The Arizona Cardinals are coming off of their first win last week against the Dallas Cowboys. In Week 3, Arizona ran into and over a Dallas team that was mistake-prone and unable to capitalize on scoring opportunities. The Cardinals were the opposite. They took advantage of scoring chances whenever they presented themselves. So much so, that on the final play of the first half, kicker Matt Prater drilled a 62-yard field goal. At the intermission, Arizona led 21-10, en route to a 28-16 final score. Now the question is can they beat San Francisco?
Fans in Arizona are downright giddy, if not a tad unrealistic. One win doesn’t decide a division, especially when Arizona plays three games in the NFC West on the road before October ends. Games against Cincinnati and Baltimore of the NFC North will prove to be big challenges as well.
For the Cardinals to steal one against division rival San Francisco, they will need to do three things. In no particular order, here are three ways Arizona beats the 49ers.
Three Things the Cardinals Need for A Win Against The 49ers
The Cardinals Defense Needs to Come Up Big Against the Niners
Defensive standouts, Kyzir White, Dennis Gardeck, and Kei’trel Clark need to be huge on Sunday. Week 4 in San Francisco will not be a walk in the park, but it will be 60 minutes of a tough battle. With quarterback Brock Purdy at the controls, the 49ers have put up 30 points in each of their first three games.
In wins against Pittsburgh (30-7), the Los Angeles Rams (30-23), and the New York Giants (30-12), San Francisco settled into a winning groove. They ran and passed the ball efficiently while their defense put the clamps down on both New York and Pittsburgh. Against their division rival in LA, the California teams played each other tough.
Without a doubt, the defense will need to play a huge game in San Francisco. Can they get lucky and have the Niners stumble when they typically do not? Perhaps, but it would be a Fool’s Paradise to count on it.
Cardinals Offense Needs a Repeat Performance
Cardinals quarterback Josh Dobbs was seen carrying the game ball late into the evening after their upset win against Dallas. It was a “feel good” moment after the journeyman QB finally got his first NFL win.
Dobbs’ numbers were not as gaudy as his counterpart, Dak Prescott. However, they were good enough as the Cardinals running game was firing on all cylinders with James Conner and Rondale Moore. Both Conner and Moore were one step quicker than the Cowboys’ defense and both kicked in a touchdown to aid in the Arizona win. Against the 49ers, Conner and Moore will need to be better, or at the very least, not take a step back.
On Sunday, look for the defensive spotlight to shine white-hot on Conner. He is the NFL leader in rushes over 20 yards and is fourth in total rushing yards with 266. A big game from him might be enough to keep the Cardinals close late in San Francisco.
Intangibles May Be the Biggest Key Against the Niners
Kicker Matt Prater was the NFL’s Special Team Player Of the Week for Week 3. It’s a well-deserved honor for a guy who knocked one stiff from 62 yards out. In a big game where the Cardinals are not favored to win, keeping it close for Arizona could give Prater a shot to win it late.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) September 27, 2023
Whether it’s close on the scoreboard or a big blowout like Denver in Miami, the Cardinals will take a win any way they can get it.
A phrase being kicked around this week by Arizona fans is “any given Sunday”. In the NFL, everything can look great on paper until you play the game. The Broncos thought they solved all their issues when they hired Sean Payton and paired him with Russell Wilson. Heading into Week 4 at Chicago, they are 0-3 and coming off a 70-20 beatdown courtesy of the Dolphins.
Denver was expected to be better in 2023 and Arizona worse, with the Cardinals locked in on the first overall pick if they played bad enough. Now, Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan thinks Arizona should be 3-0. After their performance against the Cowboys, the national media probably thinks so too.
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Main Photo Credit: Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK