If the Cardinals offense was looking to get things back on track, they will have their work cut out for them this week when they go up against arguably the best defense in football in the San Francisco 49ers.
When you base ranking a defense solely on stats, the Niners do have the best defensive unit in football. Frisco’s D is tied with the Chicago Bears in points allowed at 14.3 points per contest, they are first in total yards and first in pass yards allowed.
Every level of the 49ers defense is strong. Despite having only 11 sacks on the season, their front seven is still one of the best in the game. Justin Smith has 73 career sacks and Ray McDonald does a good job across from him. Isaac Sopoaga is a load in between both of them.
San Francisco’s linebackers is what separates them from rest of the league though. You could easily argue that the Niners have two of the best linebackers in the game in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Both have combined for 125 tackles on the year.
On the outside, Ahmad Brooks has always given the Cardinals problems. A few years back, he forced a pair of fumbles and had a couple of sacks back when Kurt Warner was under center in Arizona. Aldon Smith, who is only in his second season in the league, is becoming one of the game’s most premiere pass rushers. He already has 5.5 sacks through seven games and had 14 last season.
Anytime your defense is ranked first against the pass, you have to have a good secondary and the Niners certainly have that. None of the four guys in 49ers last line of defense has a real weakness. Dashon Goldson is one of the better safeties in football.
The keys for the Cardinals offense tonight is pretty simple. First off, John Skelton has to cut out the costly turnovers from the previous two weeks. It killed the Cardinals on the scoreboard and made it next to impossible for Arizona to pull out two wins.
When San Francisco’s D does give up some plays to put the Cardinals in scoring position, which won’t happen very often, Arizona has to make the most of it. That doesn’t mean Jay Feely field goals, that means getting the ball into the end zone for six points.
Finally, the Cardinals have to be able to run the football. The Red Birds did a nice job of that last week with LaRod Stephens-Howling leading the way. The only real weakness with the Niners D is their ability to stop the run. They are 10th in category allowing just under 99 yards per contest.
Of course, all of these things are easier said then done, but if the Cardinals want to get back into first place and grab the upper hand in the NFC West over the division champs, they are going to have to put together their best offensive performance to date.