SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Any chance that San Francisco might get caught looking past Arizona and toward their Week 5 showdown against Dallas was put to rest when the 49ers saw the way the Cardinals handled the Cowboys.
Arizona comes into Sunday's game at San Francisco fresh off a surprising 28-16 victory over the Cowboys, looking nothing like a team many thought would be competing for the top pick in next year's draft.
“I don’t think anybody, including Arizona, probably, thought they were winning that game,” Niners safety Tashaun Gipson said. “It just goes to show, any given Sunday. You hear about that all the time. Do guys actually take that serious? Some do, some don’t. I don’t think Dallas thought Arizona was going to come out there and handle the game the way they did and it results to a win for them.
"For us, we don’t take opponents lightly.”
The Cardinals (1-2) have shown they shouldn't be overlooked so far this season, having led after three quarters in all three games this season.
That caught the attention of the 49ers (3-0) even before the win over Dallas.
“All you have to do is watch the two games before that also,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. "They’re a team that really should be 3-0 right now.”
That's the position the Niners are in for just the second time in the past 25 seasons. San Francisco has scored 30 points in all three games and hasn't really been tested yet.
Brock Purdy picked up where he left off as a rookie and is running one of the league's most efficient offenses by getting the ball to playmakers such as Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle.
Slowing that will be a big challenge for the Cardinals.
“You’ve got to be mentally, physically and emotionally sharp because they’re going to make their plays," coach Jonathan Gannon said. “They’re going to hit you in the mouth, and you’ve got to be able to respond. Alignment, assignment and key technique is one of our principles on the defense. You’ve got to do that faster than they do that on offense.”
COUNTING ON DOBBS
Joshua Dobbs have proven more than a capable fill-in for the injured Kyler Murray. The 28-year-old quarterback was very good in the team’s 28-16 win over the Cowboys last Sunday, completing 17 of 21 passes for 189 yards. He also threw a perfectly placed 2-yard TD pass to Marquise Brown in the fourth quarter, giving the Cardinals a much more comfortable margin.
He’s 10th in the NFL in passer rating through three games. Not bad for a guy who was brought in by trade from the Browns less than two weeks before the regular season.
“I think he’s played winning football for us since he’s been here,” Gannon said. “I think you guys will continue to see his improvement as he gets more and more comfortable. You can ask him, he’s pretty comfortable right now. He’s making a bunch of plays for us, he’s got good command in the huddle, and he never has any flinch, which I love about him. He’s doing a good job.”
The Niners offense was transformed when McCaffrey came over midway through last season and he hasn't slowed at all this year.
McCaffrey leads the NFL with 353 yards rushing and is the first San Francisco player to top 100 yards from scrimmage with a TD in each of the first three games of the season since Jerry Rice in 1989. No one in the NFL has done that in the first four games of the season since Dallas' DeMarco Murray in 2014.
The average NFL fan probably doesn’t know much about Dennis Gardeck or Victor Dimukeje. Regardless, the Arizona duo is behind one of the better pass rushes in the NFL through three weeks.
Gardeck is a sixth-year veteran who was an undrafted free agent, slowly rising from a special teams standout to a key defensive piece. He already has three sacks this season, which is on pace to easily top his career high of seven in 2020.
Dimukeje is a 2021 sixth-round pick out of Duke who has blossomed in his third season. He has 2½ sacks after not recording one during his first two seasons.
The 49ers have done a good job defensively of limiting big plays, allowing opponents to gain at least 20 yards on a play a league-low four times. Only one of those came in the past two weeks. The Cardinals have had success early generating big plays, tying for fourth in the NFL so far with 14.
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