Christian McCaffrey wills 49ers to survive pesky Cardinals in Week 4 victory

Christian McCaffrey had an MVP-like performance for the 49ers in Week 4.
San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23)
San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

Final. 35. 42. 49ers-Cardinals score. 16. 32

The 49ers needed Christian McCaffrey's red-hot first half to ensure they'd win over a refuse-to-quit Cardinals team in Week 4.

All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey was already named the Offensive Player of the Month for September.

By the way things are going for the San Francisco 49ers' star rusher, he might as well be crowned the same for October, too.

Granted, there's plenty of football left this month. But McCaffrey was the reason the Niners pulled off a 35-16 home victory over a feisty Arizona Cardinals squad to remain undefeated at the first-quarter mark of the 2023 season.

A number of things transpired in the first half that make it look as if San Francisco would blow out head coach Jonathan Gannon's team on his first trip to Levi's Stadium in his new gig. McCaffrey had three touchdowns over the first two quarters, two rushing and one receiving, and the first of those actually broke a franchise record for consecutive games with a score.

One that was previously held by Hall of Famer Jerry Rice with 12, but it's now McCaffrey's with 13. And McCaffrey's performance during the half was so impressive that NBA star LeBron James couldn't withhold his excitement about the running back's efforts.

Additionally, the 49ers defense mostly smothered quarterback Josh Dobbs and the Cardinals offense, which led to a 21-3 lead.

Things would change, though.

Cardinals stage comeback vs. 49ers, Christian McCaffrey shuts it down

Wide receiver Michael Wilson's two touchdowns at the bookends of halftime made it 21-16 toward the end of the third quarter, and a fake punt on that second possession led to Arizona scoring a touchdown after a 99-yard drive.

It was the first time the Niners allowed a 99-yard drive for a touchdown since 2002.

Despite the threat, McCaffrey was able to answer back for San Francisco on its next possession, taking a handoff from quarterback Brock Purdy from 2 yards out that put the 49ers up 28-16 early in the fourth quarter.

Read more: Christian McCaffrey just broke this cherished 49ers record held by Jerry Rice

Purdy's deep shot to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk helped set up that score, and after missing Week 3 because of a shoulder injury, Aiyuk had a massive game, too, with 148 yards receiving on six grabs. Purdy's 1-yard touchdown sneak with less that two minutes iced the game as well.

But it was McCaffrey who was clearly the game's MVP, and then some. He finished with 177 total yards and four scores.

Now at 4-0, the Niners will look to stay undefeated when the Dallas Cowboys come to town for a high-profile Sunday Night Football showdown at Levi's Stadium in one week.

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