GAME PLAN: Offensively, the Cardinals are at their best when they can hit big plays. The best way for that to happen is to be able to run when other teams keep safeties deep to help on Larry Fitzgerald. That's going to be hard against the 49ers, who have beaten the Cardinals four consecutive times. The Cardinals have averaged seven points in those losses. Defensively, the Cardinals probably will have to play different schemes than they did last week against the Eagles. The Eagles used a lot of three-receiver sets, so the Cardinals used their nickel packages. The 49ers like to run the ball and use two tight ends. That means the Cardinals defensive line must be sound in their gap responsibilities. The Cardinals also must do a better job in covering tight ends than they have previously this season.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Cardinals LT Levi Brown vs. 49ers RE Justin Smith -- Brown is not a good pass blocker, and Smith is one of the best ends in the game. The Cardinals will use backs and tight ends to help Brown.
Cardinals ILB Daryl Washington vs. 49ers RB Frank Gore -- Washington is one of the more athletic inside linebackers in the league. Gore has rushed for 782 yards but is coming off a knee injury. Washington has a tendency to over-run plays, so he needs to be disciplined in his pursuit angles.
49ers CB Carlos Rogers vs. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald -- Rogers, a free agent, is having an excellent season. Fitzgerald has been as good as ever; the Cardinals have just had trouble getting him the ball consistently.
SERIES HISTORY: 40th regular-season meeting. 49ers lead series, 23-16. The 49ers have won four straight, beating the Cardinals even when Mike Singletary was coaching and the 49ers weren't good. The Cardinals had won four of the previous six until the current losing streak. The 49ers traditionally have defended the Cardinals as well as any other team. The Cardinals have averaged just seven points a game in the last four games against the 49ers.
Cardinals: Game Plan & Matchups To Watch
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