When watching the film of both games last year, the first thing that jumped off the screen was the difference in how the defense played when Patrick Willis was in the game during week 11, and the struggles it caused for them in week 14. In that first meeting Willis was continuously around the ball, whether it was his early interception, getting in the throwing lane to deflect a pass, or in position to make the tackle. His presence on Monday Night should help limit or eliminate altogether many of the issues the defense faced in their week 14 loss last season.
1) Pressure John Skelton - In the 49ers 21-19 week 14 loss in Arizona last season the defense gave up 3 big pass plays, a 60 yard TD to Early Doucet, a 46 yard TD to Larry Fitzgerald, and a 53 yard completion to Fitzgerald on the first play of the 4th quarter that set up the game winning TD pass 4 plays later.
A key to each of those plays was the clean pocket and throwing lane that Skelton had to work from as you can see below. The Cardinals come into this game having given up a league high 35 sacks on the season. The 49ers pass rush needs to find it's groove this week and force Skelton to move and disrupt his throwing lanes.
- The 49ers rush 4, and Skelton has plenty of time to get the ball downfield to Fitzgerald, who out muscles Goldson for the ball and gets into the endzone.
- Again the 49ers are unable to put pressure on Sketon with 4 rushers, and he fits the ball into Fitzgerald who is well covered on the play.
The big plays in the week 14 matchup were primarily the result of poor tackling on the part of the defensive backfield. They need to make sure they keep him in front of him, and limit his yards after catch this week.
3) Keep the run game down - The Cardinals rushing attach is currently tied for 29th in the league at 3.6 yards per attempt and are 27th in the league in yards per game at 89.3. After allowing back to back 100 yard rushing days, this is a good time for the defense to find find it's footing against the run again.