Arizona was considered one of the teams to tank this season with a first-year head coach, two first-round selections in next year’s draft, and an injured star quarterback. Despite the expectations, the Cardinals have looked good in their first three games, and it paid off with an upset win over the Cowboys last week.
Now, the Cardinals must try to repeat their effort last week against the 49ers on Sunday. The 49ers offense has scored exactly 30 points in its first three games and will be coming off a ten-day break following their Week 3 win over the Giants last Thursday.
Divisional games are always challenging, and the Cardinals have extra motivation heading into Levi’s Stadium. Here are three numbers to know before Sunday:
Times. The Cardinals have led entering the fourth quarter in all three of their games this season.
Although it stands at 1-2, the Arizona Cardinals have been a surprise in the early weeks of the NFL season. There’s a case to be made that the Cardinals should be 3-0 heading into Levi’s Stadium on Sunday, but bad stretches have cost Arizona two games and could have cost them their win over the Cowboys.
The Cardinals have started fast in all three of their games, scoring points on 11 of 15 first-half drives, and have outscored opponents 54-20 in the first two quarters. Arizona has scored chiefly three points at a time - seven first-half field goals to four first-half touchdowns - but it hasn’t had many issues putting points on the board early.
Arizona has scored points on only four of their 15 second-half drives this season.
Where Arizona runs into issues is the second half. Washington outscored Arizona 10-3 in the second half in Week 1, leading to their victory. The Giants scored all 31 points in the second half against the Cardinals while holding Arizona to just eight second-half points with their come-from-behind 31-28 Week 2 win. Only Dallas has been unable to outscore Arizona in the second half this season, leading to Arizona’s lone win.
The 49ers, on the other hand, have scored in every quarter this season. Arizona could have a hot start on Sunday, but they can’t disappear in the second half if they hope to keep up with San Francisco’s offense.
Passer rating. Cardinals QB Joshua Dobbs has a 107.3 passer rating while under pressure, the fourth-highest of qualifying quarterbacks.
If Arizona had acquired Dobbs before they did, they could have entered Sunday with a perfect record. He’s been nothing short of solid running Drew Petzing’s offense and has shown improvement each week.
Dobbs’ 72 percent completion percentage is fourth in the NFL - behind Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Allen, all names a quarterback would want to be mentioned with - while not throwing an interception yet this season.
Where Dobbs has excelled has been against pressure. His offensive line has held well, allowing just 25 pressures over the first three games, and the 30 pressures Dobbs has faced is tied with Jackson for second-fewest in the league.
But even when he faces pressure, Dobbs has been unfazed. He’s completed 70.8 percent of his passes under pressure, completing 17-of-24 passes, the highest in the league with his 107.3 passer rating trailing just Herbert, Baker Mayfield, and Kirk Cousins.
The Cowboy’s defense was credited with only 11 pressures, with five credited to Micah Parsons. While that might be something to note for Nick Bosa, the interior of Arizona’s line has allowed 17 of the line’s 25 pressures. The 49ers have three interior defensive linemen - Javon Hargrave, Javon Kinlaw, and Arik Armstead - who rank in the top 20 at their position in pressures.
Turnover percentage. The Cardinals’ defense forces a turnover on 16.1 percent of offensive drives, tied with the 49ers defense for sixth-highest in the league.
Arizona’s defense doesn’t have many household names, but the unit is quietly having a good start to the season. Take away the 31 points allowed in the second half against New York - admittedly, a considerable number to take away - and it’s a defense that hasn’t given up much. 20 points to Washington and 16 points to a Cowboys offense considered one of the best in the league.
Forcing turnovers has helped the Cardinal’s defense, who not only have the same turnover percentage as the 49ers but have forced the same number of turnovers as San Francisco. Three of the turnovers did come in the Week 1 loss to Washington, with Zaven Collins picking off Sam Howell twice and Arizona recovering two Washington fumbles.
Jalen Thompson followed with an interception of Daniel Jones, and Kyzir White intercepted Dak Prescott in the end zone in the fourth quarter on Sunday.
Not only does Arizona have an interception in each of their games, but they’re also second in the NFL with 23 pass deflections, trailing the Saints. Kei’Trel Clarks leads the team with four, and secondary members K’Von Wallace and Marco Wilson are tied with linebacker Krys Barnes with three.
One would like to think the 49ers’ offense with all their weapons, won’t have issues with the Arizona defense, but it’s a defensive unit that plays better than what the paper reads. Brock Purdy hasn’t thrown an interception yet this season, but Arizona’s tight coverage could put that streak to the test.