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Mexico City’s elevation will be a big factor against the Cardinals

Will the 49ers be able to use it to their advantage?

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As we saw in the Week 1 monsoon in Chicago, weather can be a great equalizer in football games. This week in Mexico City, the 49ers and Cardinals are going to play at more than 7,200 feet above sea level. That is a huge deal, and the team that uses the thin air to its advantage is going to win the game on Monday night.

First, the science of the whole operation. As altitude increases, the amount of gas molecules in the air decreases, reducing oxygen and pressure. In order to properly oxygenate the body, your breathing rate (even while at rest) has to increase. This extra ventilation increases the oxygen content in the blood, but not to sea level concentrations. Since the amount of oxygen required for activity is the same, the body must adjust to having less oxygen.

The 49ers are trying to acclimate themselves to that situation by practicing at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs this week. The Cardinals aren’t traveling anywhere special to practice, and that could be a factor late in this game.

“It could end up being that, by the fourth quarter, defensive lines can’t do a single thing because they’re so exhausted,” Levin Black said on today’s Gold Standard podcast. “Defensive line depth is going to be massive in this game because of the elevation, making it so hard to get oxygen. You’re going to see people constantly on TV getting oxygen on the sideline.

So this is going to be a very high-scoring fourth quarter. Don’t think the game is put away if the Niners or the Cards are leading by two scores. It’s not over. The defenses are going to be gassed by the fourth quarter.”

Converting on third downs could have even more significance for the 49ers than usual on Monday Night. Every additional conversion not only only extends the drive but also the amount of time Arizona’s defense stays on the field, unable to get any extra oxygen in the thin air of Mexico City. If San Francisco truly has acclimated better than than their opponents, they could be facing a very winded defense at the most important time in the game.

This could also come into play on the other side of the ball as well, as Nick Bosa and company could be absolutely wiped out after chasing Kyler Murray everywhere for damn near 60 minutes. Both Murray and backup Colt McCoy practiced today, but as of right now, it is unclear who will start this week.

Don’t be surprised to see the 49ers utilize the hurry-up offense again this week, either. As Matt Barrows noted in his latest mailbag column for The Athletic, Kyle Shanahan rolled it out a couple of times against the Chargers, and it could be a secret weapon for him if he feels like the offense has adjusted to the new conditions.

Other topics in today’s show

  • Levin’s two signs of optimism for the 49ers offense (1:55)
  • Can Deebo once again have impact as a straight wide receiver? (6:40)
  • Offensive trends around the league vs. what the 49ers are doing (11:43)
  • Both players and coaches bear responsibility for red zone issues (14:22)
  • Don’t buy into the Mike McDaniel narrative (20:01)
  • The 49ers fans will take over the stadium in Mexico City (21:25)
  • People don’t realize how much the elevation will be a factor (22:40)
  • Who do you want to start: Kyler or Colt McCoy? (27:00)
  • The Cardinals could crumble in this game (31:57)
  • Levin prioritizes another sport before the podcast (36:06)