Editor's note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Cardinals matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m., at University of Phoenix Stadium.
[MATCHUP NO 3. Iupati vs. Dockett]
49ers CB Tramaine Brock vs. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald
Tale of the tape
Brock (26): 5 foot 10, 197 pounds, fourth season, Belhaven
Fitzgerald (11): 6 foot 3, 218 pounds, 10th season, Pittsburgh
Tramaine Brock was in his third game as the 49ers’ No. 3 cornerback when the 49ers first met the Arizona Cardinals this season.
Although the 49ers emerged with a 32-20 victory at Candlestick Park, the defense gave up their biggest play of the season. The hallmark of the 49ers’ defense has been its ability to prevent quick-strike touchdowns, but Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald torched them.
Fitzgerald caught a pass on a quick slant against Brock. Then, he got up the field between Brock and strong safety Donte Whitner, sprinting 75 yards for a touchdown.
Brock began the season as the 49ers' fourth cornerback. He moved up when veteran Nnamdi Asomugha was injured. Asomugha was ultimately released. And, now, Brock is a starter.
"We always felt he had the ability," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "He just needed an opportunity, and he needed to show it when he got his opportunity. And he’s done that."
Brock took over when Tarell Brown sustained a ribs injury. Brock will make his sixth consecutive start on Sunday against the Cardinals, as he has taken advantage of the opportunity to hold onto the starting job.
Brock is coming off a notable game, in which he helped provide one of the top plays in 49ers defensive history on Monday night in the regular-season finale at Candlestick Park. With the 49ers protecting a three-point lead late in the game, he broke up a quick slant from Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan to Harry Douglas. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman grabbed the dislodged ball for an interception and returned it 89 yards for a playoff-clinching touchdown with 70 seconds remaining.
[RELATED: Brock on the spot to key Bowman's pick six]
Brock’s most significant playing time before this season came in the final game of the 2010 season. The 49ers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 38-7 with Jim Tomsula as interim coach after Mike Singletary had been fired. Fitzgerald caught 11 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown.
“I played him that whole game,” said Brock, who leads the 49ers with five interceptions. “It didn’t go that well for me. But, now, I just go out there and play. I want it go well this time.”
Brock will remain on the right side, so he should see both of the Cardinals’ top pass-catchers. And Arizona has two quality receivers.
Fitzgerald has 76 catches for 841 yards and 10 touchdowns. And second-year player Michael Floyd is on the other side, leading the team with 950 receiving yards on a 16.1-yard per-catch average.