Grades from 49ers 35-16 win over Cardinals

The 49ers moved to 4-0 on the season with a 35-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium. Here are their grades for this win.

Quarterback: A+

Brock Purdy was nearly perfect while running his career record to 9-0. Purdy completed 20 of 21 passes for 283 yards and one touchdown. He also scored a touchdown on a sneak to cap off the scoring. Purdy was completely in command of the 49ers offense. He hit Brandon Aiyuk with three deep shots. Kyle Shanahan showed his confidence in Purdy when he called for a pass on fourth and four in the first quarter. The quarterback showed why he has his coach’s trust when he hit George Kittle for a gain of nine.

Running Back: B+

Christian McCaffrey gets an A+ for his performance. McCaffrey finished with 106 yards rushing to go along with 71 yards on seven receptions and four touchdowns on 27 total touches. His 5.3 yards per rushing attempt was over half a yard better than the 4.6 Arizona had allowed coming into this game.

The rest of the 49ers running game get a C. Jordan Mason stepped into the second running back role with Elijah Mitchell out. He along with Deebo Samuel and Kyle Juszczyk were able to pick up just 19 yards on 8 attempts.

Wide Receiver: A+

San Francisco’s receivers caught every pass thrown their way against Arizona. Brandon Aiyuk led the way with 148 yards on 6 receptions. Aiyuk was able to come up with an “opportunity ball” from Brock Purdy for an explosive gain of 42 yards in the first half. The two are clearly on the same page and they connected on big gains of 25 and 20 yards in the second half.

Ray-Ray McCloud, Willie Snead and Ronnie Bell combined to record 36 yards on four receptions. Deebo Samuel was no targeted after missing practices during the week.

Tight End: A

George Kittle had just one reception for nine yards. This grade is also about the ability of Kittle and the other 49ers tight ends to block in the run game. They were instrumental in helping open holes for McCaffrey on two of his three touchdown runs.

Offensive Line: A

The 49ers offensive line allowed just one hit on Brock Purdy. They did a good job early in the quick passing game, and when Kyle Shanahan dialed up shot plays, they gave the quarterback enough time to get off an accurate throw.

A team does not rush for 124 yards without having solid play up front. That’s been the 49ers calling card since Kyle Shanahan took over in 2017.

Defensive Line: B+

The 49ers defensive line is one of the best in the league at creating pressure on the quarterback. They sacked Arizona quarterback Joshua Dobbs once and hit him on six other occasions. Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, and Arik Armstead combined to record 7 quarterback hits.

They would have received an A if not for allowing Dobbs to get loose on the ground. The Cardinals quarterback ran for 48 yards on 12 attempts, picking up five first downs with his legs.

Linebackers: A

Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner each recorded 10 tackles, including 8 solo tackles, to lead the 49ers defense. The two did a good job of bringing down Arizona running back James Conner. Conner is a bruising runner, but he was held to just 52 yards on 11 carries.

One of Greenlaw’s key plays doesn’t even show up in the stat sheet. By attacking the quarterback on an option around the right side, Greenlaw forced the tight end to grab him which led to a holding penalty. This helped the 49ers to force a punt, and the offense put the game away with a long touchdown drive.

Defensive Backs: C

The 49ers starting defensive backs get a B, but Ambry Thomas gets a D.

Thomas was sent out to replace Isaiah Oliver in the second quarter. Arizona saw this and went right after the third-year corner. Thomas allowed a 33 yard completion to Michael Thomas on a deep throw down the left sideline. On the next play he was too shallow, and Thomas brought in a 16 yard touchdown. Oliver played the rest of the game at nickelback.

With the exception of a 41 yard strike to Marquise Brown, the San Francisco secondary did a solid job of keeping everything in front of them and limiting the big play.

Special Teams: B

San Francisco allowed a first down when Arizona ran a fake punt in the third quarter. This drops their grade down.

