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49ers Notebook: Talanoa Hufanga, James Conner get into postgame fracas; Almost-perfect Brock Purdy laments one that got away; LeBron shows love to McCaffrey

Oct 1, 2023 at 8:34 PM--

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Following the San Francisco 49ers' 35-16 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium on Sunday, there was at least one member of the visiting team who seemed to be ready to scrap.

Cardinals running back James Conner was seen on camera after the game getting physical with 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga, although it remains unclear what caused the altercation.

Television cameras filmed Conner and Hufanga in a heated argument after the game, during which Conner put his hand on Hufanga's chin and gave him a shove. 49ers tight end George Kittle and Cardinals offensive lineman Keith Ismael then stood between the two players in order to prevent any further escalation.

Hufanga spoke about the incident after the game, saying he wasn't sure why Conner was angry.

"Honestly, I don't know what he was on," Hufanga said, per Jake Hutchinson of KNBR. "My man came up to me. It's all good though. It's all respect at the end of the day. It's love for the game. But it wasn't my thing. He just wanted to show me something. I honestly don't know what he was trying to show me. He only ran for 52 yards, so I don't know what he was really on, but told him we'll see him next time again. Took the L today, but they'll be good."

The 49ers and Cardinals will play again on December 17 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Until then, what better way to start to pass the time than the latest edition of 49ers Notebook? There's a lot more to talk about from Sunday's postgame interviews, including what quarterback Brock Purdy thought about his one missed pass on the day, what Christian McCaffrey thought about some admiration from LeBron James, and more.

The one that got away

Brock Purdy was almost perfect in the 49ers' win over the Cardinals, completing 20 of 21 passes for 283 yards and one touchdown. Purdy made a number of on-point passes during the game, but afterwards he was lamenting his lone incompletion -- a missed throw intended for McCaffrey on a third down in the third quarter.

"Honestly, I'm still mad about the one I missed to Christian," Purdy said. "He broke out, he was open. I should have hit him and then we would have been in field goal range. So that is something that I'm going to have to learn from and wish I could have had back. But everyone did their job today and they helped me out and the O-line did a great job. It's a well-orchestrated offensive day."

McCaffrey seemed willing to put the blame for the incompletion on his shoulders -- possibly.

"His one incompletion he threw to me, so that's on me," McCaffrey said. "We'll have to check the tape. It could have been my fault. We'll see."

Purdy told reporters he didn't know at first that he had only one incompletion on the day, saying typically it was something he would have noticed but on Sunday his mind was elsewhere.

"Most games, yes," Purdy said. "Honestly, today, I'm not lying, they told me I had one incompletion at the end of the game, I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' Today was just one of those games I really wasn't thinking about it. But, there's games where it's like I'm completing the ball and it's sort of in my mind -- 'oh, every single one of these balls has been a completion so far.' But, today it wasn't the case."

The 49ers were facing a 3rd-and-24 on the play, so they would have been challenged to convert even if Purdy had completed the pass. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan showed a sense of humor about the play during his postgame press conference.

"That's why we punted on that one drive," Shanahan said. "I'm just joking."

Game recognize game

McCaffrey's performance against the Cardinals (20 carries, 106 yards, three touchdowns; seven catches, 71 yards, one touchdown) was impressive for everyone who was watching, including Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.

James sent some love to McCaffrey on social media after his second touchdown, which saw him hurdle a Cardinals defender on the way to an 18-yard score.

McCaffrey appreciated James' compliment and extended him an invite to a future 49ers game.

"That was really cool," McCaffrey said. "I didn't know he watches Niner football, but got to get him to a game."

Perhaps next week's game against the Cowboys?

Big game ahead

The 49ers moved to 4-0 on the season Sunday while winning their 14th consecutive regular season game. But in order to keep those streaks going and match the franchise-record 15-game winning streak set in 1989 and 1990, they'll have to get past the Dallas Cowboys (3-1) in next Sunday night's prime time showdown at Levi's Stadium (8:20 p.m. ET/5:20 p.m. PT, NBC).

With the Cowboys looming large on the horizon, 49ers left tackle Trent Williams wasn't too interested in celebrating the team's 4-0 start.

"Resting on a four-game win streak doesn't really seem like the thing to do right now," Williams said Sunday. "You've got one of the better teams in the NFL marching in in a week."

The 49ers and Cowboys have met in the playoffs each of the past two seasons, with the 49ers getting the best of them each time. Expect Sunday night's game to have a raised level of intensity given what's at stake.

"It's going to always be one of those what they call 'icebag games.' It's a physical game," Williams said. "They've got really, really, really good pass rushers. They've got obviously stars all around their roster. They play well. You play into their hand it can be a long day. We've definitely got our work cut out for us."

The Cowboys were stunned 28-16 by the Cardinals in Week 3 before rebounding with a 38-3 blowout over the Patriots on Sunday. The 49ers were 14-point favorites over the Cardinals, but their win over the Cowboys caught the 49ers' attention enough for them not to be caught looking ahead.

"Not at all. Not at all," linebacker Fred Warner said. "I wasn't thinking about it. I know our team was locked in on the Cardinals all the way through, especially with them coming off a big win against the Cowboys. So we weren't looking ahead at all."

Better than expected

The 49ers knew McCaffrey was good, but did they think he'd be THIS good?

Williams admitted Sunday that he didn't.

"I didn't," Williams said. "I ain't gonna lie."

Not that Williams didn't already know McCaffrey was a great player. He was aware of what McCaffrey was capable of before the 49ers added him in a trade with the Carolina Panthers last season, but Sunday's game was proof that Williams underestimated what McCaffrey brings to the table.

"I watched him from afar for a long time and I knew he was really, really, really good," Williams said. "I knew he was really special. He can do a lot of things that conventional running backs can't do, but watching him play conventional running back, you know, it's like wow. How can you be that talented in the open field playing wide receiver and still line up in the I-formation and continue to gash defenses? He's a special player. He really is."

Quiet day for Deebo

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel was a factor in each of the 49ers' first three games, catching 17 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown with 11 carries for 54 yards and one touchdown. But after being limited during the week due to injuries, Samuel had just three carries for six yards in the win over the Cardinals.

Samuel will obviously have better days ahead, but fortunately the 49ers didn't need him to put up big numbers on Sunday.

"He didn't really practice all week so it was a hell of a job, just him getting himself ready to where he could go out there and play," Shanahan said. "He didn't get a ton of opportunities, but it ends up being a good thing because hopefully he's taken care of more from this game, can check out fine and get a little bit better week next week."

In the meantime, Brandon Aiyuk stepped up for the 49ers in a major way, catching six passes for a career-high 148 yards.

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