The San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals will clash in week four. These NFC West teams appear to be on different tracks. The young 49ers came into the season with little expectations, focused on rebuilding the roster rather than wins and losses. The veteran Cardinals were expecting to compete with the Seattle Seahawks for a division title. This matchup could be a key point in both teams seasons. A win for the Cardinals would move them to 2-2, and closer to a return to the playoffs. A win for the 49ers would ensure they do not go winless, and would do wonders for the morale of the team. There are three 49ers keys to victory that will allow the them to secure their first win of the season.
Week Four San Francisco 49ers Keys to Victory
1) Get the Pass Rush Going
The 49ers defense has played well for most of the season, but the lack a consistent pass rush has hurt them. DeForest Buckner has played well, and currently is the third highest graded defensive lineman in the league. While Buckner is doing his part, edge rushers Tank Carradine, Elvis Dumervil, and Aaron Lynch have failed to make a sustained impact. The 49ers are tied with the Miami Dolphins for the second lowest sack total so far in 2017. The 49ers have just three sacks on the season, all of which came against an abysmal Seahawks offensive line.
Generating a pass rush is an imperative key to victory against the Cardinals. So far in 2017, Carson Palmer is the eighth best quarterback in the league throwing the deep ball. However, he is one of the worst quarterbacks when it comes to short and intermediate passes. The 49ers will have to get to Palmer quickly as to not let deep plays develop.
On Monday night, the Dallas Cowboys put a lot of pressure on Palmer. DeMarcus Lawrence had three sacks, and was the defensive star of the game. The Cardinals were without the left side of their offensive line with D.J. Humphries and Mike Iupati sidelined. Their backups, John Wetzel and Alex Boone, both sustained injuries as well. If the Cardinals cannot get their line healthy in time, the pass rushers of San Francisco could be teeing off.
2) Keep the Offensive Momentum Going
For the fourth consecutive week, the 49ers will face a stout defense. The Cardinals posses the eleventh best defense in the NFL, laced with playmakers such as Tyrann Mathieu and Chandler Jones. Brian Hoyer will have his work cut out for him for him. He will try to have his first game in a 49ers uniform without an interception. His rapport with his wide receivers really started to show during the Los Angeles Rams game. He was able to connect deep down the field with Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin, and gained trust in rookie Trent Taylor. Hoyer playing well is a major key to victory.
The first two games for the 49ers were very ugly on offense. They failed to score a touchdown in these games. A thrilling Thursday night matchup with the Rams turned things around. The 49ers found the end zone five times. The 49ers will have to keep this momentum going if they want to earn their first win of the season.
3) Put it All Together
The 49ers have shown great flashes thus far. However, their inconsistent play has earned them their 0-3 record. In the first two games, the 49ers defense played well. For most of those games, they stifled their opponents running game. However, in both games, the 49ers run defense collapsed on the final drive. While star running back David Johnson being hurt makes the task easier, stopping the run for all four quarters will be imperative. When the defense has been good, the offense has been bad, and vice versa. Consistent effort on both sides of the ball is an important key to victory.
A deciding factor in the loss to the Rams was the Robbie Gould missed point after attempt. If Gould makes the kick, the 49ers wouldn’t have had to attempt a two-point conversion to tie the game. On this two point conversion, Kyle Shanahan had to burn a precious time out while the game clock was stopped. Good teams do not make these mistakes on a regular basis. If the 49ers are to get their first win of the season, they will have to excel on all sides of the ball.