SANTA CLARA — Brock Purdy, Christian McCaffrey and Brandon Aiyuk piled up impressive numbers in the 49ers’ Week 4 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
But let’s not forget the efforts of the offensive line.
“Yesterday, they were unbelievable,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday on a conference with Bay Area reporters.
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Purdy dropped back to throw 22 times in the 49ers’ 35-16 win. He completed 20 of 21 pass attempts. He was sacked once and was pressured just three times in the game.
Shanahan said the 49ers’ line faced its biggest challenge in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. On Sunday, they will have a big task ahead of them to contend with the speed of the Cowboys’ Dan Quinn-coached unit.
Edge rusher Micah Parsons leads the Cowboys with four sacks through four games and is considered a favorite for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
“It’s always great to watch film on them,” 49ers center Jake Brendel said of the Cowboys. “They are a dynamic defense. We’ve had success the last couple of years against them, but at the same time they are looking good, too.
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“It will be fun to watch that film and we’ll just make sure we have a good game plan against them to bring them our best.”
Offensive line play around the NFL typically is shaky early in the season. Shanahan said he believes the reduction in offseason practice time places more importance on developing continuity and chemistry in games.
The 49ers return four starters from last season. The only change from a year ago is at right tackle. Colton McKivitz has taken over for Mike McGlinchey, who signed with the Denver Broncos in the offseason.
After a rough start of the season against Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt, McKivitz’s play has improved. Cardinals edge rusher Dennis Gardeck beat McKivitz with a spin move Sunday for his fourth sack of the season. It was the only blemish on McKivitz's grade sheet.
“In general, I think one of the biggest tests for every team in the NFL is how much better you get each game because of the lack of practice,” Shanahan said.
Teams face a challenge to carve out enough quality, padded, game-speed practice time to have offensive line play buttoned up early in the season.
“You need a lot more reps than that to get better as a unit,” Shanahan said. “It’s why it’s so important the more games you can stay healthy and the more games you can play together. Usually you get better throughout the year.”