Since losing consecutive divisional games in 2021, the San Francisco 49ers have won its last 11 games against the NFC West. The first of the back-to-back losses in 2021 came against Colt McCoy and the Arizona Cardinals.
On Sunday, the 49ers will take on the Cardinals for the second and final time this season, but unlike in Week 4 when San Francisco beat Arizona 35-16, Kyler Murray will be taking snaps for the division rival. Arizona went 1-8 under Josh Dobbs and Clayton Tune - Dobbs was the quarterback back in Week 4 - but has already won two of its four games under Murray, including an upset victory in Pittsburgh last week.
The 49ers will look to avoid the same fate as the Steelers in Arizona on Sunday. Here are three numbers to know as San Francisco looks for its 12th straight against the NFC West:
Touchdowns. Cardinals running back James Conner has scored 14 touchdowns against the NFC West since joining Arizona in 2021, the most touchdowns by a player against one division in that span.
5 of the 14 have come against the 49ers - only the Rams have allowed more touchdowns (6) - but outside the touchdowns, Conner hasn’t done much against the San Francisco defense.
Over his four games with Arizona against the 49ers, Conner averaged 54.8 yards per game on 14 attempts per game with four rushing touchdowns - one of the five was through the air - with a 44.6 success rate, more than six percent lower than his average in all games with Arizona.
The 49ers defense held Conner to 52 yards on 11 rushing attempts and without a touchdown for the first time in four games. Conner is coming off his best performance of 2023 against Pittsburgh last week with 105 yards on a season-high 25 attempts with a pair of touchdowns.
It’s not the first time this season Conner has played San Francisco coming off of a solid performance. Conner combined for 204 yards on 37 carries in the two games before Arizona’s Week 4 game against the 49ers before the running back was held to his third-lowest rushing yard total in a game this season.
Players. 13 different Cardinals players have recorded a sack, fifth-most in the league.
The 49ers’ defense is one of the four teams ahead of Arizona, with 14 players recording at least one sack. But unlike San Francisco, who has oodles of depth on the defensive line, Arizona has dealt with turnover and injury with its pass rush.
The Arizona defense lost all four of its sack leaders from last season over the offseason to either retirement (JJ Watt) or to another team (Zach Allen, Isaiah Simmons, and Myjai Sanders) with Cameron Thomas - who finished fifth on the Cardinals in sacks last season - on the roster with zero sacks in 13 games this season. The Cardinals then lost LJ Collier and Carlos Watkins - both new signings from the offseason - in the season’s first two games.
But even with all of that, Arizona has seen a 1.9 percent increase in sack percentage from last season to this year, finishing 25th in the league in 2022 and currently sitting in 14th - only two spots behind the 49ers - in 2023. Led by Dennis Gardeck, Victor Dimukeje, and rookie BJ Ojulari, the Arizona defense is four sacks away from matching its 2022 total with four weeks left.
Rushing yards. Cardinals wide receiver Rondale Moore has 156 rushing yards this season, second-most for a wide receiver behind only Deebo Samuel.
Not only does he have the second-most yards, but Moore also has the second-most rushing attempts at the position group, behind only Samuel. Moore and Samuel have combined for 53 rush attempts (23 for Moore, 30 for Samuel), with the following four receivers - Laviska Shenault, Tank Dell, Jayden Reed, and Kadarius Toney - combining for only 46 rushing attempts.
Where Moore and Samuel differ is the quality of runs. Moore has three rushing attempts that went for 15 yards or more but also three for 10 or more yards. Samuel also has three runs of 15 yards or more but has seven attempts of 10 or more yards. While Samuel’s 63.3 success rate on his attempts ranks ninth of the 25 receivers with at least five rush attempts, Moore’s 43.5 success rate ranks 20th.
Moore doesn’t compare to Samuel on a run-to-run basis, but the 49ers defense has to be wary of Moore’s big play ability. Moore only has four total touchdowns in his three-year career, but all four have gone for 35 yards or more, including a 45-yard touchdown run against Dallas back in Week 3. Then, a couple of weeks later, Moore took a direct snap against the Bengals for 41 yards, making him the first Arizona receiver with multiple 40+ yard runs in his career.
Moore has yet to hurt the 49ers in four games - just 116 yards on 14 touches with no scores - but he remains a threat just for his explosive play ability.