(Photo credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
At this time a year ago, there would have been laughter if someone had predicted the starting quarterbacks when the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers meet for the first time in 2023 would be Joshua Dobbs and Brock Purdy.
But that's what it will be Sunday when the Cardinals (1-2), coming off a stunning 28-16 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3, travel to Santa Clara to play the undefeated 49ers (3-0) in Levi's Stadium.
Purdy, who has won eight consecutive regular-season games after becoming the starter in place of the injured Jimmy Garoppolo last season, has had a passer rating of at least 90 in all his starts and is currently fourth in the NFL with a 106.3 rating.
Dobbs, who had started only two games before 2023 in a career that began in 2017, isn't far back at 98.1. He was on the winning side for the first time against the Cowboys, which was the one-month anniversary of the Aug. 24 trade that took him from Cleveland to Arizona.
Purdy and Dobbs are two of only four opening-day quarterbacks in the league who don't have an interception after three games. The Chargers' Justin Herbert and Houston rookie C.J. Stroud are the others.
Dobbs is also one of five quarterbacks with a completion percentage over 70: Herbert 74.4, Lamar Jackson 73.3, Josh Allen 72.7, Dobbs 72.0 and Tua Tagovailoa 71.3.
"I think he's played winning football for us since he's been here," Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon said. "I think you guys will continue to see his improvement as he gets more and more comfortable. You can ask him; he's pretty comfortable right now. He's making a bunch of plays for us, he's got good command in the huddle, and he never has any flinch, which I love about him."
Dobbs will be facing San Francisco's third-ranked defense in total yards and rushing yards with James Conner at running back, who is fourth in the NFL with 266 yards and 5.2 per carry. Four of his runs have been for at least 20 yards.
Of course, the 49ers answer with Christian McCaffrey, the league's leading rusher with 353 yards (5.9 per run).
He is complemented by tight end George Kittle and wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, who didn't play because of a shoulder injury in San Francisco's Week 3 Thursday night 30-12 win over the Giants. Aiyuk was limited in practice Wednesday, while Samuel did not practice after suffering an injury to his ribs and knee against the Giants.
Also not practicing for the 49ers were wide receiver Jauan Jennings (shin) and linebacker Dre Greenlaw (ankle).
For the Cardinals, Conner was limited in practice because of a back injury and defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter (finger) did not practice. Inside linebackers Krys Barnes (finger) and Josh Woods (ankle), who has missed the last two games, did not practice. Barnes was injured Sunday and was seen wearing a soft cast.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was glad to be 3-0 and to have some time off after the Thursday game.
"It's really cool to do it after a Thursday night game," he said of being undefeated. "There's not many times in the NFL where you get to enjoy a win more than just that night. So it's always cool when you win on Thursdays. I told the guys if they want to win and have a weekend off, we got to earn it, and those guys did. Now you can sit back and relax a little bit, kind of enjoy how these last three weeks have gone and be ready to go."
Cornerback Isaiah Oliver said the Cardinals game was one he watched on the Sunday day off.
"They came out, and they fought hard," he said. "They played really well. We understand that will be a big matchup, a divisional game. It's always tough playing a division rival."
Last season, the 49ers dominated a very different Cardinals team in two games, winning 38-10 and 38-13. Overall, the 49ers have won 13 consecutive regular-season games and 10 straight at home, including the postseason.
--Field Level Media