Answering three questions about the 49ers/Cardinals matchup ahead of Sunday’s game
We have a new segment where we’ll ask a few questions on Niners Nation’s YouTube page every Wednesday ahead of the following week’s game. The three questions discussed this week were questions on everyone’s mind.
Do the 49ers have a chance, does Trey Lance give the team the best shot, and is the running game going to be OK without Raheem Mostert?
Do the Niners (2-2) have a legit shot against a rolling Cardinals (4-0) team?
First of all, there’s always a chance. But this one is going to be an uphill battle. The Cardinals have established themselves as one of the best teams in the NFL and one of the best teams in the NFC West.
They came out on top in a battle of unbeaten against the Rams last week. They are rolling and have a lot going for them right now. But, the Cardinals are only favored by 5.5 points. If you pay attention to betting odds, that’s certainly a slim margin and not that far off from seeing the Niners come out on top in this one.
The way to beat the Cardinals is to run the ball down their throats. The Cardinals are near the bottom of the league in opponent rushing yards. So, if the Niners can take advantage on the ground, they should be just fine. And if Trey Lance gets the start, his ability to run and extend plays will only help the Niners’ odds down the stretch.
Defensively, the 49ers’ strength has been their fast defense. If they can put that into action as they go up against one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Kyler Murray, it will certainly slow down the Cardinals in what’s a very potent attack.
Is Trey Lance the best bet under center versus Kyler Murray?
Kyler Murray has already established himself as an early contender for NFL MVP. So to put him and Lance in the same conversation isn’t fair to either party. They’re both mobile quarterbacks, but I think the comparisons have to stop right there for now.
Jimmy G has been set up as the team’s QB1, so Trey hasn’t taken enough first-team reps to be solid on the field on Sundays. On the other hand, the game has not slowed down for Lance, so it’s unfair to say he’s going to get the job done when the Niners need him to.
He lacks the maturity to put the team on his back and make plays in tight games. Does that mean he’s not capable? No. It just means that he’s young and he’s not there yet. Who would expect him to be?
But Lance has plenty of bright spots that we should all be excited about. The more that he plays, the better he gets. Right now, Lance needs to focus on getting the ball out of his hands and leaning on the weapons that the Niners do have. Lean on those more experienced players, lean on the veterans, and ask them to do their jobs while Lance waits for the game to slow down for him and absorbs everything like the sponge he should be now.
So, is Lance the best bet for the 49ers this week? I’m not sure there’s a right answer to that question in terms of game experience, poise, and maturity on the field. Of course, the answer is no.
In terms of athleticism and future playmaking ability, yes, we’re just not there yet.
Is the 49ers running game screwed without Raheem Mostert?
Flat out, no. Let’s get that one out of the way. You just can’t replicate a guy like Mostert. He’s a dime a dozen, and it’s important to recognize. It’s hard to find a guy with the same playmaking ability, that much speed, who can also break tackles. The 49ers certainly miss Mostert, who was a walking highlight.
To say the run game simply won’t and can’t be a factor without Mostert isn’t fair, and it’s also not true. Right now, it’s Eli Mitchell and Trey Sermon. Mitchell is no slowpoke, as he clocked a 4.3 40 at his pro day, which places him among the 96th percentile. The only player to top that on the roster? Mostert.
Sermon has 30 carries for 128 yards—fewer touches than Mitchell but also more per clip. The bottom line is these guys are rookies and are still learning about what it takes to be that breakout back. When you’re looking into that crystal ball, you see these two as the 1-2 punch the Niners need going forward.
The most important thing for the 49ers running game is staying healthy. We’ve already seen the negative impacts of that this season. When the Niners get Jeff Wilson and JaMycal Hasty back, we’ll see the running game be that much more effective as each of those guys bring a skillset that the 49ers need right now.