The 49ers returned to the top in the NFC West after defeating the Arizona Cardinals in a 38-10 loss on Monday Night Football. In the team’s most impressive performance of the season, the Niners dominated a division rival who gave them problems all last season.
Here are the position-by-position votes for the 49ers’ big win:
I didn’t think Jimmy Garoppolo would be on the 49ers this season, let alone play the best football of his career, but here we are. The 49ers struggled to get the ball going early, and Kyle Shanahan made the right decision putting the ball in Garoppolo’s hands. Jimmy G consistently gave his catchers opportunities to play and, most importantly, never put the ball in danger. He also had a couple of quality deep balls that were squandered by some mistakes by his catchers.
Margins in the NFL are razor thin, and as frustrated as I’ve been with Garoppolo over the years, he’s been a different guy in recent weeks. Whether the credit goes to the new quarterback coach Brian Griese, the acquisition of Christian McCaffrey who makes checkdowns more rewarding, or some combination of the two, Garoppolo has shown more development at 31 than he had shown in the previous five seasons with the 49ers.
Running backs: a
Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell sure look like the best running back duo in the NFL right now. McCaffrey ran 36 yards on just seven carries, but more importantly, he gave Garoppolo a great catch. McCaffrey trailed all seven of his targets 67 receiving yards. Then, in the second half, Mitchell’s powerful run helped close out the game. Mitchell led San Francisco with 59 yards on nine carries.
Narrow ends: A+
In his best performance of the season, George Kittle was the 49ers’ most productive pass receiver, catching a pair of touchdowns, including an impromptu 39-yard touchdown reception.
Wide receivers: B
In his first 10-touch game since Week 3, Deebo Samuel collected a combined 94 yards (37 rushing and 57 receiving) and one touchdown. Otherwise, it was a fairly uneventful game from the 49ers’ wide receivers. Brandon Aiyuk caught just two passes for 20 yards, but both receptions resulted in touchdowns. Jauan Jennings fell on a fine shot by Garoppolo and failed to shoot another target on the ground.
Offensive Line: A+
The Cardinals defense did nothing against the 49ers offensive line. Garoppolo rarely faced pressure, and although the rushing attack had mixed results early in the game, the Niners line took over in the second half and knocked out some huge holes that Mitchell and McCaffrey can take advantage of.
Defensive Line: A-
Colt McCoy has been sacked three times, twice from defensive line. Kevin Givens and Nick Bosa both recorded clean sacks, but the 49ers defensive line did the lion’s share of containing the Cardinals’ run game, holding Arizona to just 2.8 yards per attempt on 24 carries.
Fred Warner was a beast, recording 6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, a quarterback hit and a sack over the course of the game. Dre Greenlaw still needs to clean up his aggression after putting himself at risk of suffering another costly personal foul penalty by hitting a quarterback on a sliding tackle. That said, Greenlaw was all over the court and finished with 9 tackles and one pass defended.
Mooney Ward moved to right cornerback to focus on DeAndre Hopkins with mixed overall results, but the Niners’ cornerbacks showed their physicality as tacklers. Ward and Deommodore Lenoir each recorded at least one tackle for loss. Overall, this unit got a B grade, but Samuel Womack’s interception pushed them into the A range.
Jimmie Ward did get another interception, though it would be fair to attribute it to cornerbacks rather than safeties. Talanoa Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson had solid performances as the 49ers’ last line of defense.
Special teams: A+
Robbie Gould made all of his kicks and Mitch Wishnowsky nearly blocked the Cardinals inside their own five-yard line twice.