SANTA CLARA – The 49ers take the field on Sunday looking to rebound from a loss for the first time this season.
The 49ers (8-1) still lead the NFC West by a half-game over the Seattle Seahawks, who snapped San Francisco's winning streak with a 27-24 victory in overtime on Monday night.
Now, the 49ers will face the Arizona Cardinals for the second time in three weeks.
The clubs met on Oct. 31, a game in which the 49ers hold on for a 28-25 victory over the Cardinals. Here are five key players for the 49ers in this Week 11 matchup:
5. LT Justin Skule
The sixth-round draft pick is back in the starting lineup after veteran left tackle Joe Staley underwent surgery to repair a dislocated and fractured finger. Skule started six games earlier this season in place of Staley before he was inactive Monday night against the Seahawks.
Skule surrendered four sacks and 13 total pressures in his six starts, and he will go up against one of the more difficult assignments on the schedule – another matchup with Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones.
Jones has registered double-digit sacks in five consecutive seasons, including this year with 11.5. Jones and Tampa Bay’s Shaquil Barrett are tied for the lead in the NFL.
Coach Kyle Shanahan will do all he can to take the heat off Skule, but there will be plenty of instances in which he must be able to hold up one-on-one against one of the best in the league.
4. SS Jaquiski Tartt
The 49ers saw what worked for the Cardinals in Week 9, and you can be sure the formula will remain mostly the same on Sunday.
Arizona’s offensive game plan called for a heavy dose of running back Kenyan Drake, both as a runner and pass-catcher. Drake had 15 rushing attempts for 110 yards and a touchdown. He also caught all four of his pass targets for 52 yards.
Tartt will have major responsibilities in both areas. He will play in the box on the early downs, where he can be the eighth defender against the run. He must also quickly diagnose the Cardinals’ screen game and keep those plays to a minimum.
The 49ers’ pass rush was held mostly at bay against the Cardinals because coach Kliff Kingsbury designed a game plan that called for quarterback Kyler Murray to take short drops and deliver the ball quickly. Tartt might have an opportunity to jump some of those shallow routes.
3. WR Deebo Samuel
The 49ers have not been able to find consistency at wide receiver, aside from newly acquired Emmanuel Sanders. But Sanders is questionable for Sunday with a rib injury. He is expected to play, but he will not be at 100 percent.
Samuel is showing signs of being a trusted target for Jimmy Garoppolo as a rookie.
Samuel, a second-round draft pick from South Carolina, has 30 catches for 339 yards and one touchdown. He had a strong showing on Monday night, but had a bad drop on a play that could have turned into a long touchdown.
With the 49ers not finding reliable answers with Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis, in particular, San Francisco will need more and more production from Samuel.
2. LB Fred Warner
The season-ending injury to linebacker Kwon Alexander left a large void in the middle of the 49ers’ defense.
Fred Warner did a good job of compensating for the loss of Alexander, who proved to be a solid playmaker and an invaluable member of the team for the energy he brings to the defense. On Monday, Warner did it all.
Warner registered 10 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in the overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He was disappointed in his own play on Oct. 31 when he missed two tackles and made some assignment errors in the first meeting against the Cardinals.
The next step for Warner is becoming a reliable player game in and game out.
"He had a very good game and now it goes back to consistency being the truest measure of performance,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He’s got to go stack it up and do it again.”
1. QB Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo cannot do it all by himself, but he’s going to have to do more than usual.
Garoppolo had his best game on Oct. 31 against the Cardinals. He threw for 317 yards and four touchdowns in the 49ers’ 28-25 victory in Glendale, Arizona
Then, he followed that up with a stinker against the Seattle Seahawks. To be fair, Garoppolo did not receive much support from his teammates on offense. The pass protection was problematic, and the receivers had plenty of difficulties holding onto the ball.
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But Garoppolo was also off the mark on many of throws where his receivers should have come up with catches. He was also helped out by Seattle’s defense, which did not hold onto a would-be interception or two.
The 49ers do not figure to have tight end George Kittle available, and Sanders could be limited with his ribs injury. Garoppolo will have to show trust in the team’s other targets, and they'll have to hold up their end of the bargain, too.