Two of only four teams in the league with one win, the Cardinals and 49ers are buried at the bottom of the NFC West with identical 1-6 records.
Each team also enters Sunday’s matchup in Arizona coming off lopsided drubbings. The Cardinals were humbled by the Denver Broncos 45-10 on Oct. 18 to fall to 0-4 at home.
San Francisco was overmatched at home by the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams last weekend to run its losing streak to five games — a skid that included a 28-18 loss at home to the Cardinals in Week 5.
Predictably, there have been fallouts from the ugly starts. Arizona fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy one day after the debacle against Denver and the off-field drama continued this week when ESPN reported that star cornerback Patrick Peterson “desperately” wants out of the desert after the team’s worst start since 2011.
Peterson went into damage-control mode this week, releasing a statement that he is “100 percent focused” on turning things around for the skidding Cardinals.
“Honestly, I don’t really want to dwell on the situation of what happened,” Peterson told reporters Wednesday. “I said what I said. The news came out Monday. It is what it is. It’s business. We’re moving forward from it. Our focus right now is on the 49ers.”
Arizona first-year head coach Steve Wilks promoted quarterback Byron Leftwich to replace McCoy with hopes of injecting life into an offense that ranks at or near the bottom of the league in every major category. The Cardinals are averaging NFL worsts in total yards (220.7) and rushing (64.6).
Wilks said the offense would take on somewhat of a similar look as it had under former head coach Bruce Arians, who hand-picked Leftwich to be an assistant and let him call plays in a preseason game a year ago.
Leftwich is in only his second season of coaching at any level but rookie quarterback Josh Rosen predicted the switch will help everyone “think less and play faster” on offense.
“He’s sort of a ghostly legend in this building here,” said Rosen, who referred to Leftwich as an Arians descendent. “I think he’s putting in some new stuff but also pulling on some past knowledge and I’m looking forward to what we are about to do with him.”
Rosen had the worst performance of his young career against the Broncos before suffering a sprained toe late in the game. He threw three interceptions, two which were returned for touchdowns, while being sacked six times and losing two fumbles.
“We are all underperforming a bit, but like I said in the past, I am very happy that we’re a really good football team playing not so well, as opposed to hitting our potential as a team that maybe doesn’t have as much potential,” said Rosen.
While Arizona has been woeful on offense, San Francisco has been dreadful on the other side of the ball. The 49ers are allowing an average of 33.4 points during their five-game skid and the defense ranks last in the NFL in total takeaways with three.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan, who already has lost starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and No. 1 running back Jerick McKinnon to season-ending knee injuries, watched his offense commit four turnovers to go along with a blocked punt in the loss to the Rams.
San Francisco started 1-10 a year ago before closing the season on a five-game winning streak, so Shanahan is trying to focus on the positives.
“Our record right now (1-6) doesn’t impact the big picture to me,” said Shanahan. “It’s tough to deal with; it’s frustrating. We’re all working extremely hard and want much better results. But just because the record doesn’t show that isn’t going to make you doubt yourself and go rip up your plans and do something totally new.”
The turnovers killed the 49ers in the first matchup against Arizona. Quarterback C.J. Beathard passed for 349 yards but was intercepted twice and lost a pair of fumbles, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Tight end George Kittle had five catches for 83 yards in that loss and leads San Francisco in receptions (32) and yards (527).
Rosen was 10 of 25 for 140 yards and a touchdown against the Niners, but running back David Johnson rushed for 55 yards and a pair of touchdowns as Arizona surpassed 20 points for the only time this season and beat San Francisco for the seventh consecutive time.