“They’d love it if they don’t even have to think about getting on a plane in the playoffs — to Philadelphia, Dallas or Detroit — until the short hop to Las Vegas for Super Bowl 58 in early February. They’d love it if they don’t have another artificial-turf game the rest of the way. And everything they’ve done since Halloween is leading to both goals.
“I remember last year I got in front of the team, I said, you know, ‘We’ve won the division, these don’t come around often — let’s make sure we cherish this,’” Warner said. “And I immediately regretted saying that because I’m, like, man, no, this the standard now.”
They’re not just any old division winner. They’re the team with two MVPs and nine or 10 other co-MVPs. They’re the team that didn’t look great defensively on Sunday, but still won a division road game going away. They’re the team that’s undefeated at home in the postseason in the Shanahan era.
They’re here. They can feel it. They’re the team that’s the clear Super Bowl favorite and has felt that way about itself for several years now. They have a standard. They don’t want to say it outright, but this is it. They’re the best team in the league. And they’re going to love the chance to prove that pretty soon on a clear path they’re carving out right now.”
“His pick-six interception on fourth down late in the first quarter came at a point when the Cardinals were shoving the 49ers’ undermanned defensive line all over the field and when the game seemed like it would turn into a shootout. His second interception early in the fourth quarter essentially iced the win, giving San Francisco its second straight division title.
“He’s not hesitating,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He’s running through the ball, he’s getting his hands up. That’s the first step in knocking balls down, which he does as good as anyone on the planet right now. And when you knock that many down (and start) running through them, eventually you’re gonna catch a couple. And today was the first time I really saw him try to do that.”
“Purdy said after the game it was the first time he’s had a stinger in his career. But based on what teammates have told him about the injury, he said the key is to let it play out because it’s possible the pain will subside quickly.
“I just laid there for a sec, let it calm down,” Purdy said. “Literally as time went on, it just started going away and that’s why I was able to get back in there.”
“The play called for Purdy to fake a handoff to running back Jordan Mason while Samuel, who had motioned from right to left behind the quarterback, lazily pretended he was poorly selling a jet sweep as a decoy. As Mason headed right and the blockers in front of him eased up as though the run play had been stuffed, Samuel slipped toward the left pylon as uncovered as the peak of Camelback Mountain.
That was crafty and all, but it wasn’t Purdy’s signature moment. That came on his final throw of the day — also to Samuel — and drove a dagger into the collective psyche of the Arizona sporting community. On second-and-9 from the Cardinals’ 19 with 7:14 to play and the 49ers holding a 35-22 lead, Purdy relayed Shanahan’s call for the play in the huddle and told Samuel, “Just be ready. If they press you and play man, I’m gonna go to you.”
Sure enough Samuel, lined up wide left, was covered tightly by cornerback Antonio Hamilton. Purdy lofted a glorious back-shoulder throw that Samuel gathered while turning and falling backward toward the pylon. Hamilton, who had practically affixed himself to the receiver for the duration of the route, was helpless to stop it.”
“What changed? Ward credited a recent alteration to his practice routine. To replicate the passes he faces in a game, he enlisted backup quarterback Sam Darnold to fire fastballs at him.
“It’s different when the quarterback is throwing the balls to you rather than your coach,” Ward said. “There’s a different spin on it. Caught some balls from Sam Darnold and will probably do it every week.”
“McCaffrey joined the 49ers after missing 23 of 33 games in 2020-21 with the Panthers. And McCaffrey, 27, was keenly aware that his assortment of ailments, which included issues with his ankle, shoulder, quadriceps and hamstring, fueled a belief that he could no longer handle a heavy workload. Did his early career totals – he had a league-high 403 touches in 2019 – mean he was already past his prime at his punishing position?
“If I ever insinuate that, he’ll bite my head off,” Shanahan said Sunday after the 49ers’ 45-29 win over the Cardinals. “He’ll explain exactly why (the injuries) happened. When it happened. He’ll say, ‘It has nothing to do with wear and tear. I did it in the first month of the season … I (got hurt) because this guy hit me on this spot.’”
Shanahan looked at the reporter who posed the question about McCaffrey’s medical file and offered some advice: “So don’t insinuate that to him.”
“The 49ers are on track to field a 4,000-yard passer, a 1,500-yard rusher and two (and possibly even three) 1,000-yard receivers. In terms of NFL history, only “The Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams, who lit up scoreboards with Kurt Warner, Faulk, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and others at the turn of the century, put up a truly comparable statistical resume across the board of both run and pass.”
“I’m kinda tired of this shirt,” Greenlaw said. “I want a Super Bowl shirt.”