Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/AP/Shutterstock (13622003cz) San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) reacts after Christian McCaffrey scored a touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif Chargers 49ers Football, Santa Clara, United States – 13 Nov 2022
San Francisco 49ers (5-4) at Arizona Cardinals (4-6) (Mexico City)
Time/TV: 7:15 p.m. CT/ESPN
The San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals faced off in the first NFL regular season game played outside the United States back in 2005, and now will return to the same location for Monday night’s battle at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. San Francisco heads into Monday night fresh off a win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football, its second in a row – and with the Seahawks idle this week, they have a chance to move into first place in the NFC West division. Arizona, meanwhile, continues to fight an uphill battle to .500, but won in encouraging fashion last weekend in Los Angeles against the Rams.
The big question mark for the Cardinals is at quarterback, where it appears likely that Colt McCoy will once again start in place of Kyler Murray. McCoy started against the 49ers once last season, a strong effort that led Arizona to a 31-17 win on the road in Santa Clara. Those Cardinals moved to 8-1 with the victory, but the team is just 7-12 in the 19 games played since. Arizona will face a difficult task against the 49ers’ defensive unit allowing just 18.1 points per game this season, regardless of who is under center.
San Francisco and Arizona have taken entirely different approaches to preparing for a football game in a unique venue in Mexico City. Estadio Azteca sits at 7,200 feet of elevation, almost 2,000 feet higher than even the home of the Denver Broncos, Empower Field at Mile High. San Francisco did play in Denver earlier this season, falling 11-10 against the Denver Broncos back in Week 3. The 49ers have spent the last several days practicing in Colorado Springs at the Air Force Academy to prepare themselves for the thin air, while the Cardinals have continued to practice at their facility in Tempe, Arizona.
If there’s one area the 49ers will be looking to improve Monday night despite their recent success in the win column, it would be their inability of late to finish successful drives with touchdowns. Robbie Gould kicked three field goals in last week’s win, a big part of why San Francisco only won by six points despite outgaining the Chargers by almost 150 yards. Given the 49ers’ expansive offensive weaponry, they believe they can pair their fourth-ranked scoring defense with a similarly lethal attack when they have the ball. Jimmy Garoppolo has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal between George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Christian McCaffrey.
Cardinals’ quarterback Colt McCoy is 3-1 over the last two seasons when starting for Arizona, so they’ll certainly be confident in his abilities if he is called upon again Monday night. The Cardinals have beaten the 49ers in three of their last four meetings dating back to the start of the 2020 season, a trend they’ll be looking to continue against a team they certainly know well. A win would keep Arizona on the outskirts of playoff contention in the NFC, but it will be no easy task for a team playing a “home” game at elevation in an environment some are predicting will be full of San Francisco fans.