The 49ers won a tight but ugly game in the MNF season opener; a game in which the offense struggled up until the final drive. Nate Clements and Walt Harris were money that night taking care of the Cardinals explosive wide receivers. The defense will need to shut down the Cardinals passing game if the offense wants to have any chance of sticking in this game. Considering it's been some time since the 49ers scored a touchdown, the defense will have to bring their A-game. So let's take a look at what Scouts, Inc. has to say about the game:
They have tried a lot of different things to get it going, but nothing has worked very well. Last week the 49ers could not run the ball well at all early. Frank Gore had 15 carries for 32 yards, so they just abandoned it. At the end of the day QB Trent Dilfer threw the ball 42 times in a four-point loss. While we think that Gore still needs to be somewhat part of the offense, it is not hard to argue with their theory last week. Too often the 49ers have come out this season and run on first and second down putting their QB in poor third-and-long situations.
The 49ers have to have success this week on early downs. If they get themselves in definite passing situations it will allow the Cardinals' defense to pin their ears back and bring pressure on early downs. The 49ers also need to get their screen game going this week. Gore can be effective in the passing game and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield can help neutralize the speed of Arizona's front seven. The 49ers also should look to attack vertically in this game because, at times, the Cardinals will leave their corners on an island. And even though the 49ers do not have much of a vertical passing attack, stretching the field should open up the run game for Gore.
San Francisco QB Trent Dilfer vs. the Arizona Cardinals' zone-blitz package
Dilfer was back in the starting lineup again last week after QB Alex Smith admitted that his shoulder was not completely healed from an injury he sustained earlier in the season. The 49ers, who have struggled to do anything offensively, basically abandoned their running game last week as Dilfer went to the air 42 times in a four-point loss at home to the Rams. The 49ers better be careful with that strategy this week versus an opportunistic Arizona defense that relies on zone-blitz pressure to force the QB into errant throws.
Arizona defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is one of the best in the NFL at his craft. He will use three, four and maybe even an occasional five-man line to confuse Dilfer. The Cardinals will not show pressure and then bring it or show pressure and back off. If Dilfer is not solid mentally during this game in checking off or finding his hot reads, he is going to get hit early and often and turn the football over in this football game.
If I'm any team the rest of the way out, I'm overloading the box and blitzing like crazy. The offensive line can't stop the blitz and Trent Dilfer is obviously not fast enough in getting rid of the ball. Seems like a simple game plan for the Cardinals. Let's hope things change a little bit this weekend. Don't hold your breath.