Whoever wins will it atop the NFC West
The Arizona Cardinals are reeling after three straight losses, which come after four consecutive wins to start the season. Needless to say, this is a big game, especially since they go on the road for their next two games to face the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons.
What does Arizona have to do to win this game on Monday Night Football?
Keep up the defensive stinginess
The one thing that Arizona has consistently done well this season is keep teams out of the end zone against them. The defense has given up only 10 TDs in seven games. That was the key to the Cardinals' win in 2011 against the Niners. Instead of touchdowns, they forced four field goals. With the offense struggling to put up points, they can;t give up more than two touchdowns and expect to win.
Make San Francisco one-dimensional
In a perfect world, the Arizona defense could limit Frank Gore and the Niners' rushing offense, which is second in the league and first in yards per carry. However, that has not been the unit's strong suit. They do stop the pass. Last week in Minnesota, they allowed only 209 total yards. It just was that 153 of them were Adrian Peterson.
Peterson was the first back to top 100 yards against the Cardinals this season.
Arizona does not have to completely stuff the running game. They just need to do it enough to make Alex Smith beat them. He is having an okay season, but has already been intercepted as many times in seven games as he was all last season.
Do not turn the ball over
Arizona has taken care of the ball for the most part this season. Their turnover ratio is +4. San Francisco's is +2. Last week, the pick-six that John Skelton was the difference in the game. Considering the offensive struggles, Arizona can't afford to give the ball away.
Make field goals
Jay Feely has missed kicks in each of the last three games. The team brought in another kicker to work out. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has made comments that pointed directly at the need to make kicks. Since the offense does not find the end zone a lot, making kicks is crucial. They can't afford to leave points on he field.
The theme for the Cardinals has been missed plays and lost opportunities in their losses. This is the time to turn it around. Convert two or three of those missed plays this time around, and we will be talking about the gritty win the Cardinals had to get their season back on track.