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49ers vs. Cardinals: The ground game could be the difference

The San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals will square off for the first time in 2013 in Week 6. The game is an important one as both teams come into the contest tied for second place in the NFC West at 3-2.

After struggling to find an identity on offense early on, the 49ers have gone back to their power running game with great success. They have gained 396 yards the past two weeks and ball carriers are averaging 5.2 yards per carry during that time. San Francisco has shown a renewed commitment to the run as well with 76 attempts compared to only 41 drop backs in those games. Frank Gore has led the way with 234 yards on 37 carries. He also found the endzone twice. With Colin Kaepernick and the passing game still struggling to find a rhythm, the 49ers will continue to lean on Gore and company to pace their attack.

While the 49ers are running the ball down people’s throats, the Cardinals have done an excellent job of stopping it. Their defense has only allowed 3.3 yards per carry on the season which is tied for second best in the NFL. Opponents only have one rushing touchdown in the first five games. Only one team (the New Orleans Saints) have broken 100 yards as a team and no single player has gained more than 63 yards in a game (Daryl Richardson). Something will have to give in this one as both teams strengths will go head to head.

On the flip side, as good as Cardinals are against the run, they are struggling on the offensive side of the ball to get anything going. As a team, they have rushed for fewer than 100 yards in 11 consecutive games dating back to last year. Their leading rusher, Rashard Mendenhall, is only averaging 43.8 yards per games and 3.2 yards per carry on the season.

This is were the 49ers’ stout defense could be the difference in the game. San Francisco has played extremely well on defense the last two weeks, only giving up 14 total points and creating six turnovers. While the unit as a whole has been sound, they have given up over 130 yards rushing in three of the last four games. The one game they did not was their best performance against the run all season, only allowing 18 yards to the St. Louis Rams. Even though they have been inconsistent so far in 2013, expect San Francisco to be able to handle the Cardinal’s porous rushing attack with ease. They should be able to make Arizona one dimensional enough to win this game without much of a problem.

Photo: US Presswire

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