Arizona returned only one kick, a 13 yard return on a kickoff. Jake Moody put the rest into the endzone for touchbacks and Mitchell Wishnowsky had a beautiful 45 yard punt which was downed by Oren Burks at the Cardinals one yardline.

Ray-Ray McCloud finished with 24 yards on two punt returns and brought a kickoff back 18 yards.

Coaches: B+

Kyle Shanahan’s offense put on a clinic against Arizona. It was as though he had something to prove to Jonathan Gannon after the NFC championship game loss in Philadelphia. Five of their eight possessions ended in touchdowns and two ended in kneel downs.

Shanahan did a good job of being patient in this game. After getting the running game going early, he mixed in the quick passing game before taking some shots down the field in the second quarter.

With a two score lead in the fourth quarter the 49ers offense closed out the game with a 77 yard drive which took 7:14 off the clock, ending when Brock Purdy snuck in from a yard out.

Steve Wilks had his defense ready to play.

Arizona came into this game having scored points on 11 of 15 first half possessions. The 49ers were able to force the Cardinals to punt on their first two possessions. This helped San Francisco get out to an early 14 point lead and control the flow of the game from there.

The only mistake from Wilks came when he inserted Ambry Thomas into the game. This put one of his best outside cornerbacks, Deommodore Lenoir into the slot. The Cardinals wasted little time attacking Thomas deep, his weakness, and pulled to within 11 at halftime.

This article has 26 Comments

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  2. I like Wilks but I continue to be puzzled at his soft coverage scheme and refusal to get creative with the blitz when the D-line cant get pressure on the QB. Allowing back to back 90+ yard scoring drives is unacceptable, and they also showed an inability to stop mobile QBs (which was a trend last year as well). I really thought the Niners should have kept Jamison over Ambry Thomas, and this game is further evidence that Thomas is just not the guy. That being said, the D came up big when it counted—but this game was closer than it really should have been.

    1. Jamison got torched and embarrassed by Justin Jefferson yesterday…….hes not the great player some of you think he is…..he 5’9 too!

      1. J,
        Thanks for the report re Jamison. But, he is a rookie and Jefferson has been known to clown veteran CBs in his young career.

        Honestly, I’m a little surprised that Jamison was playing against arguably the best WR in the league. Jamison has the tools, but he needs more development.

  3. Ninerlegacy,
    I think the 49ers releasing Jamison is one of the biggest roster mistakes the 49ers have made in a long long time. When Womack is healthy they need to get him in the starting lineup right away at NB.

  4. Jack,
    I agree with almost all of your grades but I think you take it easy on the 9er DBs and Wilks. Oliver earned a D grade and Thomas earned an F-. Wilks game plan last week was brilliant, this week it was crap. He has to stop playing Zone coverage and or soft man and he has done nothing to improve their D versus running QBs. QB pressure is great but it doesn’t put teams into 2nd and 3rd and long like sacks do. Wilks/Kocurek need to get more sacks out of a very good Dline. Lastly to wim a SB I think the 9ers need to make a trade either Surtain or Hunter.

    1. Surtain for sure but I don’t think the 49ers can afford him.

      It’s hard to criticize the 49ers and Steve Wilks when you look at the stats. Top 10 in most statistical categories. But when you watch the games it doesn’t feel like you’re watching a top level defense. Giving up multiple 90+ yard drives to Josh Dobbs and Michael Wilson doesn’t feel like a Super Bowl level defense. I really dislike Wilks scheme but I’m wondering how much of the decision making to play a soft zone is impacted by a significant weakness at CB and slot CB. Thomas and Oliver are glaring weak spots.

    2. not sure what the infatuation is with blitzing? Why gamble???? when you blitz… leave a hole in your defense! You are gambling that the offense dosent throw or run a play to that hole! if they do, its a big gain! Better teams dont need to gamble…….you make them run 15 play drives to run the length of the field over and over…….if they can do that…..then maybe you gamble……but in reality……the other team usually commits’ penalties and turns the ball over!

