It isn’t often that you’ll find an NFL head coach speaking lightly of an opponent, no matter what their record is. Some head coaches, like Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, will gush about an 0-14 team as if they’re destined to make a Super Bowl run.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has always been respectful of his upcoming opponent. Shanahan was once in the same shoes as Cardinals head coach Johnathan Gannon, when Kyle needed to re-tool San Francisco’s roster back in 2017.
The Cardinals are 1-2 through three games, and are +4 in point differential. Despite what their record is, Arizona has been competitive in each game. Shanahan was asked on Wednesday how do the 49ers not overlook the Cardinals. His answer was simple:
“All you have to do is watch the two games before that also. They had every chance to win versus Washington in Week 1. I believe that they should have. I forget the exact score, but I want to say it was like 27-7 in the third quarter versus the Giants, and they had every chance to win that, and it got away from them at the end.
Dallas was very similar, but they didn’t turn it over there at the end, and they kept finishing and keeping them out of the red zone and ended up not being close. So, they’re a team that really should be 3-0 right now.”
Public perception entering the season was that the Cardinals were tanking in 2023. Quarterback Kyler Murray began the season on the PUP list. Arizona was left with Josh Dobbs under center.
Dobbs has been serviceable as a passer for three weeks. He’s 17th in adjusted EPA per play, and 19th in success rate.
Dobbs hasn’t turned the ball over, and has the ninth-best passer rating in the league. Perhaps his most impressive stat is Dobbs’s completion percentage over expectation. Only Justin Herbert’s is higher this season. Add in 90 yards rushing, and you can understand why the Cardinals have scored 28 points in the past two games.
Shanahan called Dobbs decisive, which is quite the compliment from Kyle:
“I think he’s playing real good quarterback play right now. He’s one of the reasons they’ve been in every game. They’re really committing to the run, try not to give up explosives and keep guys out of the end zone on defense, and he’s not turning it over. He’s been extremely decisive. When it’s there, he consistently makes it, when it’s not there, he plays it smart, doesn’t turn it over. He has been able to scramble and makes some plays. He’s been very competitive in the quarterback run game when they haven’t honored him.”
With Hollywood Brown and Rondale Moore, in addition to Dobbs being a run threat, the 49ers defense will be challenged more than the casual fan may think on Sunday.