49ers-Cardinals rematch could have new look at quarterback
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — There will be a decidedly different look to the game when the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals meet for the second time in less than a month.
Jimmy Garoppolo will be back at quarterback for the Niners on Sunday after missing the game in Arizona four weeks ago for the 49ers (3-4) with a calf injury. Kyler Murray’s status for Arizona (7-1) could be in doubt up until game time because of an ankle injury.
“There’s advantages and disadvantages,” Garoppolo said of giving the Arizona defense a new look in the rematch. “It’s just a different style, I guess you could say. But yeah, I think our guys game plan-wise, feeling pretty good about it right now. We’re in a good spot.”
Garoppolo gives the Niners a different style than Lance, who ran the ball 16 times during the 17-10 loss last month. Garoppolo did run for two TDs last week, but is much more comfortable working out of the pocket.
He’s coming off perhaps his best game, throwing for 322 yards against Chicago last week in a game when the Niners didn’t punt or turn the ball over.
If Murray is unable to go for the Cardinals, that switch will be in the opposite direction with backup Colt McCoy not a running threat at all.
“We’re preparing like he’s going to play, so we’re not looking at it any differently,” coach Kyle Shanahan said about Murray. “If he doesn’t, we’ll adjust to that.”
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said he will wait until the last possible moment before ruling Murray out, saying his experience in his third year in the offense would allow him to play even if he didn’t practice.
“He is the type of player with his ability and understanding of the system now, as long as he’s getting the mental reps, we feel good about him going out there and executing,” Kingsbury said.
There will be big differences beyond the quarterback with star tight end George Kittle likely to return from injured reserve this week for the 49ers and Arizona defensive lineman J.J. Watt out with a shoulder injury.
Watt had six pressures, four quarterback hits and two tackles for loss that game as he dominated the line of scrimmage.
The 49ers passing game has revolved around receiver Deebo Samuel so far this season. Samuel had six catches for 171 yards last week for his third 150-yard game of the season. Samuel’s 819 yards receiving are the most for a 49ers receiver through seven games, breaking Jerry Rice’s record of 781 in 1986. Samuel has 46% of team’s receiving yards, the highest rate by any player through seven games since Roddy White in 2008 (47.1%).
“You’d like to spread the ball around and get it to the playmakers, let those guys just go do their thing, but it’s whatever it takes,” Garoppolo said. “If Deebo has to get 99% of the yards, I think he’s willing to do it. And vice versa. We’ll do whatever it takes.”
FORGIVE AND FORGET
The Cardinals could be 8-0 right now if veteran receiver A.J. Green had turned around to catch a ball in the end zone with 12 seconds remaining last Thursday.
Green — who is in his first season with the Cardinals and was added to the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday — didn’t realize the ball was coming his way from Murray and Green Bay was able to come up with the interception and secure a 24-20 win.
After the game, Murray and Kingsbury said there was simply a miscommunication. Both said Wednesday everyone has moved on from the mistake.
“Between us, we’ve talked about it,” Murray said. “It’s over. I think we just both have to be better in that situation. It’s a learning experience.”
Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins has been dealing with a bum hamstring for a few weeks, which kept him out for part of last Thursday’s loss to the Packers.
Hopkins didn’t practice Wednesday, but Kingsbury isn’t ruling him out.
The three-time All Pro has been remarkably healthy over his nine seasons, missing just two regular season games.
The receiver even checked himself into last week’s game against the Packers after tweaking the hamstring injury. Kingsbury seemed mildly perturbed by that decision but said he totally respects how tough Hopkins can be.
“Not sure if he will be ready to go this week or not,” Kingsbury said. “With D-Hop, you never know, he may grab his helmet and just run in there out of the training room. We’ll see.”
HOME NOT SO SWEET HOME
Levi’s Stadium hasn’t treated the 49ers well the past two seasons with San Francisco winning just once at its home stadium since the start of 2020.
The Niners have a 1-7 mark there with the only win coming more than a year ago on Oct. 18, 2020, against the Rams. San Francisco also lost three games as the “home” team after a relocation to Arizona last season because of COVID-19 protocols.
Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has made a point of it this week with his unit.
“He talked about it perfectly with our defense: ‘This has got to mean something to you. Playing in Levi’s Stadium has to mean something to you,’” linebacker Fred Warner said. “I still feel the exact the same. I feel just as strongly that it is unacceptable.”
AP Sports Writer David Brandt contributed to this report
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