CARDINALS (3-4) VS. 49ERS (0-8)
SUNDAY, 4:05 P.M. ET, LEVI’S STADIUM, SANTA CLARA, CALIF. uTV: FOX, DIRECTV 712
Announcers: Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin
About the Cardinals: They struggled to hold off the hapless Niners in a home game five weeks ago, and now the Cardinals will try to do it without QB Carson Palmer. Working in the Cardinals’ favor is the fact that they were able to use the bye week to re-adjust to Palmer’s longtime backup, Drew Stanton. The shutout loss to the Rams before the bye week served as another low point for the Cardinals, and then came the news that Palmer was expected to miss at least eight weeks because of a broken left arm. Can Arizona recover? The easy answer is that if the Cardinals can’t beat San Francisco this week, it’ll be curtains for the 2017 season. Arizona’s offseason moves to add veteran talent, along with the recent trade to acquire aging RB Adrian
Peterson, signaled a now-or-never approach for the franchise. About the 49ers: Having stumbled to the first 0-8 start in franchise history, they have all the incentive in the world to keep losing this season. But as poorly as the 49ers have played, particularly in back-to-back losses by an aggregate score of 73-20, there is reason to believe this might be the week San Francisco gets in the win column. The 49ers already gave the Cardinals quite a test in Arizona, and now they’re playing an offense that doesn’t have Palmer. To get it done, San Francisco is going to have to get a lot more out of the quarterback position. Rookie C.J. Beathard hasn’t been the answer but maybe newly acquired Jimmy Garoppolo is. The possibility of being without
WR Pierre Garcon (neck) this week could add to the issues.
Matchup to watch: Cardinals S Tyrann
Mathieu vs. Beathard. San Francisco’s rookie quarterback struggled in the Week 8 loss to Philadelphia, and Mathieu was all over the field in the 49ers’ 18-15 loss to Arizona in Week 4. Mathieu had 12 tackles and a sack in the game, and he’s the most dangerous player on the Cardinals’ defense. Beathard will need to be aware of Mathieu’s whereabouts whenever he drops back to throw the ball.
Player to watch: Peterson. The Cardinals had no ground game in the first meeting between these two teams, and the addition of the veteran running back has given Arizona a spark. The loss of Palmer makes Peterson an even more important piece of the offense.
Number crunching: 6. Sacks by the 49ers in the first meeting with the Cardinals this season. Veteran LB Elvis Dumervil had two sacks as the 49ers harassed Palmer all afternoon. KEYS TO THE GAME 1. The man behind center: Arizona’s offense has struggled in recent years when Palmer hasn’t played, and the Cardinals have done little to improve their backup situation. The shutout loss to L.A. in London served as a frustrating reminder as Stanton couldn’t get anything going. 2. Keep the score low: It’s not a typical game plan for offense-oriented coach Bruce Arians, but Arizona might have to win this one with defense — again — considering who’s playing quarterback.
3. No big plays: San Francisco’s defense had some success in the first meeting by staying behind the dangerous Arizona receivers. The Cardinals had 357 passing yards in that game but couldn’t get into the end zone until the extra session. 4. Get the ground game going: Partly because of some big early deficits, the 49ers haven’t been able to run the ball in recent weeks. Beathard’s 40 rushing yards were the most on the team last week.
JOE CAMPOREALE, USA TODAY SPORTS Cardinals’ Tyrann Mathieu