SANTA CLARA, Calif – The San Francisco 49ers defeated the New York Giants 30-12 on Thursday night, and while the 49ers did not appear unstoppable, they did more than enough to manage a banged-up opponent.
The Giants hung in there until the fourth quarter, when the Niners put it away. What you need know about each team’s performance is as follows:
San Francisco 49ers
It wasn’t always attractive, and it wasn’t as simple as the final score suggests, but the 49ers got the job done.
The Niners won despite missing injured receiver Brandon Aiyuk (shoulder) on a short week. While the Giants were shorthanded in their second game of a West Coast tour, there’s no need for the 49ers to apologize for another win, as San Francisco improved to 3-0 for only the second time in the last 25 years.
But if this victory taught us anything, it’s that Aiyuk’s importance to the Niners should not be underestimated. Since the start of 2022, the Giants have blitzed more than any other club in the league. They stood up to their reputation, repeatedly pounding 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy.
Those blitzes were successful in the first half, not only in pressing Purdy but also in throwing him off target, forcing Niners coach Kyle Shanahan to turn to more screens and short passes rather than the intermediate routes he frequently favours.
Aiyuk would have made a difference in this situation. Aiyuk has 50 receptions (tied for 8th in the NFL) for 679 yards (tied for 9th) versus man coverage since the start of last season. Nobody on the Niners defeats man coverage more regularly and swiftly than Aiyuk.
Deebo Samuel (six catches for 129 yards and a score) and tight end George Kittle (seven grabs for 90 yards) helped pick up the slack in the second half, while the Niners defense dominated the Giants.
To be sure, the 49ers did the right thing by keeping Aiyuk, whom they hope to sign to a contract extension in the winter, out of the lineup Thursday night so he can use the additional rest to be healthy for the long term. However, his absence should only serve to highlight how highly they regard him for the remainder of the season. And then some.
QB breakdown: Purdy had a weird night with defenders constantly in his face, however his final stats were fairly solid. Purdy completed 25 of 37 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 111.3. Purdy put the ball in danger a few times and was fortunate not to turn it over in the first half, but he was excellent on third down and came on late in the game. Purdy is now one of only four quarterbacks in the Super Bowl Era (since 1966) to begin a career with at least eight straight regular season wins.
— Tony Clements (@TonyCMKE) September 22, 2023
Purdy was blitzed on 74% of his dropbacks, the most by a QB with 30 dropbacks since Colin Kaepernick in 2013 (88% versus Cardinals). Purdy faced 29 blitzes, which was more than double his previous high (14). Purdy’s 236 passing yards against the blitz were the highest by a quarterback against the blitz since Aaron Rodgers in 2021.
The Niners began the night tied for seventh in the league in penalties, and they did little to alleviate those worries against the Giants. San Francisco was penalized six times for 71 yards, including two for 37 yards that led to New York’s opening touchdown of the game.
Niners running back Christian McCaffrey now scored a touchdown in 12 straight games (including playoffs), tying him with Jerry Rice for the best streak in team history. With 17 consecutive games with a touchdown (including playoffs), Lenny Moore holds the record. ‘Nick Wagoner’
Next game: Oct. 1 (4:25 p.m. ET) vs. Cardinals
New York Giants
This wasn’t a blowout like the 40-0 loss to Dallas in the opener. The Giants kept it close until the fourth quarter.
They couldn’t defeat the more talented 49ers in the end, especially with a handful of bounces and expensive penalties against them. But this was not due to a lack of effort. Without four starters (running back Saquon Barkley, left tackle Andrew Thomas, left guard Ben Bredeson, and outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari), the Giants would have had to play a flawless game to win on the road in prime time. They did not, as predicted.
It now places a premium on the Monday, Oct. 2 home game versus the Seattle Seahawks, which New York was said to be interested in. That was always the one they needed to win in order to make it through this first round. Their West Coast tour (victory in Arizona, defeat in San Francisco) is hardly crippling.
With 1:51 left in the second quarter, Giants defensive tackle Leonard Williams was called for roughing the passer. With just under two minutes remaining in the half, San Francisco faced a third-and-12 at the Giants’ 20-yard line, leading 10-3. As the ball was launched, Williams beat his guy and struck Purdy. Williams most certainly received the penalty because he fell on Purdy with all of his weight. It was a game-changing decision because it handed San Francisco first-and-goal rather than fourth-and-goal. On the very next play, McCaffrey raced it in for a six-yard score to make it 17-3.
Purdy dime to Deebo! 🎯
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) September 22, 2023
Next week’s bold prediction: The Giants play on Monday night, giving Barkley and his high ankle injury another 11 days to recover. But… he’ll still be late. This story has been told before. Barkley is always eager to play and works hard to return sooner than planned. However, it is in his – and the team’s – best interests for the outstanding running back to get his act together before returning.
On the same drive in the second quarter, the 49ers converted third-and-15 and third-and-13 on screen passes. It came to a close with a nine-yard touchdown throw to Ronnie Bell and a 10-3 advantage. During the first two weeks of the season, 25 screen passes were attempted on third-and-10+. Until Thursday night, only one was converted for a first down. Jordan Raanan’s
Next game: Oct. 2 at. Seahawks (8:15 p.m. ET).
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