ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals vs. 49ers thoughts

Sep 19, 2014, 6:05 PM | Updated: 6:06 pm

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OFFENSIVE THOUGHTS:

This one could get ugly. The meat grinder is where this game is going to be decided on both sides of the ball, that violent area of the box where blood and dirt become part of the uniform and line mouth guards. The team that blocks and tackles and executes the fundamentals of the game the best will be victorious this Sunday.

The Cards need to challenge the decided strength of the 49ers and forget about the hype. This is not the same front 7 the 49ers have deployed the last three years. Losing NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith has diminished the considerable talent of San Francisco’s legendary box. An elite front 7 has morphed into a good front 7. The Cards must run the ball right at the 49ers and force them to prove their brutality is intact and their reputation for being the most physical front 7 in the league is more fact than fiction.

The Cowboys pushed the 49ers around and controlled the LOS…it was shocking to watch DemMarco Murray run the ball with authority against a team that treated running backs like third world dictators. Murray rushed for 118 yards and averaged over five yards per carry. It was the first time the 49ers allowed a 100-yard rusher in the last 17 games. Dallas continued to pound the interior of the LOS with three plays: the tackle zone, the inside zone and 22 and 23 double. The inside zone and 22/23 double are power plays that are designed to run the ball in a north-south way, removing the line of scrimmage, playing on the defense’s side of the ball. The Cards will try to do the same.

The Bears fared much worse than the Cowboys. Chicago never tried to establish their rushing attack in the game. Jay Cutler and Mark Trestman assumed they couldn’t run the ball and came out throwing. Matt Forte only carried the ball 13 times and although he averaged under 2 yards a carry, the Bears seemed to raise the white flag instead of challenge San Francisco the way Dallas did. This was and is a mistake…and Bruce Arians will look more at what Dallas did and less of what Chicago didn’t do.

Run the ball!

Attack the 49ers corners with double moves, especially off play action. Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox are average corners and their need and desire to make plays has forced them to take chances, chances their pedestrian talents can’t deliver. Jimmie Ward, the 49ers first-round pick, is the 49ers nickel corner and had a tough time covering the bigger, stronger Brandon Marshall. I could easily see the Cardinals moving Michael Floyd into the slot and trying to get a mismatch on the slight Jimmie Ward.

I think 11-personnel will be the dominant personnel grouping on Sunday. 11-personnel: 1-back, 1-TE and 3 Wide receivers. This will put San Francisco in their nickel package, where Jimmie Ward replaces a linebacker and becomes the #3 corner. The Cardinals can run all three plays the Cowboys bludgeoned the Niners with from 11 personnel and move Michael Floyd can line up in the slot…potentially drawing Jimmie Ward.

DEFENSIVE THOUGHTS:

Don’t let Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde beat you. The San Francisco 49ers laugh in the face of great rush defenses and the Cardinals are tracking once again to be a great rush defense. Steve Keim and company have done a remarkable job of fielding a patchwork front 7 and Todd Bowles is coordinating rush defense magic after two games.

The Cards defense is number 3 in rushing yards per game allowed and number 2 in average yards per carry allowed. These numbers are staggering and belie the loss of Karlos Dansby, Daryl Washington and Darnell Dockett. But make no mistake about it…the 49ers are going to test the numbers the Cards are posting and they will test the veracity of Tommy Kelly, Kevin Minter and Larry Foote.

San Francisco is in the top third of the league in rushing attempts per game. Although this is no surprise, it is a surprise that they’re right in the middle of the pack in regard to rushing yards per play. The 49ers are looking for their offensive identity and are currently caught between being the running team they always have been and trying to become more dependent on Colin Kaepernick. But on Sunday, the 49ers will attempt to pound the ball, especially coming off the three-interception and four-turnover day of Colin Kaepernick.

I think Todd Bowles will load up the box and try to stop Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde from taking this game over. He has to do this. The surest way to get the 49ers offense going and to give up points is to let them run the ball effectively enough where play-action becomes a viable option for Kaepernick. The 49ers entire offense is predicated on rushing the football and using the power of play-action to Kaepernick’s advantage.

And this is why in run down situations I believe you will see a stacked box and three deep zones being played behind it. Because…

The Cards have to make Colin Kaepernick beat them. Although this very well could be the case with Kaepernick since he is capable of playing extremely well, he remains the biggest question mark on the 49ers offense. So how do you make Kaepernick beat you?

Play more zone than man coverage. Kaepernick excels at getting out of the pocket and using his legs to move the chains. A steady diet of man coverage, where the defender is looking at the receiver he is covering and not the QB, is a recipe for disaster when facing the 49ers. Todd Bowles will want his defenders’ eyes on Kaepernick, not only because of his ability to run the ball but also because Kaep has a tendency to lock onto receivers and stare them down. Zone defenders can feel the receiver’s route while looking at Kaepernick. This is what the Bears did and they generated three interceptions.

And the best news is a three deep zone can be played from a loaded box. Expect to see a lot of variations of Cover 3, rolling the corner up in cloud cover, buzzing the safety down from the secondary, getting the OLB to the flat, rolling coverage weak or strong, trying to keep Kaepernick guessing while always keeping their eyes on the 49ers Q.

Don’t let Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde beat you…force Colin Kaepernick to beat you. Again…although Kaep may very well do this, I think you have to make him prove it. Letting the 49ers run the ball and opening up their play-action game makes it easier for Kaep to prove he can beat you.

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