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Three quick takeaways from first half of 49ers vs. Cardinals

Rohan Chakravarthi
Oct 1, 2023 at 3:08 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers have jumped out to a 21-10 lead against the Arizona Cardinals at the half, leading by two scores for the majority of the second quarter.

With a half that consisted of longer scoring drives, the 49ers only saw three first-half opportunities, scoring touchdowns on all three of their offensive chances, all via running back Christian McCaffrey.

The Cardinals gained some momentum at the end of the half, with quarterback Josh Dobbs conducting a 13-play, 87-yard touchdown drive that consisted of nearly five minutes, bridging the gap to within two touchdowns with under a minute left in the half.

Here are three quick takeaways from San Francisco's first-half performance against the Arizona Cardinals.

Don't sleep on the Cardinals in this area against the 49ers...👀

Christian McCaffrey's excellence

It doesn't even need to be said anymore; Christian McCaffrey is just that good, contributing significantly to the 49ers' first-half lead with three touchdowns and 93 yards from scrimmage thus far.

Through the first three weeks, the major question around McCaffrey was his heavy usage, as he earned 100% of the snaps in Week 2, while averaging over 24 touches a game thus far.

However, seeing McCaffrey continue to operate at such a high level showcases why the decision to take him off the field is so hard; the 49ers operate extremely efficiently, both in the passing and running game, when he's on the field.

In the first half, McCaffrey dominated the snap count again, earning 14 touches, but it was a good sign to see backup Jordan Mason see reps, even catching a nice back-shoulder pass from Brock Purdy for 13 yards.

McCaffrey is arguably the most valuable player in the NFL, as he has single-handedly transcended this 49ers offense to the top in the NFL, accelerating quarterback Brock Purdy's growth and becoming a regular explosive play machine.

Run fits

Coming into the week, the Arizona Cardinals were riding hot, fresh off a 28-16 victory against the Dallas Cowboys, where they dominated in the run game to the tune of 222 yards on 30 carries.

The 49ers understood that stopping the run was going to be integral, with head coach Kyle Shanahan acknowledging that the Cardinals' run game would be their toughest challenge on the ground to date.

Through the first half, the 49ers have done a great job on the ground, and it starts with their run fits from the linebackers.

Dre Greenlaw was an immediate difference-maker early, leading to a team-high eight tackles at the half, including three on the first drive, looking to play aggressively and trigger quickly to the ball.

But, overall, the 49ers have held the Cardinals to just 58 yards on 3.9 yards per carry in the first half, limiting explosive plays, with the longest run going for just eight yards.

As a result, they've dominated the pace of the game, and forced Joshua Dobbs to beat them with his arm.

Third cornerback

The 49ers' defense has been elite through three games, allowing just 14 points per outing, while forcing a number of turnovers as well in a strong showing thus far.

However, there have been a few slight issues that have prevented the defense from reaching their potential, and the third cornerback position probably leads the list.

That issue continued to arise on Sunday, as cornerback Isaiah Oliver was beaten a few times early, allowing a first down to Marquise Brown, while getting beaten on a dropped pass from the speedy slot receiver as well, which led the 49ers to go with Ambry Thomas on the outside, moving Deommodore Lenoir to the slot in the second quarter.

Thomas faced some issues of his own, getting beaten deep by rookie receiver Michael Wilson on a go-route, which propelled the Cardinals inside the redzone for an eventual touchdown late in the second half.

The third cornerback spot hasn't cost the 49ers much this season; they've still comfortably led through three games, and the defense has looked good.

But, the position is certainly one to watch going forward and in the second half.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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