If you were to look up the word “elite” in a dictionary, you would probably see the 49ers defense attached to it.
They have been suffocating offenses since the Bye week and don’t look like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon. However, there will still be some offenses that will give them fits. Seattle did so last week against them with their backup quarterback Drew Lock for a stretch of the game. This upcoming week doesn’t get any easier.
San Francisco’s defense gets the honor to face the Cardinals and Kyler Murray. There won’t be Josh Dobbs this time around like in the initial meeting. Murray has actually been a very solid quarterback since coming off of Injured Reserve. He looks exactly like the player that defenses have trouble with, so the 49ers defense will certainly be challenged against Murray.
Historically, Murray has given the 49ers the most trouble out of anyone in the NFC West ever since Russell Wilson, and even a bit before that. Now they get to face him as he and the Cardinals come off a Bye week. They’ll be rested and extra prepared. Defending him is always tricky and will take the 49ers defense to account for multiple factors. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks explained the keys to defending against Murray.
“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things,” said Wilks. “Number one, we’ve got to be sound in our defensive responsibilities as far as the zone-read, not allowing him to be able to get outside the pocket because he’s definitely going to pull it. And then also his ability to be able to scramble and go make a big play.
“I think it’s a little different than [Eagles QB] Jalen [Hurts] than what we faced a couple of weeks ago, but it’s still the same premise that we’ve got to make sure that we contain him. And once again, I think he’s doing an excellent job of going through his progression, trying to stay in the pocket, going through his different reads and putting the ball where it needs to go.”
Well, that felt like a subtle shot at Jalen Hurts there from Wilks, but it is tough to disagree. Murray is such a better player in space with his speed and elusiveness. Not to mention that he does damage from the pocket and excels on the run for the scramble drill to deliver to his wide receivers. It’s crazy to even fathom of it initially, but Murray does present challenges that Hurst doesn’t.
Murray will give the 49ers defense some tough drives, but it won’t be that difficult for them. The Cardinals don’t have great skill players. Marquise Brown is solid, but he has been dealing with a foot injury for the last several weeks. Their tight end Trey McBride is pretty good too, but he is no threat to any of the 49ers’ linebackers. It’ll be a challenge for the 49ers that they’ll welcome and still emerge the vastly stronger side.
Facing Murray also comes at a perfect time for the 49ers as he can act as a warmup for when they face the Ravens and Lamar Jackson next week.