It was the Christian McCaffrey game. It was also a Brock Purdy game, and also, a Brandon Aiyuk game. In other words, the San Francisco offense excelled, as the 49ers beat the Arizona Cardinals, 35-16, and improve to 4-0.
49ers’ running back Christian McCaffrey was a one-man wrecking crew, as he had 20 rushes for 106 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. He also had seven receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown catch. Where in the world would this team be without McCaffrey?
“Don’t ever say that,” 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game.
But, like, actually. The 49ers were 3-4 when they traded for McCaffrey in October 2022, with the fourth loss coming to the Chiefs a couple days after the trade. That was their last regular-season loss.
“[Y]ou know he’s that good of a player just watching him and stuff, I think the whole league does,” Shanahan said. “But then when you get someone, when you’re around him personally, then you realize how much better he is just because of the intangibles that he has and really his whole makeup and how he works each week and how he prepares for a season…
“He is as much of a professional as I’ve been around and in order to make trades, you usually have to give a little bit more…then there’s always a risk that they won’t work out. There’s injuries in this league, there’s tons of stuff, but what you like to do is know who the guy you’re betting on and he’s a dude that I think everyone would bet on.”
It’s not too early to start talking MVP, and McCaffrey should be in the discussion.
Shanahan said after the game that he didn’t realize McCaffrey had four touchdowns and he would have liked to get him a fifth.
“It would have been nice,” McCaffrey joked after the game. “No, he’s obviously got a lot going on in-game. That’s the last of anyone’s worries…As long as we scored, I was happy.”
But it’s not just the 177 total yards and the four touchdowns. It’s the athleticism, the instincts, and, well, the acrobatics that separate McCaffrey.
Case in point, during the second quarter, McCaffrey took a short pass from Purdy, hurdled over Cardinals’ CB Kei-Trel Clark and then evaded defender after defender on his way to an 18-yard touchdown. Casual.
“Yeah, he’s a freak,” Purdy said.
Speaking of Brock Purdy, the 49ers’ QB1 had one incompletion on Sunday. Yup, just one.
“We didn’t even know what the one incompletion was,” said wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. “[Shanahan] told us that it was just a throwaway on third down, so that’s crazy. It just tells you the type of quarterback that he is and how efficient he is knowing where to go with the football.”
Purdy, ever the perfectionist, knew what the incompletion was.
“Honestly, I’m still mad about the one I missed to Christian,” Purdy said. “He broke out, he was open, I should’ve hit him and then we would’ve been in field goal range. So I mean, that is something that I’m going to have to learn from and wish I could have had back. But, everyone did their job today and they helped me out and the O-Line did a great job. So, it was a well- orchestrated offensive day.”
McCaffrey joked, or half-joked, that he’d look at the tape and see if maybe it was on him.
Christian McCaffrey is willing to take the blame for Brock Purdy’s incompletion 😅 pic.twitter.com/JMKMtgkkYW
— Tracy Sandler (@TracyFGSN) October 2, 2023
Purdy finished the day 20-of-21 for 283 yards and a touchdown, while also having his own one-yard touchdown run. His completion percentage of 95.2% set a franchise record.
McCaffrey called Purdy a “phenomenal” quarterback.
“I think you can go down the list of what makes a quarterback good and he checks every box,” McCaffrey said. “Then he has all the intangibles that would be phenomenal. He brings a kind of swagger and energy every day that is fun to be around. He’s quiet but very confident and he expresses that in the way he plays. It’s just awesome to have him in the huddle.”
After missing Week Three with a shoulder injury, Aiyuk was back to the tune of six receptions for a career-best 148 yards. The offense was clicking.
“The way we go about meetings and the way guys lift and practice everything, everyone’s on a mission and we expect a lot out of ourselves and obviously every game matters for us,” Purdy said. “We have an end goal in mind, but everyone’s hungry to do the little things right. And the coaches are hard on us when we win, but there’s plays to be made out there. There’s things that we could be better at. And I feel like last week we sort of took that to heart and guys came out just very detailed this week, so it felt good.”
Next up, the 49ers host the Dallas Cowboys (3-1) next week for Sunday Night Football.