Will Cards bring the house against Niners again?

Jeff Garcia is used to having people in his face. But never before or since has the 49ers' quarterback had defenders coming at him like during the last time the Niners played Arizona, when the Cardinals blitzed 40 times in a 46-play sequence. And that makes Garcia and the Niners just a little wary of what to expect when the Cards come to town Sunday for a first-place showdown in the NFC West.

The Cardinals blitzed on more than 50 of their defensive plays in a 27-20 loss at San Francisco on Oct. 1, 2000. Garcia was sacked only once and was able to scramble away for 36 yards on six carries, and also had a fine day passing, completing 22 of 33 for 220 yards. Still, that blitzing is a memory that stands out in his mind.

"I think that was probably the most I've ever been blitzed since I've played here with the 49ers," Garcia said. "I remember it was a very high percentage. They seemed to be bringing it quite often during that game. I don't see them as the same team scheme-wise this year, but you never know. It might be one of those things where their defensive coordinator just decides to bring it this week and we have to be prepared for that."

That kind of aggressiveness on defense can cause problems with any offense, especially one that relies on precision such as San Francisco's. Some opponents have tried excessive blitzing with occasional success against the 49ers already this season. So the Niners will be ready for an Arizona repeat, if the Cards decide to bring the house on defense again.

"If a team does decide to blitz more - much like Seattle did a few weeks ago - we're going to be ready for it and ready to take advantage of some of the opportunities it leaves on the field," Garcia said. "With a team that does blitz a lot, there's a potential to hit some big plays. I think we do a great job of preparing every single week to take advantage if a team does decide to blitz more."

Garcia remembers well the onslaught he faced against the Cardinals last time. It's a scary thing for a quarterback, but Garcia is comfortable it's not something he'll have to face alone.

"I think that this offense - this offensive line especially - does a tremendous job of recognizing blitzes, being able to pick up blitzes and being able to take that sort of load off of my mind and allowing me to just hopefully make the right decisions and not worry about all the blitzes that are coming," Garcia said. "Obviously, I have to recognize those things and make the right decision. But I don't have to focus on it as much, because our guys do a great job up front."

Garcia had been terrific against blitzing defenses so far this season. He's been sacked just six times in six games, and he leads the NFL in third-down passing with a passer rating of 118.0 in those situations.

So what will the Cardinals - led by a defense-minded coach in Dave McGinnis - do? Will they blitz the Niners unmercifully again?

McGinnis isn't telling.

"I can't sit here and tell you guys what we're going to do," McGinnis said earlier this week. "You guys know that. I know you're trying to trick me. I know with this accent I don't sound real smart, but you can't trick me. We're going to have to play to the offenses that we're playing to. The offense that Mooch has going there in San Francisco is multifaceted. It gives you problems. We're going to have to concentrate very hard because it's not only Garcia that we have to worry about. That is a very dangerous two-headed jersey they've got back there running the football. They've got some people that they can spin it to down the field. Believe me, we are going to do whatever it takes to get that thing slowed down, but like I said, you aren't going to get me to tell you what we're going to do."

The message then: The 49ers must be ready for anything, particularly what they've already seen from the Cardinals in the past.


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