Santa Clara, California. — The NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award has gone to a quarterback in each of the last 10 seasons.
A fact that wasn’t lost on the conversation in the San Francisco 49ers’ locker room after their 35-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
But, after running Christian McCaffrey Piled up 177 yards from scrimmage, scored four times and had at least one touchdown (13 including playoffs), setting a franchise record for most consecutive games with a left tackle. Trent Williams Don’t be afraid to say it might be time for a change.
“Hey, all streaks come to an end eventually, right?” Williams said. “Maybe this year. I can see.”
It’s been a year since the Niners acquired McCaffrey from the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 20, 2023, in exchange for second-, third- and fourth-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft and a fifth-round pick in 2024. When the Niners landed him, general manager John Lynch referred to him as a “force multiplier”, a player who could elevate everyone around him.
That has been abundantly evident during McCaffrey’s time with the team, but never more so than on Sunday afternoon. McCaffrey broke Rice’s record on the Niners’ first drive, plumbing the end zone from 1 yard out.
“It means a lot,” McCaffrey said. “Touchdowns are a lot of fun. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
On San Francisco’s second possession, McCaffrey took a backward lateral from the quarterback. Brock Purdy, missed a defender, intercepted another and raced into the end zone for an 18-yard score. Williams was standing nearby when McCaffrey made the play and immediately proceeded to tell McCaffrey, “Man, you’re a baaaaad boy.”
McCaffrey added a 6-yard touchdown catch from Purdy and a 2-yard scoring run to set a personal best with four touchdowns in a game, tying him for second-best in franchise history in a single game. It was a performance so impactful that the Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James Posted in X: “CMC, you are absolutely hilarious!!!! My goodness.”
McCaffrey’s production wasn’t limited to Sundays. Through the first four games, he amassed a league-leading 600 yards and 7 touchdowns from scrimmage (tied for the most in the NFL). He joins Hall of Famers Jim Brown (1963 and 1958) and Emmitt Smith (1995) as the only players in NFL history with at least 600 scrimmage yards and 7 touchdowns in the first four games of their season.
Since McCaffrey became the Niners’ starter in October. 30, 2022, he has played in 14 regular season games. He had 1,748 scrimmage yards in those games, all of which were game-winning drives. That number led the NFL and the second-most yards from scrimmage during a 14-game winning streak, trailing only Terrell Davis (1,849 in 1997-98), the Hall of Fame Denver Broncos running back who McCaffrey’s father, Ed, played with. Among those teams, for most scrimmage yards by a player during a 14-game winning streak.
“I’m not sure about the rest of the league right now but I thought he played the way he did [an MVP] When he was here last year,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Christian is great, he helps us win every time he’s out there, but when you have a guy that can do everything, you can have incredible stats, but He shares with a lot of other guys and we do whatever it takes to win. So, that to me is the thing that’s going to make it the hardest for him, just the statistics and exactly how it works.”
Another potential obstacle to McCaffrey’s MVP pursuit could be his own teammate: Purdy. When McCaffrey was running through the Cardinals on Sunday, Purdy barely missed through the air, finishing 20-of-21 for 283 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 134.6. He quickly added to the score.
Purdy has made a little history as well, as his 95.2% completion rate is the highest in 49ers history and the fourth highest by any quarterback in NFL history with at least 20 pass attempts. The 96.7% mark set by Drew Brees in 2019 remains the NFL record.
“He was great,” Shanahan said. “He was almost perfect … hung in there, made some big throws. A lot of times, those defenses, they don’t give you big throws, so you have to pick them apart. He was very efficient. Doing that. And when he’s for the bigs When he got his chance, he saw it right and made the right throw and our guys came down with them.”
Purdy, who has been off seven months since repairing a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, said he didn’t know he had just missed a throw until the clock expired.
As Purdy reflected on his day, he harped on what went on, a misfire on McCaffrey’s flat third-and-24 from Arizona’s 46 with 10:52 left in the third quarter.
“Honestly I’m still mad about what I missed at Christian,” Purdy said. “He broke. He was open. I should have hit him and then we would have been in field goal range. That’s something I’ll have to learn from and if I could get back.”
Purdy hasn’t had many of them so far this year. Going into Sunday night’s game, Purdy led the NFL in QBR (84.8), eighth in passing yards (1,019), second in yards per attempt (9.1), third in completion percentage (72.3%) and one of three starting quarterbacks to throw an interception.
Additionally, Purdy’s Niners are 9-0 during the regular season, the fourth-most by a quarterback to start his career in the Super Bowl era.
“I think you can only go down the list of what makes a good quarterback and he checks every box,” McCaffrey said. “And then he has all the intangibles, so it’s going to be phenomenal. He brings a kind of movement and energy every day that’s fun to be around. He’s quiet but he’s very confident. He expresses it in the way he plays.”