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49ers 38, Cardinals 10: Grades

The 49ers just found their identity on offense.
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MEXICO CITY -- The 49ers just dismissed the Arizona Cardinals with a 38-10 beat down. Here are the 49ers' grades.


This was one of the best games of his career. He threw four touchdown passes and zero interceptions, but what's most impressive was how he threw the ball. He still isn't a good downfield passer, but his throws seem to have more zip on them than they've had in years -- perhaps his offseason shoulder surgery helped his arm strength. And he's using his legs to create big plays. Tonight, he ad-libbed and threw a touchdown pass to George Kittle, who was wide open because the defender covering him didn't think Garoppolo was poised enough to scramble, pull the ball down and throw. The defender was wrong. Garoppolo is playing the best football of his life. Teams are defending him the same way they did last season, and he's making them pay. He's also protecting the football consistently for the first time in his tenure with the 49ers. Maybe that's because he's a free agent this offseason and he's playing his best to get another contract. If that's the case, good for the 49ers, but they should never give him another multi-year contract. Garoppolo clearly is at his best when he has something at stake.


Christian McCaffrey started and had 106 yards from scrimmage. Elijah Mitchell ran the ball with power in the second half and made the Cardinals quit. Deebo Samuel also had a 39-yard touchdown run which was the most explosive play he's had in more than a month.


Brandon Aiyuk caught two touchdown passes in the red zone -- he clearly is the go-to-guy near the goal line even though he dropped a pass in the end zone last week. Deebo Samuel had 7 catches, but just 57 receiving yards and at least one drop. And Jauan Jennings tripped over his feet running deep in the first quarter.


George Kittle had 84 receiving yards and two touchdowns, proving he still can produce at a high level if the 49ers give him opportunities.


They gave up zero sacks, which is impressive. Of course, it didn't hurt that the Cardinals have zero pass rush.

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They sacked Colt McCoy three times despite him throwing a ton of screens and quick passes. Their only bad play was an offsides penalty by Nick Bosa which led to Arizona's longest play of the night.


They shut down the Cardinals run game, which frankly isn't difficult to do, because the Cardinals have no run game. Still, Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner were outstanding.


They gave up 18 catches to DeAndre Hopkins and Greg Dortch, but no touchdown catches, plus they picked off two passes.


The punt coverage team pinned the opponent inside the five-yard line, which seems to be a weekly occurrence.


DeMeco Ryans shut out the opposing offense in the second half for the third game in a row -- he's on his way to becoming a head coach. He's an outstanding coordinator and motivator. But this game was about Kyle Shanahan, both the head coach and the coordinator. Shanahan The Head Coach was vindicated for making his team practice in Colorado this week -- his players seemed much more prepared for the altitude in Mexico City than the Cardinals were. Although to be fair, the 49ers could have stayed home all week, eaten pizza and ice cream for every meal and still won. They simply outclassed Arizona. But the 49ers worked extra hard and made a statement tonight -- they're a legit playoff team. They're probably going to win the NFC West and have a home game in the first round of the playoffs. These are good things. Of course, they don't mean the 49ers will win the Super Bowl -- beating the Cardinals doesn't make the 49ers the team to beat in the NFC. That's why Shanahan The Coordinator was the most important person today. He finally found the identity of the 2022 49ers offense, and that's the most important development from this game, other than the win. It took Shanahan The Coordinator until today to realize he has a pass-first offense, not a run-first offense. Opponents are selling out to stop the run against a 49ers offense that is loaded with talented pass-catchers at every position. Plus, Garoppolo is playing extremely well, so Shanahan The Coordinator has started calling plays to feature his players' strengths. In the first half, the 49ers passed 21 times and ran just 7, and the Cardinals were completely taken off guard. Shanahan The Coordinator must keep up the pass-first approach. It's working.


I told Shanahan this week to pass the ball more. I didn't tell him directly -- I told him on a live stream I'm sure he watched (he's a big fan). So you're welcome.