Niners game plan

Game plan, matchups to watch and injury impact for the 49ers in Sunday's NFC West encounter against the Arizona Cardinals in Mexico City:


The 49ers have to fix their problems in pass defense against the Cardinals or it could be another long day. With the altitude in Mexico City, the 49ers will rotate a lot of players in and out of action in their front seven. They need to do a better job of getting to the quarterback with their blitz package. That is especially important this week against Josh McCown, making his first start of the season in place of an injured Kurt Warner. Rookie Derrick Johnson and Willie Middlebrooks will both see action at left cornerback and also at nickel back in secondary coverage packages. The 49ers need to give those guys a lot of help, as far as limiting the time McCown has to throw. The beleaguered 49ers secondary will be starting two players at different spots, as Mike Adams moves from nickel back to free safety. Outside linebacker Andre Carter will get a lot more playing time now that Jamie Winborn is on the trading block, and he has to take advantage of his pass-rush skills to make an impact. Offensively, the 49ers found a pretty good rhythm for most of the game last week against the Cowboys. The run game is the foundation of the offense. Quarterback Tim Rattay is gaining a lot of trust in his receivers, as Brandon Lloyd and Arnaz Battle appear to be developing nicely under the tutelage of receivers coach Jerry Sullivan. If the game is close, all eyes will be on Rattay, who has struggled in the fourth quarter of games.


--- 49ers secondary, which has given up an average of 369 yards passing in the first three games and will have new starters at left cornerback and free safety, vs. Cardinals WRs Anquan Boldin, Bryant Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, who comprise one of the league's best young corps.

--- San Francisco LE Bryant Young, who has gotten off to a strong start with four sacks in the first three games, vs. RT Ian Allen, who will probably make the start with Oliver Ross out with a hand injury.

--- San Francoisco RT Kwame Harris, who appears to be settling into his new position quite well, vs. LE Chike Okeafor, who recorded 16.5 sacks the last two seasons with the Seahawks.


Cornerback Ahmed Plummer opted for arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle Thursday that could keep him out of action two to six weeks, he said. ... Receiver Arnaz Battle, who leads the team with 15 receptions for 171 yards and two touchdowns, is questionable to play against the Cardinals due to a hamstring strain. ... Linebacker Julian Peterson (hamstring) also is questionable, but coach Mike Nolan believes he has a good chance to be in the starting lineup Sunday. ... Center Jeremy Newberry didn't practice this week and might not play Sunday because of a chronic right knee problem. Despite his injury, Newberry is listed as questionable. If Newberry is unable to play, right guard Eric Heitmann would take his spot in the starting lineup. ... Left tackle Jonas Jennings is listed as questionable with a right shoulder injury that kept him out of practice this week. ... WR Derrick Hamilton began the season on PUP, which makes him ineligible for the first six weeks of the regular season. ... TE Eric Johnson (foot), WR Rashaun Woods (thumb) and DB Mike Rumph are on injured reserve.

Niners Digest Top Stories