Updated Oct 26, 2012 - 4:17 pm
Cardinals vs. 49ers: The matchup
CARDINALS VS 49ERS
|Points per game||17.7||23.6|
|Passing yards per game||204.1||199.9|
|Rushing yards per game||89.3||176.6|
|Total yards per game||293.4||376.4|
|Passing yards per game against||191.3||173.4|
|Rushing yards per game against||120.9||98.9|
|Total yards per game against||312.1||272.37|
When Cardinals have the ball:
Bad things usually happen.
We kid. Sort of.
The Cardinals have had their issues with San Francisco's defense, and will likely try to establish the run again with LaRod Stephens-Howling. 'Hyphen' had a career day last week against the Minnesota Vikings, rushing for 104 yards and a touchdown. He also caught four passes for 45 yards, and presents a dynamic option out of the backfield for Arizona.
After (and maybe before) Stephens-Howling, Arizona's best offensive weapon is receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals have been unable to consistently get him the ball, though the Niners do not exactly have stud corners to throw his way. Carlos Rogers (20 tackles, 0 interceptions) and Tarell Brown (27 tackles, 0 interceptions) have the size, but if Cardinals QB John Skelton has enough time he should be able to find Fitz down the field.
Besides Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts (29 receptions, 389 yards, 5 TD) has emerged as a consistent threat, and tight end Rob Housler has come on strong the last three games, tallying 10 receptions for 111 yards. He has yet to reach the end zone, but he has been getting open and may be key for the Cardinals if they want to move the ball Monday night.
But really, it all comes down to how the offensive line protects -- if the offensive line protects.
Cardinals quarterbacks have been sacked 35 times on the season, and thought he 49ers have struggled to get after passers this season, tallying just 11 sacks. However, Aldon Smith (5.5 sacks) and Ahmad Brooks (3.0 sacks) can wreak some havoc, and it would be unwise to sleep on Patrick Willis, even though he has not recorded a sack this season.
When the 49ers have the ball:
The 49ers gained a reputation last season for being a smashmouth type of football team. They'd run the ball down your throats and only pass when necessary.
Not much has changed, really.
The offense is still centered around running back Frank Gore, who has run for 601 yards and four touchdowns this season. His average of 5.8 yards per carry is the best mark of his career. He has not topped the 100-yard mark against the Cardinals since 2009, though, so the visitors may have to take a different approach Monday night.
That would, in turn, put the ball in quarterback Alex Smith's hands. The former number one pick is completing nearly 67 percent of his passes and is averaging 7.5 yards per attempt on the year. He's thrown nine touchdowns against just five interceptions. However, he's averaging just a shade under 190 yards per game, as the 49ers would very much prefer to limit his attempts. What's funny about that is the team actually has some excellent weapons in the receiving game.
Tight end Vernon Davis, quite simply, is a mismatch for everyone. At 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds with excellent speed, Davis can really break a defense down. He's caught 23 passes for 340 yards and four touchdowns this season, though he was held without a catch last week against Seattle, which ended a streak of games-with-a-reception at 58.
Helping Davis in the passing game are receivers Michael Crabtree (34 receptions, 368 yards, 1 TD), Mario Manningham (24 receptions, 258 yards, 1 TD), Randy Moss (12 receptions, 188 yards, 1 TD) and Kyle Williams (nine receptions, 124 yards, 1 TD). Gore also gets in on the act in the receiving game.
One other wrinkle the 49ers have unveiled is quarterback Colin Kaepernick as part of a "Wildcat" look. More adept at running than passing, Kaepernick has scored twice this season and is averaging 8.5 yards per carry.
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