      Another way of looking at it……Why put your best stuff on tape when you dont need to? Going back to High school…..if we could beat a team by running dive left, dive right all day……….why put our special /trick/explosive plays on film for other teams to see and prepare for?

  5. Love that you’re doing grades now Jack. That’s awesome!
    Niners 4-0 on the season A+

  6. o line is improving every game and will be a strength as long as no major injury Was Wilks not known for his zone scheme in Carolina?

  7. Thomas allowed a 33 yard completion to Michael Thomas on a deep throw down the left sideline. On the next play he was too shallow, and Thomas brought in a 16 yard touchdown.

    Correction, Jack. You meant Michael Wilson. Thought for a sec the Saints had traded Michael Thomas to the Cardinals. :)

  8. I agree with most grades. I’d probably give the 49ers a B+ at LBer. They played well but they let Dobbs get loose a couple of times to run for first downs. That 4th &7 should have been stopped by Greenlaw but he was late to react and took a bad angle.

    I will also give the O-line some credit. They played well, especially in the run game. McKivitz got beat badly on an inside spin move but other than that there weren’t any glaring mistakes by the O-line.

  9. Incredible game but I am concerned that Dobbs was able to make so many passes when they were falling behind. I can only imagine Mahomes or Allen doing the same to us, only better, when we hold a sizeable lead against them in this season’s SB. Or Hurts in the NFC championship. Wilks better clean this up.

    p.s. you forgot the out of bounds kickoff penalty in the special teams assessment. Maiocco did too in his ST analysis.

    1. shemp, you make a good point……and it piggybacks on what i was saying above……..hopefully Wilks does have an answer……but i dont want him showing those teams ( Buff/KC/PHI) what the answer is in week 4, during a blowout win against a team vying for the #1 pick………and give them a chance to counter it

  10. Surtain would shut down one side of the field, but I believe that the 49ers need another DE that could get to the QB.

    Drake Jackson may not be the answer. He has dissappearEd in the last 3 games. While opposing teams are focusing on Bosa, Jackson has the opportunity to flourish. I’m waiting for him to do that, so far Drake is MIA.

    The 49ers may need to seriously address this next off-season if DJ can’t deliver.

  11. AES,
    I think Ferrell is solid against the run maybe they should activate Beal and give him a chance rushing the passer. If they don’t mind giving up a 1, 2 and 3 they might be able to get Surtain and Hunter.

    1. I really like Hunter, but he’s had some injury issues. If he continues to play himself back to his pre-injury status, the Vikings could ask for a couple of Brinks trucks.

      Surtain could hold down the CB position for the next 5-7 years which makes him more attractive.
      I haven’t paid close attention to college players over the last few years. Hopefully, the 49ers hit gold for DE like they did with Purdy.

      1. AES,
        Hunter would be a half season rental who has made it very clear he has no intention to resign with the Vikings. Players like that don’t have that much trade value probably a 3rd or 4th.

        1. Hunter might be a rental, but if he can be Fred Dean 2.0 and be the missing piece to win a SB, it’s more than worth it.
          I still lean a little towards Surtain because he is as close to a shut down CB available and young.

          But even with a possible Surtain signing, if there’s not enough pressure put on QBs, the Secondary will work much harder.
          Getting to the QB is the key to success. If Jackson can’t deliver its time to move on from him. Give Ferrell more snaps and see if he can produce.

  12. It’s hard to criticize the 49ers and Steve Wilks when you look at the stats. Top 10 in most statistical categories. But when you watch the games it doesn’t feel like you’re watching a top level defense. Giving up multiple 90+ yard drives to Josh Dobbs and Michael Wilson doesn’t feel like a Super Bowl level defense. I really dislike Wilks scheme but I’m wondering how much of the decision making to play a soft zone is impacted by a significant weakness at CB and slot CB. Golang Certification

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