The Arizona Cardinals have played the run very, very well so far this season. They held Doug Martin to 45 yards rushing and DeAngelo Williams to 39 yards. They are third overall in the league, behind only the Broncos and the Jets -- and you can almost discount the Broncos because they do so well on offense that their opponents have to abandon the run to keep up.
This is why the matchup with the San Francisco 49ers is so intriguing, aside from all the other reasons -- a divisional game, a road game, a rival and more.
San Francisco is really, really good about running the ball.
The past two weeks have demonstrated that. After two straight losses, the 49ers went back to the basics and started running the football again. In two wins in which they scored 35 and 34 points, they ran the ball 76 times for 396 yards and five touchdowns, good for 5.2 yards per carry.
They have the sixth best rushing attack in terms of yards per game. They average over 140 yards per game, while the Cardinals are only allowing 79 per game and 3.3 yards per carry.
However, the 49ers pose a very different rushing attack, as Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians noted after practice on Friday.
"With the 49ers, everything is about power," he said.
"It's totally different," he elaborated. "They use seven offensive linemen out there, two more tight ends and one receiver. They've got many packages of big people and they shift them all around there -- unbalanced here, unbalanced there. And they have really, really athletic, big first and second round draft choice offensive linemen. They're a very powerful team. The other teams (Tampa Bay and Carolina) were more finesse than they are. They are a totally different challenge. It's like back in college trying to get ready for a wishbone team rather than a spread offense."
The 49ers don't try to fool you with their running game. They line up in a running formation and essentially dare teams to stop them.
The question is whether the Cardinals' rush defense is legit or not.
If they can do what they have done, then they will force San Francisco to try and make plays with Colin Kaepernick, which they are quite capable of doing, but they have not been nearly as successful as a team at doing it.
If the 49ers have the same success that they have the past two games, then we know that the defense is not there yet. It is not a dominant defense. And as for the game, the team will likely get steamrolled out of California like the Niners did to the Rams and Texans in consecutive weeks.
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