The San Francisco 49ers will look to make it two straight home wins when they host the Arizona Cardinals from Levi's® Stadium in Week 12.
San Francisco will also aim to avenge a 47-7 loss at the hands of the Cardinals in Week 3 from University of Phoenix Stadium. In that game, the 49ers turned the ball over four times and allowed Arizona to rack up 446 yards of total offense. Chris Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald both had big games in that matchup. Johnson ran for 110 yards on 22 carries while Arizona's top pass-catcher grabbed nine receptions for 134 yards and two touchdowns.
Arizona enters the game riding a four-game winning streak, but the Cardinals have lost six straight road games against the 49ers.
Something has to give on Sunday. Here are the five keys to Sunday's NFC West clash. 1. Gabbert's first matchup vs. Arizona's secondary
Blaine Gabbert has thrown for 449 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in two games as San Francisco's starting quarterback while completing 62.7 percent of his passes.
The quarterback played a turnover-free game last week in a tough test against the Seattle Seahawks secondary. The same will be asked of Gabbert on Sunday against an equally challenging Arizona secondary.
Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Co. lead the charge for a defense that has forced 19 takeaways this season. Arizona's 14 interceptions are tied for second in the NFL.
2. 49ers rotation at CB
San Francisco's secondary will be busy, regardless of who starts at cornerback. Kenneth Acker started opposite Tramaine Brock last week, but Marcus Cromartie ended up out-snapping Acker in the game. On Friday, defensive coordinator Eric Mangini said the rotation would be similar against the Cardinals.
Arizona has possibly the deepest group of receivers in the NFL. In addition to Fitzgerald, three other receivers have played impact roles for the Cardinals: Michael Floyd, John Brown and J.J. Nelson. Both Brown and Nelson scored last week against the Cincinnati Bengals and Floyd torched the Seahawks for two touchdowns the week before that.
With a dangerous combination of size and speed, the Arizona's receiving corps provide a challenge for the 49ers.
3. Avoid giving up the home-run play
In the first go-round against Arizona, San Francisco allowed eight plays of 20 yards or more. Four different pass-catchers accounted for those plays while Johnson added a long run of 30 yards. With the aforementioned group of skill players, limiting Arizona's chunk plays will be a difficult, but crucial task if the 49ers hope to beat the Cardinals.
4. Armstead to start?
San Francisco's 2015 first-round pick is in line for his first-career start following the season-ending knee injury to Glenn Dorsey. Arik Armstead's 46 snaps against Seattle were the most he's played all season while the rookie tallied six tackles and one quarterback hit.
Now he'll get to chase Carson Palmer around again. Armstead's first career sack came against Arizona's quarterback in Week 3.
The rookie will also have to be sound in his gap assignments on Sunday. Eric Reid called Dorsey the "two-gap king" earlier in the week. That means Armstead has serious shoes to fill as he continues to develop in the remainder of the season.
5. Third-down success
The 49ers were 2-of-11 on third down in Week 11 against the Seahawks. That's a drastic shift from San Francisco's previous game against the Atlanta Falcons when the 49ers scored both of their touchdowns on third down while going 6-of-14 for the game. San Francisco's 34-percent conversion rate on third down ranks 29th in the NFL and will continue to be a point of emphasis going forward.
Arizona's defense ranks 11th in third-down defense, holding opponents to a 37-percent conversion rate.