• Adrien Julienne

How 49ers Can Keep Momentum Going Against the Cardinals

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One half of convincing offensive football and one win against the lifeless Bears. That’s all it took to tame the 49ers Faithful.

The doomsday clock is on the verge of being reset as San Francisco is set to take on a hobbling Cardinals team that may be missing its top playmakers in Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins.

Below, we dive into what the 49ers can do on Sunday to continue surfing this wave of newfound momentum:

1. Keep the run game going

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Elijah Mitchell has established himself as an outstanding outside zone runner. When running up the middle, though, San Francisco hasn’t been able to sustain some good old fashion bruising style runs.

While the lack of involvement from Trey Sermon remains a mystery, it might be time to give the third round pick some consistent touches to keep the defense on their toes.

Efficient runs between the tackles are what separates great running offenses versus good ones. Once the 49ers are able to consistently hit big runs from anywhere, the play action calls will only become more effective.

2. Give Kittle more touches

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Injury issues aside, George Kittle is one of the best tight ends in pro football. In both the passing and blocking game, the Iowa alum is elite.

However, you wouldn’t know it by solely looking at this year’s numbers. Kittle has recorded only 19 receptions for 227 yards and no touchdowns in four games.

While his importance in blocking on both run and pass plays is undeniable, San Francisco will need more production from their tight ends if the offense wants to stay relevant.

While Ross Dwelley has fallen completely off the map, Charlie Woerner has made some strides in run blocking. The lack of catches is still abhorrent however, and Kittle coming back into the lineup should bolster up the production from one of the key positions of Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

3. Challenge the defense vertically

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49ers fans had been waiting for a deep throw for about as long as Jalen Hurd last played football, but it finally happened! And it was beautiful.

Jimmy Garoppolo unleashed a beautiful deep ball to Deebo Samuel and for an instant, it seemed like the 49ers quarterback exorcised a few demons.

If San Francisco is able to connect down the field with more consistency, the Cardinals’ defense will be kept honest and forced to cover the deeper areas of the field as opposed to loading up the box to stop the run as well as short and intermediate throws.

With Kittle’s return and newfound confidence in Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco will need to be aggressive and open up the playbook to challenge their divisional foe.

4. Blitz early and often

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Whether the 49ers face Colt McCoy or a hobbled Kyler Murray, bringing the heat on the quarterback will be a key to success this week.

Unfortunately, the 49ers have failed to generate pressure consistently from anybody other than Nick Bosa. Playing against the bottom-tiered Bears’ offensive line allowed San Francisco to boost its sack stats, but the Cardinals are a different animal.

One easy way to increase the pressure on passing plays is to blitz, which the 49ers have been reticent about this year.

Historically under Robert Saleh, San Francisco had always struggled against athletic quarterbacks. DeMeco Ryans however, seemed to have a blueprint up his sleeve to contain one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in Kyler Murray before the bye week.

If Kyler Murray is set to play on a bad ankle, the 49ers would be wise to bring on extra heat as Murray shouldn’t be able to exploit his elusive abilities to the fullest, while Colt McCoy is not particularly known for his poise in the pocket.

5. Sustain upper-tier production from the OL

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Penalties aside, the 49ers offensive line has played at a very high level this season. The unit reached its season peak last week against the Mack-less Bears.

The Cardinals will be missing J.J. Watt, who created havoc in the trenches during their last meeting, while Trent Williams continues to produce Hall-of-Fame-worthy highlights.

Run-blocking has rarely been an issue for the 49ers, but if they’re able to sustain good pass protection without having to use a tight end to block, Kyle Shanahan will surely be dialed-in on Sunday.

In what has been a disappointing season so far, look for the 49ers to keep up their momentum against the Cardinals this week.


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