With their 38-10 blowout win over the Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers have started their season with a 4-0 record against the NFC West for the first time since 2002. The win also improves the 49ers to 6-4, and with them owning the tiebreaker with the Seahawks, moves them to the top of the NFC West.
Arizona’s largest lead of the night was just three points, and even then, they held that lead for only 13 and a half minutes in the first quarter. From that point on, it was all 49ers.
These are the five winners and one loser on a night where the 49ers extended their winning streak to three.
Loser: Kickoff returns
This article series is titled winners and losers, so let’s reach a bit and start with the lone loser from Monday night to meet this self-imposed quota.
Both Robbie Gould and Matt Prater took full advantage of Estadio Azteca’s 7,200-foot elevation as the two kickers combined for eight touchbacks on the game’s eight kickoffs. To make things even worse, all of the kickoffs went through the back of the endzone, so there wasn’t even a glimmer of a return.
On a weekend where Cordarelle Patterson broke the record for most career kickoff touchdowns, 49ers and Cardinals fans were robbed of even a single return.
Winner: CB Charvarius Ward
While DeAndre Hopkins's stat line wouldn’t suggest it, with nine receptions for 91 yards, Ward was possibly one of the best players on the 49ers' defense. After exclusively playing on the left side of the 49ers' defense this season, Ward was tasked with switching sides as Hopkins has played 232 of his 291 snaps entering Monday on the right side of the defense.
Six of Hopkin’s nine receptions were held to 10 yards or fewer, not just because of how tight Ward’s coverage was but because of Ward’s tackling as well. Ward finished with a team-high ten tackles on Monday night, with nine being solo and one resulting in a loss. Ward wasn’t letting much get past him, with seven of his ten tackles coming within five yards of the line of scrimmage.
Winner: QB Jimmy Garoppolo
Garoppolo continued his ownage of the Cardinals with his 228-yard, four-touchdown performance on Monday night. It marked Garoppolo’s first four-touchdown game since the famous 48-46 win over the Saints in 2019.
While the four touchdowns might be what stands out most in the box score, his zero in the interception column should stand just as large, with Monday marking the first time he’s gone three consecutive games without an interception for the first time as a 49er. The 49ers are now 6-0 this season in games where Garoppolo finishes interception free and has had six touchdown passes over his last three games.
Winner: 49ers' first down defense
The 49ers' defense as a whole was phenomenal throughout the night, but they especially stood out on first down. Seven of the Cardinals' 26 first down plays resulted in negative yards, with the biggest loss coming on Nick Bosa’s sack of Colt McCoy to end the first half.
Arizona just totaled 70 yards on first downs, averaging 2.69 yards per play on first downs, meaning they played behind the sticks on second down most of the game. Even then, that number is inflated as 36 of the 70 yards came when Trace McSorely and Arizona’s second-team offense entered the game. That means Arizona’s starters averaged 1.6 yards of 21 first down plays, with six of the 21 resulting in negative yardage.
Winner: WR Deebo Samuel
Monday night was the prototypical Deebo Samuel big game. Samuel finished the game with 57 receiving yards on seven receptions and 37 yards on three rushes, and a touchdown. Samuel went nearly untouched (Budda Baker barely got a hand on Samuel right before Samuel crossed the goal line) on an end-around for the 39-yard touchdown run, the longest run of his career.
The touchdown felt like it was the play that put the game away, despite it coming with 10:34 left in the third quarter, putting the 49ers up 24-10. It was also the most total yards Samuel has had in a game since the 49ers were last on Monday Night Football when he torched the Rams for 117 yards during Week 4.
Winner: TE George Kittle
On a night where he met AEW wrestler Penta El Zero M (creator of Kittle’s famed first down celebration) and received a custom 49ers Penta mask, Kittle had the best game of his season, finishing with four receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
His two touchdowns were two of the three longest plays for the 49ers' offense, with the first being a 39-yard touchdown in the second quarter to put up 14-3 and the second going for 32 yards to extend the 49ers' lead to 38-10 early in the fourth quarter. Monday night was just the second time Kittle finished with more than one touchdown in a game, the first coming last season against Seattle in Week 13.