We've looked at the key match-ups this weekend and how our Arizona Cardinals have fared against the Niners in the past, and in one last ditch effort to preview the first game of the season, here are my keys to coming home with a 'W'.
Shut Down Frank Gore: Well to be more realistic, contain Frank Gore. Gore has only had one truly great game against the Cardinals, which happened to be the last time that they played (214 total yards). Outside of that game though the Cardinals have done a decent job of at least containing him considering he hasn't rushed for over
90 yards in any other game and he's only topped 150 total yards once. One thing that he has done against the Cardinals though is score points (7 TDs in four starts) and with an unproven quarterback, the 49ers are likely to depend on Gore even more than normal this Sunday. Someone recently mentioned in the comments that holding him under 150 yards would be acceptable and given that he'll likely be the focal point on the offense, that's probably a reasonable estimate. In an effort to give a number that would guarantee a Cardinal win, I'd say that holding Gore to anything under 125 total yards would be enough to shut down the 49ers' offense.
Establish the Run: Now before anyone points this out as being generic, let me narrow the scope a bit. In both losses to the Niners last season the Cardinals had the ball with the lead in the 4th quarter. In the first game, their fourth quarter drive amounted to one pass for a first down and four Edgerrin James runs for three yards. That drive would last one minute and 31 seconds and the Niners would get the ball and score to win the game. In the second game last season, the Cards got the ball with a late lead and they didn't even attempt to run the ball and five plays and one minute later they handed the ball back to the Niners who would score on the next drive and win the game in overtime. Anyone notice a pattern? If the Cardinals are able to run the ball in the fourth quarter, they will win this game and with Hightower running with authority and giving Edge a breather, there's no excuse for not being able to move the ball on the ground.
No Special Teams Miscues: This encompasses several aspects of the game but I will say that the Cardinals special teams isn't going to win any awards this season. They do need though to at the very least, not get in the way. With an opponent like the Niners, who will likely to 'offensively-challenged,' the Cardinals need to avoid handing them a short field by shanking a punt or allowing a big return. I do believe that the Cardinals are the better team but if we give the Niners a short field, or easy points off of a return this could be another disappointing loss. They also can not afford to leave points on the field via missed field goals, (cough) Neil Rackers.
Thoughts? Agree/Disagree? What are your keys?