Demoralized. That’s one word to describe the current state of the San Francisco 49ers (1-1) after their embarrassing 43-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1). A team that showed plenty of promise in Week 1, the 49ers flopped in Week 2, leaving many Forever Faithful to ponder how the next 14 games will play out.
Now, they will have to go on the road once again in Week 3, while facing a tough divisional-rival in the Arizona Cardinals (2-0).
A team that has moved in the right direction ever since Cardinals HC Bruce Arians’ arrival back in 2013, the Cardinals now find themselves atop the NFC West in 2015, as they remain undefeated after beating both the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears.
So the question remains, how will the 49ers fare as the two teams square off?
Last week we witnessed a 49ers non-existent pass-rush and that will need to change as the 49ers face another pass-happy quarterback in QB Carson Palmer.
Through two games, Palmer has completed 36 of 56 passes for 492 passing yards all while being tied for the NFL lead with seven touchdown passes in the process. A true pocket-passer, it will be up to the 49ers pass-rush to harass Palmer early and often, if they have any hopes of being within striking distance of winning the game.
A task easier said than done as the Cardinals offensive line has yet to allow a sack this season, look for that to change on Sunday as second-year OLB Aaron Lynch and OLB Ahmad Brooks look to set the edge on the outside.
Lynch is by far the team’s best pass-rusher. At 6-5, 263, Lynch has the elongated wingspan to make things happen as he attacks Palmer’s pocket radius. A player who has no problem converting speed-to-power, look for him to make life difficult for Cardinals LT Jared Veldheer as he uses his length to force a strip/sack on Sunday.
The art of the strip/sack has been a drill that 49ers Senior Defensive Assistant/linebackers coach Jason Tarver has been using all off-season, so do not be surprised if the 49ers try to create some turnovers using this method, as Palmer has a tendency to be careless with the ball at times.
The game-plan is simple for the 49ers defense. Pressure Palmer and bring him down for sacks or get exposed downfield with a young core of cornerbacks like they did last week against the Steelers.
A cornerback’s best friend is a good pass-rush (aside from sideline), so look for 49ers DC Eric Mangini to get back on track as he tries to protect his young secondary all while devising a manageable defensive game-plan.
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Let’s face it. The defense is still elite up front but when you have a young secondary on the back-end to protect it makes scheming a little more complicated. The 49ers do not have the luxury of a true shutdown cornerback, so they have no choice but to play it aggressive all while trying to apply pressure at or near the line of scrimmage.
So will Mangini play more cover-2?
I believe he will this time around as both SS Antoine Bethea and FS Eric Reid will be providing more help on the back-end, especially with 12-year veteran WR Larry Fitzgerald off to a fast start.
If the 49ers hope to have any chance of winning this game, it will need to start with their pass-rush as a non-existent one could mean disaster for the second week in a row.
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