosely...23 Witherspoon
RLCB...22 Verrett...27 D Johnson
NB ..24 K Williams
FS....20 Ward...48 Nacua
SS....33 T Moore...36 Harris
When you scan the Niner depth chart, the things that immediately strike you - (1) very few guys who started the season still remain on the active roster and (2) position terminology has changed (i.e. LLB, MLB and RLB are now known as WILL, MIKE and SAM). Conclusion - the Niner roster has been shredded by injury, and they're operating mostly "on fumes."
01 Murray...15 Streveler...07 Hundley
41 Drake, 29 Edmonds...38 Ward
WR - 11 Fitzgerald...17 Isabella
WR - 13 Kirk....19 KS Johnson
WR - 10 Hopkins 16 Sherfield
TE - 87 M Williams (inj)...82 Arnold 81 Daniels
LT- ...74 Humphries...79 J Jones...66 Miles,
LG - 67 Pugh 73 Garcia
OC- 52 Cole
RG- 71 Murray...64 Sweezy.
RT - 68 Beechum
Defensive Interior Line
DT 94 Z Allen
NT - 90 Peko, 92 Lawrence
DT - 92 Blackson...95 Fotu
OLB - 43 Reddick...49 Fitts
ILB - ..59 Campbell 48 Simmons 47 Z Turner
ILB - 58 Hicks 51 Vallejo
OLB - 44 Golden...42 Kennard... 45 Gardeck
CB - 21 P Peterson...27 K Peterson
CB - 20 Kirkpatrick 33 Murphy Jr
S - 34 J Thompson....35 D Thompson...28 C Washington
S - 32 Baker... 38 Banjo ... 40 Tillman*
Matchup: Niner Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Niners ae missing starters at all levels of offense - in addition to IR guys all up and down the OL, SF is down to Beathard at QB and will be missing Cardinal killers Mostert and Kittle at RB and TE respectively. Niners are finally fairly healthy at WR (Ayuk and Samuel) but you have to question whether Beathard can do much more than manage the offense. (If I'm the Cardinals, though, I don't think we can assume anything
Key Matchups - Ayuk vs. P Peterson. Samuel vs. Kirkpatrick....Cardinal linebackers vs. Niner RBs. PP21 vs. Bourne.
Matchup: Niner Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Mostert is out. (Yay!) But Coleman and Wilson Jr aren't (Boo!). Jusczyk (at FB) always finds 2 or 3 ways to stab you in the heart. Niner OL is comprised mainly of backups called into action when the front-liners were injured. Can't take anything for granted, but the offensive line could be a point of vulnerability both in pass pro and run blocking.
Key Matchups - Coleman and Wilson vs. Hicks and Golden
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Niner Pass Defense
For every way Murray finds a way to beat you, he'll shoot himself in the foot nearly as often. You never know what you're going to get. The presence of Hopkins is probably good for 2 extra TDs a game that figures to give the Cards a significant edge.
As beaten up the Niner offense appears to be, their defense from top to bottom is a factor to be reckoned with.
Cardinal pass blockers will have all they can handle in the Niner DL - Armstead Kinlaw and Jordan. Cards usually line up Hopkins, Fitz and Kirk at starting LBs, but Fitz is banged up a bit. Sherman is a leader of the SF defense, but we suspect he gets by more on so-called intangibles than on pure talent (as in ?Patrick Peterson)
Hopkins vs. Sherman...Fitz vs. Mosely...Kirk vs, Verrett...Humphries vs. Armstead...Beechum vs. Kinlaw...Cardinal OL vs Niner DL.
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Niners Run Defense
Edmonds is nicked up, and Drake is inconsistent after contact. Expect KK to run the ball enough to keep the SF defense honest, but the success-ratio remains a bit iffy.
Warner leads the Niner LBs and anchors the SF run defense.
Drake vs. Warner. Cardinals OL vs. Niner Front 7.
Niner Special Teams
K ..09 Gould..
P ..... 06 Wishnowsky
H 06 Wishnowsky
LS xx Nelson
KR .13 James Jr
PR 13 James Jr
Cardinals Special Teams
P - ...02 Lee
K- ....xx Nugent
H - ...02 Lee
LS - 46 Brewer
KR - 29 Edmonds
PR - 17 Isabella
Matchup Niner Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Nugent is more consistently accurate than Gonzalez was, but lacks the leg-strength. Gould is old-reliable. Lee has been better than consistent. Don't know much about Wishnowsky. James has breakaway talent. Edmonds and Isabella are OK but (thus far) not factors to be too concerned with. On coverage teams - Gardeck is a beast. Z Turner blocked a punt and caught a (fake kick) pass.
Cards are beginning to turn coverage teams into a net-plus. .
Coaching / Intangibles
HC/OC Kyle Shanahan...OC Pete Carmichael. DC Robert Saleh...ST: Richard Hightower. A well-coached FB team having to contend with an injury jinx that would cause tougher men to weep. Regardless of which stalwarts go down, the Niners front office and coaching staff continue to find replacements who, at the very minimum, make the Niners respectable if not consistent winners.
How to Beat Niners
On defense, force Niners to play conservatively and then take the run-game away from them. On offense, play smart...avoid going for the "cheap win." Win with talent-advantage and technique.