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49ers report card: McCaffrey’s scoring spree, Purdy’s precision key win

49ers report card: McCaffrey’s scoring spree, Purdy’s precision key win

SANTA CLARA — Here is how the 49ers (4-0) graded in Sunday’s 35-16 home win over the Arizona Cardinals (1-3):

San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Brock Purdy (13) hugs San Francisco 49ers’ Jake Brendel (64) on the sidelines during their game against the Arizona Cardinals late in the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

PASS OFFENSE: A+

Brock Purdy was 21-of-22 (franchise-record 95.2 completion percentage) and, although he was mad about his third-and-long incompletion out of field-goal range, he got help en route to that 283-yard, 134.6-rating day. In particular was pass No. 8 amid a 13-of-13 start: a 42-yard “opportunity ball,” as described by Purdy who himself was astonished how Brandon Aiyuk torqued his body to grab it in double coverage. “It was just amazing to see B.A. change trajectory, basically a 40-degree turn to get to the ball,” center Jake Brendel said. “I remember looking back at Brock and he was, ‘Oh my god. That was close.’ ” That play set up McCaffrey’s third of four touchdowns Sunday, and his first scoring catch of the season. Aiyuk caught all six of his targets for 148 yards, McCaffrey had seven receptions for 71 yards, and Deebo Samuel got shutout in targets. One-catch receivers: George Kittle (fourth-down conversion), Kyle Juszczyk, Jordan Mason, Ronnie Bell and Willie Snead IV (first with 49ers). Purdy was sacked once thanks to great blocking against a four-man front in the first half, then six-man looks after halftime.

San Francisco 49ers’ Christian McCaffrey (23) scores a touchdown, his second of the game, against Arizona Cardinals’ Jalen Thompson (34) in the second quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

RUN OFFENSE: A

McCaffrey’s four-touchdown day came one shy of the 49ers’ single-game record, and he had three scores within the first three drives, the first two of which came on runs. His 18-yard run for a 14-0 lead was highlighted by his hurdle of a defender at the 15-yard line, but springing lanes on that backward-pass screen were blocks by Kyle Juszczyk, George Kittle, Jake Brendel and Deebo Samuel. McCaffrey’s final touchdown, a 2-yard run up the middle, was strangely necessary after the Cardinals pulled within 21-16. Rather than a fifth touchdown from him, the 49ers capped their scoring spree with Purdy’s 1-yard touchdown sneak, the 49ers’ preferred method rather than have him pushed from behind by teammates (see: Eagles’ Jalen Hurts’ “Tush Push”). McCaffrey raised his NFL lead to 459 yards this season and finished with his 100-yard game this season (20 carries, 106 yards). Other work went to Jordan Mason (three carries, 10 yards), Deebo Samuel (three carries, six yards) and Juszczyk (two carries, three yards). Elijah Mitchell was inactive because of a knee injury in Thursday’s practice; he has not played in 18 of the past 30 games.

San Francisco 49ers’ Javon Hargrave (98) celebrates his sack with San Francisco 49ers’ Drake Jackson (95) against the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

PASS DEFENSE: B

The 49ers struggled to consistently pressure Joshua Dobbs and he responded by passing for 265 yards and two touchdowns, both to Michael Wilson. They allowed their longest completion of the season, a 41-yarder to Marquise Brown, who finished with 96 yards on six catches. Javon Hargrave produced the 49ers’ only sack; they have totaled just four sacks since producing five in their season opener. Nick Bosa had no sacks but four hits on Dobbs, whom he credited for being quick and poised. “There’s some run-game stuff we need to iron out but the opportunities we got, we rushed well,” Bosa said. Charvarius Ward drew a third-down pass-interference penalty, and, Ambry Thomas yielded a third-down completion (while Deommodore Lenoir replaced Isaiah Oliver at nickel back, before Thomas returned to the bench).

Arizona Cardinals starting quarterback Joshua Dobbs (9) scrambles against San Francisco 49ers’ Dre Greenlaw (57) in the first quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

RUN DEFENSE: B

The 49ers failed to stop Dobbs on a trio of third-and-short runs on the Cardinals’ final touchdown drive, and he converted on a fourth-down scramble, too. But the 49ers aren’t facing many mobile quarterbacks this season, so don’t fret about long-term issues like past seasons. Dobbs finished with 48 yards (12 carries) and workhorse James Conner was stopped at 52 yards (11 carries). Fred Warner had 10 tackles, as did Dre Greenlaw, who aggravated a left-ankle injury, left for a play, then yielded a touchdown pass upon his return.

San Francisco 49ers’ Jake Moody (4) kicks off against the Arizona Cardinals in the first quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-

Cardinals special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers, a one-time 49ers assistant, dialed up a successful fake punt on their first touchdown drive. Jake Moody sent a kickoff out of bounds for the second time this season. Ray-Ray McCloud reached only the 13-yard line returning the second half kickoff out of the end zone. But an ensuing punt by Mitch Wishnowsky got downed at the 1 by Oren Burks, after a nice play from newcomer Kendall Sheffield to prevent a touchback.

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San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan talks to a referee during their game against the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

COACHING: A-

Aiyuk credited Kyle Shanahan for calling a great game, and it’s hard to argue with that after the 49ers broke out of their 30-point streak and dropped 35 on a divisional opponent. Just as commendable was the coaching staff’s insistence not to overlook the Cardinals like the Dallas Cowboys did a week earlier. Next up: a Sunday night affair against those Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium.