The offense, after Christian McCaffrey failed to leap over the pile on 3rd & 1, converted a fourth down after Brock Purdy found George Kittle for a gain of 11 yards. Then, on first and goal from the 8-yard line, Purdy found Brandon Aiyuk, who embarrassed Patrick Peterson:
After a delay of game, Jake Moody made his first extra point attempt of his career from 38 yards out.
The defense picked up where they left off, thanks to a Charvarius Ward interception after a terrible decision by Pickett. Unfortunately, the offense couldn’t capitalize and had to settle for a field goal.
The drive stalled after Spencer Burford was flagged for a holding. Penalties seemed like it would be the only thing to slow this offense down. Burford was flagged for another penalty after Aiyuk and McCaffrey picked up first downs to put the offense behind the chains.
But Purdy went over the middle to Deebo Samuel for a gain of 22 yards to put the 49ers inside of the red zone. Then, Purdy found Aiyuk on a beautiful back-shoulder throw:
That gave the 49ers a comfortable 17-0 lead.
Fred Warner had an opportunity for an interception that could have turned into a touchdown, but he couldn’t haul in the pass. The 49ers defense was relentless during the first half, forcing consecutive three-and-outs on four possessions.
After a chunk play to Aiyuk the offense had the ball into Pittsburgh’s red zone once again. But T.J. Watt beat Colton McKivitz handily and ended the drive. Purdy made a rather impressive recovery on the play, and Jake Moody’s 32-yard field goal was good to make it 20-0.
The Steelers didn’t look much better on their next offensive drive. After five drives, Pickett had five completions on nine attempts for nine yards. The 49ers defense allowed next to nothing.
The same cannot be said for the Steelers defense. They had the Niners dead to rights on a couple of occasions. Minkah Fitzpatrick blitzed off the edge and had a free run at Purdy, but the second-year quarterback sensed the pressure, spun out of the play, and found Deebo for a first down.
Those are the plays that give the front office confidence. Those are the type of plays where you know you have a special player under center. It’s the secondary, off-script plays that Kyle Shanahan can’t account for. They don’t happen often, but shows you how valuable a having a playmaker under center can be.
Unfortunately, another penalty stopped the final drive for the 49ers of the first half. That was the first drive of the game where San Francisco didn’t score a point, which is quite the feat.
It took the Steelers until 1:16 in the first half to gain a first down. But a late hit by Deommodore Lenoir put the ball into Niners territory.
After a fourth down conversion, Lenoir committed another penalty to give the Steelers a first and goal from the 3-yard line. A 12-play, 95-yard drive gave the Steelers a touchdown and life. That made it 20-7 at the half.
Whatever Shanahan said at halftime, the team got the message. Christian McCaffrey spun his way into the end zone but not without the help from Brandon Aiyuk and Ray-Ray McCloud.
That long touchdown run gave the 49ers another commanding 27-7 lead, and erased any momentum the Steelers had after their score at the end of the half.
Pittsburgh gained 26 yards on their first play from scrimmage, but wound up punting after failing to pick up more than four yards on the next set of downs.
The Purdy to Aiyuk connection continued to shine, as Aiyuk caught passes of 16 and 15 yards. But T.J. Watt continued to get the best of Colton McKivitz, and a sack ended the Niners drive.
Watt wasn’t done, as he beat McKivitz on the ensuing series, where he forced another fumble and this time the 49ers weren’t fortunate enough to recover.
So, after a starting the drive on San Francisco’s 39-yard line, the Steelers had an opportunity for more points. The Niners forced a 4th & 4 from the 8-yard line. But Pickett had nowhere to throw the ball, and Pittsburgh came up empty.
Through nine possessions, the Steelers manufactured one scoring drive. And that one drive was largely due to self-inflicted wounds.
There was a scare on the first play of the fourth quarter, as Trent Williams went down. He left the field without a limp, and Jaylon Moore came into the game. Williams was grabbing his rib area, and it appeared that he had the wind knocked out of him. Trent returned during the same series.
To give you an idea of how the game went through three quarters, McCaffrey had more rushing yards than Pickett had passing yards. Pickett attempted to challenge Fred Warner down the middle, and failed miserably.
Warner didn’t haul in the pass, but Talanoa Hufanga was right there to catch the deflection for an interception. Jake Moody added another field goal as he was a perfect 6-for-6 on the day to make the score 30-7.
Drake Jackson added a sack at the end, giving him three to match T.J. Watt. It was a dominant display by the 49ers on both sides of the ball, and a glimpse into the ceiling this team has.