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How the 49ers can defeat the Cardinals; Five burning questions for Monday Night Football

The San Francisco 49ers (5-4) will move to the top of the NFC West with a victory over the Arizona Cardinals (4-6) on Monday night in Mexico City.

San Francisco is 4-1 against Arizona on Monday Night Football, including a 24-3 victory in the two team’s last Monday night contest back in 2012.

The 49ers 51 wins on Monday Night Football are tied for the most in NFL history with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Here are my five things to watch for on Sunday night.

1.) Where is the left foot of Trent Williams?

Whether Trent Williams stance is tipping plays has been the hottest 49ers topic for the last week.

If Williams is in a stance the play is likely to be either a run or play action with the run fake going away from him.

If Williams is in a stance with his left foot further back the play is likely to be either a pass or play action with the run fake coming towards him.

Despite the foot placement, the 49ers offense needs a strong game from the offensive line.

San Francisco comes into Monday night averaging 4.4 yards per carry, 19th best in the NFL. They will be facing an Arizona defense which has been solid against the run, allowing the same yards per carry and the ninth fewest rushing yards in the league.

2.) Can Jimmy Garoppolo go three games without throwing an interception?

Jimmy Garoppolo has never gone three straight games without throwing an interception in his career.

Garoppolo has done a good job of protecting the football so far this season. The veteran has thrown an interception on only 1.7% of his pass attempts, by far the best of his career.

On Monday night, Garoppolo will face an Arizona defense which has recorded seven interceptions by seven different Cardinals defenders.

Garoppolo’s top target is likely to be Brandon Aiyuk.

Aiyuk has been on fire in recent weeks, registering six-or-more receptions and 80 plus receiving yards in four consecutive games. If he is able to pull it off against Arizona, he will join Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice as 49ers receivers to put those numbers together in five straight games.

3.) Will the 49ers face Kyler Murray or Colt McCoy?

Cardinals starting quarterback Kyler Murray missed last Sunday’s contest against the Los Angeles Rams due to a hamstring injury. Murray is listed as questionable for Monday night.

If Murray is unable to go, Arizona will once again turn to backup Colt McCoy.

Niners fans still haven’t forgotten what McCoy’s performance when he faced San Francisco last year. McCoy completed 22 of 26 passes for 246 yards and one touchdown while leading Arizona to a 31-17 win at Levi’s Stadium.

McCoy led Arizona to a 27-17 victory a week ago. He has not won back-to-back starts in the same season since beating Indianapolis and Miami in 2011 as the starter for Cleveland.

Whoever is at quarterback will have to face a 49er defense that has allowed only 23 total points in their first three division games.

4.) Can the 49ers secondary contain DeAndre Hopkins?

To say the Arizona passing attack revolves around DeAndre Hopkins would be an understatement.

Despite missing the first six games of the season while serving a PED suspension, Hopkins is only 89 yards shy of the team lead.

Hopkins has averaged nine receptions and 99 yards per game since returning in week seven.  

The return of Hopkins has kickstarted the Cardinals offense. Over the last for weeks Arizona has averaged 29 points per game, an increase of ten points over their average for the first six games.

Nick Bosa will look to help the 49ers defense with keeping Arizona’s passing game under control. His pressure often creates havoc for opposing quarterbacks.

Bosa leads the NFC in sacks with 9.5 despite missing the Atlanta game due to injury. In addition to the sacks, Bosa’s 24 quarterback hits are an NFL high and is 11 tackles for loss is tied for third most. The 49ers defensive stalwart is the only player in the league to rank in the top three in all three categories.

5.) Which team holds on to the ball?

The 49ers have not done a good job of holding on to the football against Arizona. San Francisco has at least one turnover in eight of the ten games between the two teams since Kyle Shanahan took over.

For San Francisco, winning the turnover battle is key.

Since the start of 2021, the Niners are 16-3 when they turn the ball over less than or the same as their opponent. When San Francisco has more turnovers than their opponent they are 1-9.

Arizona comes into Monday night with a plus-five turnover differential. They have turned the ball over more than their opponent only twice this season. That is not good news for San Francisco.


49ers 27 Cardinals 19

San Francisco opponents have scored 20 points or more only once when Nick Bosa has been in the lineup this season. That trend will continue Monday night.

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