Christian McCaffrey

What we learned as McCaffrey's four TDs fuel 49ers' win vs. Cardinals

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SANTA CLARA — Trap game, huh?

The 49ers appeared to be in the moment Sunday and definitely weren't looking ahead to their Week 5 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.

The 49ers executed with precision on offense against the Arizona Cardinals and flew around on defense to jump out to an early lead.

But the scrappy Cardinals hung around and made the 49ers work hard for a 35-16 victory at Levi’s Stadium.

Running back Christian McCaffrey scored a career-best four touchdowns and super-efficient quarterback Brock Purdy did what he has done since entering the 49ers’ starting lineup last season.

The 49ers (4-0) remained unbeaten heading into their Sunday night showdown against the Cowboys.

Here are the major takeaways from the Week 4 victory over the Cardinals (1-3):

The McCaffrey Show continues

McCaffrey, coming off NFC Offensive Player of the Month honors, began October in fine form, too.

McCaffrey rushed for 106 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries, while catching seven passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.

Whenever the 49ers needed anything, coach Kyle Shanahan made sure to get the ball into McCaffrey’s hands.

McCaffrey capped the 49ers’ first drive of the game with a 1-yard touchdown run. It was the 13th consecutive game, including postseason, in which he has gotten into the end zone.

That streak broke a tie with Jerry Rice (1987) for longest streak in franchise history. He tied Emmitt Smith and Arian Foster for second-longest streak behind Smith, who also had 14-game streak during the 1995 season.

But McCaffrey saved his best for the 49ers’ next possession.

McCaffrey caught a lateral pass from Brock Purdy along the right side in the second quarter and hurdled rookie cornerback Kei-Trel Clark while picking up blocks from Kyle Juszczyk, George Kittle, Jake Brendel and Deebo Samuel to score on an 18-yard run that LeBron James described as “ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS!!!!”

Of course, McCaffrey was not done.

He added a 6-yard touchdown reception from Purdy for McCaffrey’s 18th touchdown in 18 games with the 49ers.

Purdy is pretty perfect

Purdy completed 20 of 21 pass attempts for 283 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and a passer rating of 134.6.

He set the 49ers' single-game record for completion percentage at 95.2 percent. The previous record (at least 20 attempts) was Steve Young, 1991 vs. Detroit (18 of 20) 90 percent.

The 49ers touched the ball on just three drives in the first half (not including a kneel-down in the final seconds), and each possession ended with a touchdown.

Purdy did not put the ball on the ground before halftime, completing all 10 of his pass attempts for 145 yards and a touchdown. His first-half passer rating was 152.1.

It was the first time a 49ers quarterback did not throw an incomplete pass in the first half of a game with at least 10 attempts since Steve Young (also 10-for-10) on Oct. 16, 1994, against the Atlanta Falcons.

Brandon Aiyuk returned to action and accounted for the longest-gaining play with a 42-reception against double coverage when he came back for the ball to make a finger-tip grab.

Aiyuk caught three passes for 69 yards in the first half upon returning to action after missing the 49ers’ Week 3 game against the New York Giants due to a shoulder injury. He finished the game with 148 yards on six receptions.

Dobbs gives 49ers’ defense fits

The 49ers’ defense has some stuff to clean up before the Cowboys come to town.

While they forced two punts on Arizona’s first two possessions of the game, defensive coordinator Steve Wilks’ group did not have many answers for quarterback Josh Dobbs, whom the Cardinals acquired in a trade just two days before their final 2023 preseason game.

The 49ers had a difficult time slowing down Arizona once Dobbs got rolling. Arizona was particularly good on third downs against San Francisco's vaunted defense. Dobbs helped the Cardinals convert eight of 15 third-down opportunities.

And he engineered long scoring drives at the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third quarter to pull Arizona to within striking range.

Dobbs completed 28 of 41 passes for 265 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions.

The 49ers did not apply much pressure on Dobbs, but defensive tackle Javon Hargrave threw him for an 8-yard loss on a third-and-10 play in the fourth quarter that thwarted an Arizona drive.

The 49ers held a 21-3 lead in the second quarter. But Arizona’s 99-yard scoring drive in the third quarter pulled them to within 21-16.

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