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Cardinals Close Season With Test Against NFC West Best 49ers

David Blough to get second start at QB with multiple key players sitting

Quarterback David Blough (17) will get a second start with the Cardinals on Sunday.
Quarterback David Blough (17) will get a second start with the Cardinals on Sunday.

With some kind of change coming and the end of the season set in stone weeks ago, Kliff Kingsbury has a simple goal for Sunday's finale in San Francisco.

"I want us to play our best game of the season," the Cardinals head coach said. "We've got some guys getting an opportunity to play against the best team in the NFC. You can't ask for anything more as a team than to play the hottest team in the conference on the road during the last game of the year and see where we're at.

"So our guys are excited. It's a tough task, but I'm excited to watch them play."

The Cardinals (4-12) are down multiple key players, including wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, running back James Conner and linebacker Zaven Collins, in addition to their 18 players on Injured Reserve. The 49ers (12-4) have won nine straight games and haven't suffered a loss since late October in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. They still have a chance to be the No. 1 seed in the NFC, with a win and an Eagles' loss.

Despite losing Trey Lance early in the year and Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 13, their loaded offense hasn't missed a beat under third-string quarterback Brock Purdy, who is from the Valley and played ball at Perry in the Chandler High School District.

Purdy has arguably been the 49ers' best quarterback this season, leading the NFL with a 112.7 passer rating since becoming the starter. Purdy has completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 1130 yards, 10 touchdowns, and three interceptions since taking over for Garoppolo.

"He's no longer a backup," defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. "He's played enough ball and got enough snaps where you can see him as a starter. He's playing great football. He's taking care of the football, putting the offense in a good place, and playing at a high level for a young guy.

"The issue is the quarterback, but they also have Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk, who is having a hell of a year. There are many weapons to account for, and that's my job to get them all covered."

The Cardinals have a quarterback that nobody expected to be the starter for this matchup when this season started as well. But injuries to Kyler Murray and Colt McCoy this season opened the door for David Blough to join the team, and eventually, start. Blough will start again for the Cardinals over Trace McSorley on Sunday.

Blough completed 60 percent of his passes for 222 yards and a touchdown last week against the Falcons. The numbers weren't bad, but the 49ers' defense will present a more difficult test. The 49ers rank third in the fewest yards allowed (303.4), just behind the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills. And first in fewest points allowed (16.5).

"I think they're as good as anybody in the league," Blough said. "I haven't had much crossover with them being in the NFC North, but watching the tape, you're like, 'they're legit, they're good.' All the numbers and everything backs it up.

"We've got our hands full. We've got to be good at getting help on the defensive line, get the ball out quickly, win match ups when we get them, and score in the red zone. They do a great job of negating all of that, and that's why they're one of the best defenses in the league."