The San Francisco 49ers face the Arizona Cardinals in Mexico City for Week 11’s Monday Night Football. Surprisingly, Kyle Shanahan holds a 3-3 record against Arizona since Kliff Kingsbury was named head coach in 2019. However, that could change tonight, and here are three reasons why it will.
DeMeco Ryans instantly became a hot commodity when he took over defensive play-calling duties last year. Ryans’ witty defense will earn him a head coaching job. In addition, he greatly impacts the success of San Francisco by adding his wrinkles to Robert Saleh’s defense.
Second and third-level players must read their keys against Kingsbury’s offense. He loves to soften the defense up with cheap screens and return with sideline and middle-of-the-field throws. Arizona’s offense will trigger secondary players with motion and rub routes.
Sacking Colt McCoy on third down will help aid a secondary that’s given up a few big plays in recent weeks. DJ Humphries missing Monday’s game sets up back-to-back monster games from Nick. Kris Kocurek’s defensive tackles man another week without Arik Armstead. Kocurek needs his interior guys to play with extra bend against Kingsbury’s zone rushing scheme.
Shanahan uses his shiny weapons
Getting everyone involved is what every 49ers fan can relate to. The team has too many weapons not to make defense quiver every week. It’s time for a Deebo Samuel momentum where he reminds the NFL that he’s still a top offensive player. Shanahan should focus on drawing him open versus handing him the ball.
Jimmy Garoppolo’s connection with Brandon Aiyuk has shone despite Aiyuk’s hiccups. Targeting the third-year receiver on early downs will help install the WR1 confidence. Garoppolo and George Kittle are best buds off the field but only connected for one pass last week. Shanahan would be a fool not to abuse Arizona’s young linebackers with Kittle in the passing game. We get it; he’s a great run blocker, but let’s allow him to catch the ball this week.
Keep Garoppolo clean
Arizona’s defensive line will be the toughest ask for Shanahan’s offense. According to Pro Football Reference, the Cardinals are sixth (24.4%) in pressure rate and fourth (40) in quarterback knockdowns. Markus Golden, JJ Watt, and Zach Allen headline the defensive line, with Allen eyeing a productive honeymoon against the 49ers.
Allen totals nine tackles, four QB hits, two tackles for loss, and one and a half sacks in his last two games. He moves across the defensive line, so every offensive lineman must look alive. This section isn’t limited to the 49ers’ offensive line. Garoppolo has to be mobile in the pocket to save himself.