Maiocco's Take: Discipline is Key for 49ers in Preparation for Kyler Murray and Co.

Each week, NBC Sports Bay Area 49ers insider Matt Maiocco will preview the upcoming matchup and key storylines heading into Sunday's game. For more takeaways and features from Maiocco, visit

Jimmy Garoppolo's pregame routine as the 49ers' starting quarterback includes a sprint toward the corner of the end zone at Levi's Stadium shortly before kickoff.

He would find large sections of 49ers fans to whip into a frenzy, while their enthusiastic responses would get him amped up even further.

When the 49ers open the regular season on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, Garoppolo's pregame hype session will be among the many differences with no fans allowed inside the stadium.

"Obviously, not having the fans out there, not having 'The Faithful,' it's going to be weird and we're going to miss those guys," Garoppolo said. "The energy they bring, it's unbelievable.

"It's invaluable for our team and we're just going to have to bring that energy ourselves. It's one of those things, you've just got to control what you can control and make the best of it."

Despite the constant drone of piped-in crowd noise the NFL Office supplied to every stadium, the atmosphere on the field should be electric.

The 49ers know they are not sneaking up on anybody this season – not after winning the NFC West with a 13-3 record, earning homefield advantage in the playoffs and steamrolling through Minnesota and Green Bay to reach the Super Bowl.

They also know the Cardinals present a unique challenge. After all, Kliff Kingsbury's team played the 49ers tough twice last season.

The 49ers' running game was dominant, but Arizona's defense made that facet of the Kyle Shanahan's offense look toothless.

In two games against Arizona, the 49ers averaged just 67.5 yards per game with a 2.7-yard average attempt.

In the 49ers' other 17 games (regular and postseason), the 49ers averaged 163.6 yards rushing with a 5.0 average.

"They see us as a team they were able to kind of shut down in the run game and a team that they played very well against," 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk said.

Garoppolo came to the rescue in those two games. He threw for 741 yards and eight touchdowns in the 49ers' two victories despite All-Pro tight end George Kittle sitting out the second game with knee and ankle injuries.

The Cardinals finished last in the NFC West in 2019 with a 5-10-1 record. But this is a team that is dangerous – especially with all of the unknowns at the beginning of the season.

Arizona made improvements on defense, including the addition of versatile defensive player Isaiah Simmons of Clemson with the No. 8 overall pick. He could line up at virtually any spot in Vance Joseph's defense.

And, offensively, the Cardinals acquired DeAndre Hopkins, one of the top wide receivers in the game, to pair with future first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald.

After missing time during training camp, edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford are healthy. Bosa, Ford and all of the 49ers' pass-rushers will face a difficult of assignment of trying to corral Cardinals' second-year quarterback Kyler Murray.

Discipline is the key word as the 49ers prepare for that assignment.

"It's always a message," Shanahan said, "but I think going against a player like Kyler, having the first week of the season, I think everything's heightened even more on that.

"Guys are fired up. They're ready to play, but you've got to go out there and make sure you execute."

Levi's® Stadium will not be rocking like it did late in the season and into the playoffs.

But the 49ers should have no problem bringing excitement to the TV screens of their fans scattered throughout the land.

Anyone who watches the 49ers on non-game days can attest that this group brings energy and excitement to mere practice sessions.

The regular season is here, and the emotions should be high against a division opponent that is intent on knocking the 49ers down a peg or two.

"I don't think focus and lack of intensity is going to be a problem for this group," 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey said. "I'm pretty confident in that."