The 49ers offense has been the focus of much of our discussion this week in part because that's the unit that needs to show the most improvement if the 49ers are going to make any sort of extended run in January. However, as long as the 49ers offense continues its development, the defense will remain an essential part of this team's identity.
The 49ers pass rush has been fairly solid this year, tied for tenth in sacks. Football Outsiders ranks the 49ers 16th in Adjusted Sack Rate, which looks at sacks plus intentional grounding penalties per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance and opponent. On the other side of the coin, the Arizona Cardinals have given up the second most sacks in the NFL (31) and rank dead last in adjusted sack rate for their offensive line.
The Cardinals are heading into this game with their starting right tackle, Brandon Keith, banged up with a knee injury. Levi Brown has been fairly abysmal this season. With that in mind, it opens up the door for Ahmad Brooks and Parys Haralson to get some pressure early on, and opens the door Aldon Smith to get back into the sack action on 3rd and long. Aldon has been fairly quiet recently, but we know what he can do when given the opportunity.
If the Cardinals cannot get the rush game going with a banged up Beanie Wells, it could provide a great opportunity for a breakthrough by the pass rush. The 49ers have had a pair of five sack games and also a four sack game. The 49ers don't necessarily need the huge sack numbers to have had a successful night in the pass rush, but it's still nice to get some of those numbers.