McCaffrey makes history as 49ers win sloppy Thursday Night game over Giants

Sep 21, 2023, 10:10 PM | Updated: 10:45 pm

Christian McCaffrey #23 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with Brock Purdy #13 after scoring a ...

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

It wasn’t pretty, but the 49ers got the job done on Thursday Night Football. And that’s largely due to the play of Christian McCaffrey and the offense.

The San Francisco 49ers kick off their 2023 NFL season perfect, defeating the New York Giants to go 3-0 on the year. Under the bright lights of Thursday Night Football, the home side prevailed, dominating on both sides of the football.

It didn’t come easy though, facing adversity on a short week throughout the evening.

From the 49ers’ opening drive of the game, the offense seemed out of rhythm, particularly quarterback Brock Purdy. Making a few errant passes, Purdy almost gave the football to the Giants if not for the efforts of his playmakers like tight end George Kittle. Regardless, San Francisco was still able to march down into the redzone. Purdy’s 24-yard pass to wide receiver Jauan Jennings was instrumental in that happening.

But after getting the QB sneak for a first down, Purdy struggled in the redzone, unable to connect with any of his pass-catchers. Throwing it away on third down, SF settled for three points to start the game.

The Giants had similar issues to the home team, able to pick & pop their way down the field for a moment. But just like the drive before, the defense prevailed thanks to a key third-down stop by cornerback Isaiah Oliver.

Kicker Graham Gano came on to convert from 44 yards away, making the score 3-3 all midway through the first quarter.

Both offenses struggled to muster up much for the remainder of the quarter, stalling out on their next two drives. San Francisco’s was more encouraging, hitting tight end George Kittle on an out route for 15 yards before punting the ball away.

On the flip side, New York couldn’t get anything, almost taking a safety after defensive end Nick Bosa sacked QB Daniel Jones near the goal-line.

Punting back to the 49ers a few plays later, the home team got some rhythm back offensively. And it was thanks to WR Deebo Samuel.

Facing 3rd & 15, Purdy hit Samuel for a screen pass, weaving his way through traffic for a 30-yard gain. Then, McCaffrey got involved, taking the next few plays for a total of 36 yards to put the 49ers in scoring position.

Facing another third down in the redzone, San Francisco finally found paydirt.

Purdy scanned the field before finding rookie WR Ronnie Bell one-on-one, launching a ball high for his wideout to grab. Coming down with the tough catch, the 49ers were in business thanks to their rookie, 10-3 midway through the second quarter.

That play was special for two reasons. Not only was it Bell’s first catch, but it was also his first score of his professional career, one that is expected to be fruitful in The Bay.

“He already has proven to us. We’ve been really happy with Ronnie. Thought he was ready for the moment,” coach Kyle Shanahan stated Thursday.

The defense fed off the offense after that, forcing the Giants into another three & out.

Using quick strikes, Purdy had his guys marching downfield once more. A little but of luck was needed though, after a slant pass deflected off Samuel, falling into the hands of Bell for a first-down gain inside the redzone. San Francisco was also gifted yards by penalty, with the Giants committing a roughing the passer call late in the downs.

The next play, McCaffrey found the endzone, scoring from four yards away to make the score, 17-3.

With the TD, the Stanford alum tied hall of famer Jerry Rice for most consecutive games with a score (12). He also broke Garrison Hearst’s record of most rushing yards through the first three games of the season (353), a franchise record since 1998.

Despite that, the Giants weren’t giving up, marching down the field with a few quick strikes to put themselves in field-goal range. Gano stepped up and hit another from 57 yards, making the score 17-6 at the halftime.

The 49ers’ defense remained stout after the break, forcing the Giants into a punt after getting a single first down. Unfortunately, the offense also struggled for the 49ers, going three & out.

New York bounced back after that, getting a few lucky breaks thanks to some ill-advised penalties committed by the 49ers.

In fact, the visitors started in niners territory after a running into the punt returner on a fair catch. A few plays into the drive, San Francisco committed a defensive pass interference at the hands of CB Deommodore Lenoir, setting up the Giants in first & goal.

The next play, former 49ers RB Matt Brieda took it to the house from eight yards away, making the score, 17-12, in third third quarter.

San Francisco came back to life on the next series, in large part to Samuel. Getting the ball on a play-action one the middle, Samuel ran his way through four New York defenders, barreling downfield for a 40-yard gain. That play jump started SF for a second, getting all the way down to the redzone.

But, the 49ers stalled out once again, unable to convert on third down. Coming in for the field goal, Moody made the score, 20-12, to the home team.

That would be it for the Giants however, unable to muster up much after that. Their next two drives resulted in three & outs.

Meanwhile, San Francisco continued to hum along, churning out yards as the clock ticked away. After Moody converted another FG on the next drive, San Francisco put the nail inn the coffin on New York.

The drive started with a Samuel slant pass for 18 yards, refusing to go down without fight. That play left him a littler batter though, having to come out after being tended to my the medical staff. A few plays later, he would return to the field for the would-be final TD of the night.

With Purdy in the shotgun, Samuel was one-on-one on the outside, faking inside then back out to get separation towards the pylon. Beating his man, Purdy threw a laser to the wideout, catching it back shoulder to put the game on ice.

A 27-yard TD, making the score, 30-12.

That was all she wrote from Levi’s Stadium, with safety Talanoa Hufanga coming up with an interception to truly close the curtains on NY.

While it wasn’t the prettiest game by any means, the 49ers scored 30 points for the third-straight game. San Francisco is also 3-0 to start the new campaign, the second time that has happened in 25 years.

Despite that, the 49ers will admit that Week 3 wasn’t the cleanest of contests, having a lot more work to do before the New Year rolls around.

“It’s great to get 30 [points] three weeks in a row, but we felt like we left a lot out there, too,” Shanahan said postgame.

“It’s huge. You want to win every game. We have a high standard. We want to be best version of ourselves. Yeah we won, but [there’s] stuff out there we can clean up and be better at. We have, what, 14 more games to do that, to be the best version of ourselves,” Purdy added.

  • Sunday, October 1st vs. Arizona Cardinals – 1:25 PM PST
  • Sunday, October 8th vs. Dallas Cowboys – 5:20 PM PST
  • Sunday, October 15th @ Cleveland Browns – 10:00 AM PST
  • Sunday, October 23rd @Minnesota Vikings – 5:15 PM PST

Thank you for reading Follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. Follow 49ers beat writer Amil Fragoso for all the latest Red & Gold updates.


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