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49ers disappointed over missed opportunity for Christian McCaffrey

Nov 12, 2023 at 2:44 PM--

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Despite a substantial lead against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the San Francisco 49ers aimed to secure a touchdown for Christian McCaffrey late in the game. They came very close, too.

Entering the game, McCaffrey had scored at least one touchdown in 17 consecutive games, including the playoffs. That streak tied a nearly 60-year-old record held by former Baltimore Colts running back Lenny Moore, who achieved the same feat from 1963 to 1964.

The 49ers, aware of the chance to set a new record for their star player, pushed to achieve it. Alas, it was not meant to be.

"Eighteen games in a row is a big record, so if we had a chance to do that, I was going to try to do it for him," head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters after the 49ers' 34-3 victory in Jacksonville. "And it's a little nerve-wracking. The last thing I want to do is get him hurt. But it was big-time for [RB] Elijah [Mitchell] to run the ball like that to get us down there.

"Brock, and I think [WR] Ronnie [Bell], made a huge third-down throw, I believe, that gave us a chance. And once we got close, we told [McCaffrey] to stay loose because we were going to try, and got close. I wish we could have done it for him, but I think that was a pretty big accomplishment just to do it for 17 games straight."

Shanahan shared that he spoke with Jaguars coach Doug Pederson after the game. He explained why the 49ers played so aggressively late in the game despite holding onto a 31-point lead.

"He was very well aware of [the record]," Shanahan shared. "He said they were talking about it, so hopefully, it didn't offend him too much."

McCaffrey was equally as disappointed about not getting the touchdown as his coach.

"Yeah, I suck," McCaffrey said in jest. "Everyone else on the team scored except for me."

One of those other players who scored was fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who has not visited the end zone since October 8.

"Juice really wanted me to score unless he could score," McCaffrey joked. "No, I'm so happy. Anytime Juice can score, I'm probably the second-most excited guy on the field, other than him."

McCaffrey added, "It means a lot to me for them to keep me in at the end of the game there and try to give me that record. But, hey, I'll take a huge win."

The 49ers snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 6-3 on the season. After Juszczyk's touchdown, quarterback Brock Purdy admitted feeling regretful, knowing that McCaffrey could have set a new NFL record.

"I'm like, 'Dang it,'" Purdy said. "I was mad, sort of. Obviously, scored a touchdown. That's the biggest thing."

In the game's closing minutes, the entire team wanted to get their veteran running back into the end zone.

"Every guy on this team wanted it for Christian," Purdy continued. "And then, obviously, I think Christian wants it more than anybody. He's a humble guy, wants to win, so he puts the team first. But in that moment, everybody wanted it for Christian, so it hurts. But at the same time, he's got a long career ahead of him, and I told him we'll be able to do it again."

As Shanahan noted, he was putting McCaffrey in harm's way by having the offense go to him play after play on that late drive. When the 49ers got the ball back with under two minutes remaining, they opted to simply kneel down and run out the clock, not seeking to push their luck. An injury to one of the team's best players while trying to earn him a record would have drawn criticism from the media.

"I try to make decisions not based off of having to talk to you after the game," Shanahan joked with reporters. "I try to make it on what I think is right for a team. Sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong. But I'm not going to think about you until after the game, so then I can just deal with it."

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