Deebo Samuel pivotal in 49ers’ win against depleted Giants

Photo of Deebo Samuel

In Santa Clara, California, the San Francisco 49ers emerged victorious with a 30-12 win over the New York Giants on Thursday night. While the 49ers may not have appeared unbeatable, they demonstrated their capability to handle an opponent plagued by injuries.

The Giants remained competitive until the fourth quarter, when the 49ers ultimately secured the victory. Here’s an overview of the performance of each team:

San Francisco 49ers:

The 49ers didn’t consistently play flawlessly, and the final score may have made the game seem more one-sided than it actually was, but they successfully accomplished their objective.

Despite a shortened week, the 49ers managed to secure the win even without their injured receiver, Brandon Aiyuk (shoulder). While the Giants were understaffed in their second West Coast game, the 49ers have no need to apologize for achieving another victory, which propelled them to a 3-0 record, a feat they’ve achieved only once in the past 25 years.

Nevertheless, this win underscored the significance of Aiyuk to the 49ers. The Giants entered the game with a reputation for being the most aggressive blitzing team in the league since the start of 2022. They lived up to that reputation by consistently sending additional pass rushers at 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy.

These blitzes proved effective in the first half, not only pressuring Purdy but also causing his accuracy to falter. This forced Niners coach Kyle Shanahan to lean more heavily on screen passes and quick throws instead of his usual intermediate routes.

This is precisely where Aiyuk’s presence could have had a significant impact. Since the start of the previous season, Aiyuk has accumulated 50 receptions (ranking him tied for 8th in the NFL) for 679 yards (ranking him tied for 9th) when facing man coverage. Within the 49ers’ lineup, there is no one who consistently and effectively beats man coverage as swiftly as Aiyuk does.

In the second half, his fellow wide receiver Deebo Samuel (who recorded six catches for 129 yards and a touchdown) and tight end George Kittle (with seven receptions for 90 yards) stepped up to fill the void. Simultaneously, the Niners’ defense asserted its dominance over the Giants.

It’s worth noting that the decision to rest Aiyuk on Thursday night was the right one, as the 49ers plan to explore a contract extension for him during the offseason, ensuring he can fully recover for the demanding part of the season. Nevertheless, his absence only underscores the high value they place on him for the remainder of this season and beyond.

Despite constant pressure from defenders, Purdy had an unusual night, but his final statistics turned out to be rather impressive. Purdy completed 25 of 37 passes, amassing 310 yards and throwing two touchdowns, resulting in a commendable passer rating of 111.3. It’s worth noting that Purdy did take some risks with the ball at times and was fortunate to avoid turnovers in the first half.

However, he excelled in third-down situations and finished the game strongly. While this may not rank as his best performance, it’s noteworthy that Purdy has now joined the exclusive group of quarterbacks in the Super Bowl Era (since 1966) who have started their careers with at least eight consecutive regular-season victories.

Purdy faced an astounding blitz rate of 74% on his dropbacks, marking the highest rate for a quarterback with at least 30 dropbacks since Colin Kaepernick in 2013, who encountered an 88% blitz rate against the Cardinals. Notably, Purdy dealt with 29 blitzes, more than doubling his previous highest count of 14. His 236 passing yards against the blitz represented the most by any quarterback since Aaron Rodgers achieved this feat in 2021.

Concerning trend: The 49ers, who were already among the teams with the fifth-highest number of penalties in the league, did little to address these worries during their game against the Giants. San Francisco ultimately accrued six penalties, totaling 71 yards, and notably, two of these penalties accounted for 37 yards, contributing to the Giants’ first touchdown of the game.

Remarkable statistic: After scoring a four-yard rushing touchdown in the first half, 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey has now recorded a touchdown in 12 consecutive games, spanning both regular-season and playoff matchups. This achievement places him on par with Jerry Rice for the longest streak in franchise history. The all-time record for the most consecutive games with a touchdown, including playoffs, is held by Lenny Moore at 17. Next matchup: taking on the Cardinals (slated for 4:25 p.m. ET on October 1)

This matchup didn’t unfold as lopsidedly as their season opener, which resulted in a 40-0 loss to Dallas. The Giants managed to keep the game competitive, staying within reach until the fourth quarter. Ultimately, they couldn’t prevail against the 49ers, who possessed a higher level of talent, particularly given a couple of unfortunate bounces and costly penalties that worked against them.

Nevertheless, it’s worth acknowledging that the Giants exhibited commendable determination. Considering the absence of four key starters (running back Saquon Barkley, left tackle Andrew Thomas, left guard Ben Bredeson, and outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari), winning on the road in prime time against a formidable opponent like the 49ers would have required near-perfection, which was a challenging task as anticipated.

Now, their attention turns to the upcoming home game against the Seattle Seahawks scheduled for Monday, October 2. This particular matchup has likely been a focal point on their schedule. It has consistently been viewed as the game they needed to secure in order to successfully navigate this demanding early-season stretch. Achieving a split result during their West Coast journey, with a win in Arizona and a loss in San Francisco, is far from detrimental.

Decisive moment: The game-altering sequence unfolded when Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams received a roughing-the-passer penalty with 1:51 left in the second quarter. At that juncture, San Francisco was dealing with a third-and-12 scenario, holding a 10-3 advantage, and positioned at the Giants’ 20-yard line with just under two minutes remaining in the first half.

Williams effectively maneuvered past his opponent and made contact with Purdy as the quarterback released the ball. The penalty was likely enforced because Williams landed on Purdy with his full body weight, significantly impacting the course of the game. Instead of facing a fourth down, San Francisco was granted a first-and-goal opportunity. On the ensuing play, McCaffrey rushed for a six-yard touchdown, expanding the lead to 17-3.

Here’s a daring prediction for the week ahead:

The Giants are gearing up for a Monday night showdown, affording Barkley some extra time to recover from his persistent high ankle sprain, with 11 additional days at his disposal. Nonetheless, the odds are still considerable that he won’t be fully prepared for a return. This scenario has unfolded in the past, marked by Barkley’s eagerness to get back in action and his propensity to expedite the healing process.

Nevertheless, it’s of paramount importance, not only for his own well-being but also for the team’s success, that the star running back prioritizes his recovery and ensures he is entirely fit before making his eagerly awaited comeback.

Noteworthy statistic: During a drive in the second quarter, the 49ers executed successful conversions on both a third-and-15 and a third-and-13 using screen passes. The drive was capped off with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Ronnie Bell, resulting in a 10-3 lead for San Francisco. In the first two weeks of the season, there were 25 attempts at screen passes on third-and-10 or longer situations, and only one had been converted for a first down until Thursday night. — Jordan Raanan

Next game: against the Seahawks (scheduled for 8:15 p.m. ET on October 2)


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