San Francisco 49ers' D will challenge Arizona Cardinals


The Arizona Cardinals might want to take out extra insurance on John Skelton. Their offensive line already got quarterback Kevin Kolb (ribs) killed. They are one big shot away from lining up rookie Ryan Lindley under center. And they host the frothing San Francisco 49ers' defense on Monday night.

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The Cardinals' line has given up 35 sacks in seven games, including 29 in the the last four, and is on pace for 80 sacks -- the second-most in NFL history. Niners coach Jim Harbaugh was delicate when asked about the Cardinals' protection issues

"It's a challenge for everybody," Harbaugh said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. "In this league, call it a struggle, call it a challenge. Every single week, that's a challenge and an opportunity for both teams."

Some teams are more "challenged" than others. ESPN analyst Jon Gruden wasn't as kind with his evaluation.

"Thirty-five sacks in (seven) games? That's almost unheard of," Gruden said. "I'm sure (linebacker) Aldon Smith, I'm sure (defensive tackle) Justin Smith and (linebacker) Ahmad Brooks, those guys are excited to play. Hopefully, the Arizona Cardinals can find some rhythm as far as pass protection.

"Whatever it is, they've got to do a better job of protecting John Skelton or he's in trouble."

Justin Smith won't need to hold this week, but he might be murderous in a different way. Send up a prayer for Skelton on Monday morning. He might need it.

Follow Kareem Copeland on Twitter @kareemcopeland.