Cardinals get different look at 49ers with Jimmy Garoppolo up for Week 9
Nov 5, 2021, 6:22 PM
TEMPE — The Arizona Cardinals got their first taste of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance in Week 5, manhandling the rookie on their way to a gritty 17-10 win.
Four weeks later, Arizona has another chance at tarnishing San Francisco’s slim playoff hopes.
This isn’t the same 49ers team the Cardinals saw at State Farm Stadium last month, however, with starter Jimmy Garoppolo back at the helm in Week 9.
The differences in playing styles are glaring. Lance brings an added run game opposing defenses account for, while Garoppolo tends to stay in the pocket and makes things happen through the air.
One thing is for sure: Garoppolo won’t be running the rock 16 times like Lance did in Week 5. He’ll look to beat the Cardinals with his arm.
In his all-time career against the Cardinals, Garoppolo is 4-3-1, completing 71% of his throws for 1,264 yards and 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions.
“Obviously it’s a small sample with Trey (Lance) so far in his career,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday. “Jimmy (Garoppolo) has won a bunch of games there. If you look at his winning-percentage it’s really, really good as a starting quarterback there. I think that’s the bottom-line in this league. He’s been a tremendous player for a long time and really played well [last week].”
Also joining the fray for the first time in three weeks is tight end George Kittle. The tight end was a notable absentee in the 49ers’ loss to the Cardinals after going down with a calf injury, but figures to take the field come Sunday.
But while Kittle is among the top tight ends across the NFL, his numbers against Arizona don’t necessarily stand out in a good way, reeling in 29 receptions for 417 yards and just one touchdown.
That doesn’t mean he hasn’t still been a factor in the divisional games.
“George is a phenomenal. He’s been playing at a high level since he came into the league,” tight end Zach Ertz said on Thursday. “Really in his second year, he took off. … He’s probably the best run-blocking tight end in the league. In that offense, that sets everything else up.
“What he’s able to do in the run game and then with Shanahan’s scheme off the play action, they’re a perfect match for their offense. … He’s not the best route runner but he knows how to get open. And when the ball’s in his hands, he’s always, always on the attack. … He doesn’t think anyone can tackle him 1-on-1.”
While the Cardinals will see two new faces in 2021, they’ll also have to contend with do-it-all fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who has garnered a ton of respect from Arizona’s defense.
It’s easy to see why, with the fullback an integral part in the offense running smoothly, whether it be as a blocker, a runner, a receiver, a tight end or even taking a snap lined up as a quarterback.
Through seven games, Juszczyk has caught 15 of his 18 targets for 146 yards and a touchdown. He’s ran the football seven times for 16 yards. The fullback was second on the team with three receptions for 35 yards in Week 5.
His worth goes far beyond the stats.
“He’s a guy that can play anywhere. … He’s No. 44 but he can play anywhere,” linebacker Chandler Jones said Friday. “He’s a guy you definitely have to keep your eyes on at all times. A lot of the time, wherever he is, the ball’s going.
“He’s a hell of a player. He’s the engine to that train that runs over in San Fran. Everything runs behind him and he’s the face of that offense for sure.”
The 49ers are well below the Cardinals in the standings, but coming off a bounce-back win over the Chicago Bears and with a confident Garoppolo under center, San Francisco isn’t a team to gloss over on the schedule.