The undefeated San Francisco 49ers found another way to impress us all on Sunday. Kyle Shanahan and his team dominated Carolina in all three phases of the game, holding the Panthers to just 13 points while scoring seven touchdowns and dropping 51, the most of the Shanahan era. Now the 49ers face another challenge - a short week. They face off against the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday, and while San Francisco is clearly the better team, the 49ers have found a way to lose to their division foes the last eight times they’ve met. Will 2019 be different?
Here are five players (or coaches) to watch in the 49ers’ Week 9 matchup:
DC Robert Saleh
The 49ers defense is elite, and Saleh deserves a lot of the credit. The team’s defensive coordinator finally has his squad performing at a high level now that all the pieces are in place. Thursday’s contest against the Cardinals presents a unique challenge for Saleh and the 49ers defense. Arizona’s offense as a whole doesn’t pose nearly the threat of San Francisco’s previous opponents like the Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Carolina Panthers - all top 16 units in the NFL. The Cardinals are 29th. On the other hand, rookie quarterback Kyler Murray possesses a unique blend of throwing ability and athleticism that the 49ers must account for.
DL Nick Bosa
No surprises here. It’s impossible not to include Bosa after his performance on Sunday. The rookie totaled four tackles, three sacks, three tackles for loss, and three quarterback hits on Sunday. Bosa also added an unreal interception in which he shed the tackles’ chop block before immediately leaping up and snagging Allen’s pass out of the air, returning it 46 yards. It was one of those plays that put the entire NFL on notice. Bosa’s not just the best rookie in the draft. He’s among the league’s elite. Can he keep this up against a vulnerable Cardinals offensive front?
WR Emmanuel Sanders
Sunday’s debut was just a preview. Sanders caught four passes on five targets for 25 yards in his first game with the 49ers, including the team’s first of seven touchdowns on the day. The veteran wideout has already established himself as a reliable target for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the pair connecting on multiple third-down completions to move the chains. The Cardinals own one of the worst defenses in the NFL, which should give Garoppolo and Sanders a chance to build further chemistry. Cornerback Patrick Peterson may have something to say about that, snagging his first interception last week against the New Orleans Saints.
CB Emmanuel Moseley
The former undrafted free agent authored his best game as a starter on Sunday. Moseley totaled two tackles, one pass breakup, a tackle for loss, and an impressive interception in which he read the route concept perfectly and stepped in front of Kyle Allen’s pass intended for Curtis Samuel. Moseley will be tested again on Thursday against an underrated yet under-performing Cardinals receiving corps of Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. Both veteran and speedster present challenges for both Moseley and veteran cornerback Richard Sherman.
RB Tevin Coleman
If Nick Bosa was MVP 1A against the Panthers, Coleman was 1B. The 49ers running back ran wild on Sunday, carrying the ball 11 times for 105 yards and three touchdowns, one going for 48 yards. He averaged a ridiculous 9.5 yards per carry. Coleman also added a 10-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Garoppolo. Matt Breida (ankle), Raheem Mostert (quad), and Jeff Wilson (stinger) are all question marks heading into Thursday’s game against the Cardinals, leaving Coleman as the likely lead back in line for another big game against the Cardinals.