Despite missing some key pieces on defense, the San Francisco 49ers were able to rely on their star-studded offense in a 45-29 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Now 11-3, still in control of the top seed in the NFC, the Niners officially clinched the NFC West. Although, they are far from satisfied with that.
Here are position-by-position grades from the win:
I still think Christian McCaffrey is a better MVP candidate than Brock Purdy, but Purdy undeniably turned in a superstar-level performance. With the Niners' defense depleted, San Francisco needed their offense to step up. Purdy delivered plenty of drive-extending plays, and sprayed the ball all over the field. He never committed a turnover, fumbled, or took a sack. Oh yeah, he completed four touchdown passes too.
Running backs: A+
Christian McCaffrey was handed the ball 18 times, averaging 6.4 yards per carry, and racked up 115 rushing yards and a touchdown. The offensive line did well, but McCaffrey was consistently generating yards after contact. He also caught all five of his receiving targets for a team-leading 72 receiving yards and two more touchdowns. 23 touches, 187 total yards, and three touchdowns. Jordan Mason had a 17-yard carry and Kyle Juszczyk added a 17-yard reception.
Wide receivers: B+
Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and Jauan Jennings combined for 110 receiving yards on nine receptions (14 targets). They came up big when the time called, with Samuel nabbing a pair of touchdown catches, however, there’s no denying that the heaviest offensive workload was on McCaffrey’s shoulders.
Tight ends: B+
George Kittle only had two receptions, but he averaged 27 yards a touch. Those big plays alongside his usual impact-blocking made for another good overall performance.
Offensive line: B+
The 49ers offensive line did a good job keeping Purdy’s pocket clean and creating avenues for McCaffrey. After years of blocking for someone who struggled to move in the pocket as much as Jimmy Garoppolo did, the offensive line has a much easier job now.
Defensive line: D-
The 49ers defensive line was able to sack Kyler Murray three times, but the lack of interior presence with Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave allowed Arizona to run all over the Niners. The Cardinals put up rushing numbers that looked like they belonged in a college game. If not for an exceptional day from San Francisco’s secondary, the Cardinals could have easily put up 45+ points.
The 49ers linebackers had a tall task given the defensive line’s struggles, but Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw were unable to stop the bleeding. Moreover, Cardinals young tight end Trey McBride was easily Arizona’s most potent pass catcher, recording 10 receptions (11 targets) for a game-high 102 yards.
Charvarius Ward may have justified his contract with just one game. His pick-six gave the Niners a chance to take a much-needed breath, and that’s before talking about his second pick and pair of passes defended that he’d make later. Deommodore Lenoir continued to be solid opposite Ward as well, although he was forced to leave the game with an injury.
Ji’Ayir Brown and Tashaun Gipson bear some responsibility for McBride’s production as well, even if the secondary did have an effective overall day.
Special teams: A
Ronnie Bell came close to a costly fumble, but his elbow hit the ground before the ball popped out. Otherwise, Jake Moody made all of his kicks, Mitch Wishnowsky had another great punting day, and the Cardinals were unable to make any significant returns.