49ers to Throw Mixed Bag at Cardinals

Larry Fitzgerald; Nate Clements (Getty)

The San Francisco 49ers will be without CB Nate Clements on Monday night. Clements, who has guarded Larry Fitzgerald well in the past, has a fractured shoulder blade that has kept him sidelined for five weeks and counting. With Clements out, 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has adjusted his game plan to avoid a Madden-type game from the Pro Bowl receiver.

The San Francisco 49ers' 20-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, in Arizona, still stings. The Cardinals had two opportunities to regain the lead and put away the ball game, but pressure on Kurt Warner made the attempts fall flat. Warner was sacked on the last play of the NFC West matchup, which put the fork in the Cardinals ability to regain the lead.

San Francisco needs to provide a similar defensive showing to keep Arizona from clinching the division in front of its Bay City crowd. That's where defensive coordinator Greg Manusky steps in.

Defenders who aren't normally physical, need to be. And preparing for Warner is a different mindset to begin with.

"You've got to cat and mouse him, I think, is the most important thing," Manusky said. "There's such a good veteran, wiley quarterbacks that they know where they're going with the ball, they know what coverage they're looking at. You've got to sometimes trick them a little bit and disguise a little bit better. We talk about that each and every week, about the disguise."

Shawntae Spencer
(Getty)

Another disguise will be how the 49ers plan to cover Larry Fitzgerald, without Nate Clements.

"Yes, [Clements has] always played him well. We don't have him right now, but we'll make adjustments and we've got other guys who have got to step up their game and go out there and play to the best of their abilities and do the job."

Manusky says their coverage will be mixed. They will use different defenders to silence Fitzgerald & Co. CB Shawntae Spencer will be part of that game plan. He is part of the 49ers evolving defense, as he has been playing well. While the 49ers continue to change, so does the Cardinals offense.

"A little bit cleaner, a little bit smoother," Manusky said of the change in the Cardinals from Week 1. "I think their offense is playing together, with the quarterback the way he is, he brings them all together. They're healthier than they were the first game with the receivers and stuff. They're just getting used to one another like what normally happens in the 12th or 13th game of the year."

Another facet of the Cardinals offense is the developing running game that adds another dimension to Arizona's offense. Manusky sees the growth and credits his former teammate, Russ Grimm.

"They've got two hard runners, good sight lines, good vision. The offensive line is doing a good job with Russ Grimm coaching them. He's doing a pretty good job. He was a run-type guy when he was playing. So, they're doing well."


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