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49ers-Cardinals Preview

  • AP
  • Dec 15, 2023

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals have been reasonably competent since quarterback Kyler Murray returned last month.

They’ll need a lot more than competence when they host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

The NFC West-leading Niners have looked like the league’s best team during their current five-game winning streak. San Francisco clinched its third straight playoff berth last week and can clinch its first division title since 2019 with a win this weekend.

“When you watch the tape, all three phases jump out to you,” first-year Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon said. “They’ve got good players, they’re well coached and they win games so that’s what everybody in the NFL is trying to do.”

Aside from a midseason three-week swoon when some key players were hurt, San Francisco has delivered. Its current streak includes victories over Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Seattle, Philadelphia and Seattle again. All of those teams are still in the playoff hunt.

The Cardinals have no such aspirations – at least for this season.

But since Murray’s return, Arizona has gone 2-2 with wins over the Falcons and Steelers. The Cardinals are coming off their bye week, enjoying some rest after playing 13 straight weeks.

Niners defensive end Nick Bosa said Murray has been impressive on video. The fifth-year quarterback has thrown for 864 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions while also running for 106 yards and three TDs.

“I think he looks great moving around and I think he’s actually playing this scheme better than the previous regime there,” Bosa said. “He’s kind of sitting in the pocket and playing quarterback more. Then obviously the run game and the scrambles, he’s an added element there.”

For his part, Murray said the 49ers have unparalleled defensive depth.

“They’ve got a ton of guys over there, more than probably anybody in the league,” Murray said. “And we know, since I got into the league it’s been like that. I’m not going to say I’m used to it, but we’ve got to be ready for a war.”

DOMINANT DEEBO

Niners receiver Deebo Samuel is back to the All-Pro form he showed in 2021. The versatile playmaker has 288 yards from scrimmage and five TDs the last two weeks, becoming the second player ever to have back-to-back games with at least 100 yards receiving, a TD run and a TD catch. Samuel has 900 yards from scrimmage and nine TDs this season despite missing two full games and part of a third with injuries in October.

“Since coming back from injury, I can see the level of play just getting better and better, week in and week out,” he said.

1,000 IN SIGHT

Cardinals running back James Conner has a chance to top 1,000 yards rushing in a season for the first time in his career despite having missed four games with a knee injury.

The 28-year-old has 631 yards rushing and four touchdowns. He’ll need to average more than 90 yards on the ground over the final four weeks, which is plausible considering he ran for 105 yards and two touchdowns in a win against the Steelers on Dec. 3.

San Francisco, however, ranks No. 1 in the league in rushing defense.

PRESSURE PACKAGE

The trade-deadline acquisition of Chase Young has provided a big boost to San Francisco’s pass rush. The Niners have a league-high 22 sacks in the five games since Young arrived from Washington. Young’s presence has opened things up for his former college teammate Bosa, who has 6 1/2 sacks in the past five games after having just three in the first eight.

Murray and Bosa were taken No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the 2019 draft.

“I respect Nick a lot,” Murray said. “I love to go against great players. Us coming in together, I think that’s pretty cool. I think we both take pride in that. It’s a special deal to be in the NFL so to be able to go against these guys – we’ve both been in the same organization for a long time.

“Hopefully, we’ll continue to be here even longer and go against each other for the rest of our time here.”

McBRIDE RISING

Trey McBride has already tied the Arizona franchise record for catches by a tight end in a season with 56. He has 440 yards receiving and two touchdowns over his past six games.

Murray said he’s appreciated McBride’s success but has just one criticism.

“His celebrations are a little awkward,” Murray said, grinning. “I think his swag will get better as he keeps having success. Tight ends, you never know what you’re getting with them, but I love it though. Love it. Want him to play with that edge, want him to play with that chip. A little bit of craziness, you’ve got to have it and he’s got a good mix of all of it.”

AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow in Santa Clara, California, contributed to this report.

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

Copyright 2023 STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

1234T 49ers 10-3—– Cardinals 3-10—–

State Farm Stadium Glendale, AZ

273.8AVG PASS YDS191.9
139.6AVG RUSH YDS123.9
402.3AVG TOTAL YDS296.3

San Francisco

OFFENSE

PASSINGCP/ATTYDSTDINTFPTS
B. Purdy252/3593553257289
S. Darnold2/37000
D. Samuel0/1000180
RUSHINGATTYDSTDLGFPTS
C. McCaffrey22611771272299
D. Samuel30161523180
E. Mitchell4414901817
J. Mason2714732634
B. Purdy37138217289
R. McCloud22301521
T. Davis-Price6210152
K. Juszczyk560324
G. Kittle1202162
M. Wishnowsky0000
S. Darnold9-90-10
RECEIVINGTARRECYDSTDLGFPTS
B. Aiyuk81561053676188
G. Kittle7253811666162
D. Samuel6245739454180
C. McCaffrey6352437535299
J. Jennings311724013143
R. McCloud11911304121
K. Juszczyk1086522224
R. Bell545112014
J. Mason321901334
R. Dwelley21120122
C. Woerner2212092
W. Snead119091
E. Mitchell64-10917

Arizona

OFFENSE

PASSINGCP/ATTYDSTDINTFPTS
K. Murray79/1308643274
C. Tune12/2162026
RUSHINGATTYDSTDLGFPTS
J. Conner12963143598
E. Demercado5221011840
R. Moore2315614576
K. Murray2310632274
M. Carter84401928
C. Tune6291116
T. Jones52501330
M. Brown223029128
B. Gillikin110010
H. Froholdt0000
RECEIVINGTARRECYDSTDLGFPTS
T. McBride7456610233124
M. Brown10151574441128
M. Wilson392843526978
R. Moore472926014876
G. Dortch221112413127
G. Swaim1096801114
E. Demercado16126401340
E. Higgins84490268
J. Conner20143601198
Z. Pascal11419095
T. Jones431601130
M. Carter44150728