McCaffrey scores three TDs as 49ers roll past Cardinals sixth straight win
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Deebo Samuel was stunned to be so wide open for San Francisco's first touchdown of the game. A few quarters later, Christian McCaffrey had enough time to catch a deep pass, fall to the turf, then scramble to his feet and run for a 41-yard touchdown.
Brock Purdy's return to the desert as the 49ers quarterback was everything he ever dreamed — especially since Arizona's defense was in a helpful mood.
McCaffrey scored three touchdowns, Samuel added two scores, and the 49ers clinched the NFC West title by pushing their winning streak to six games with a 45-29 win over the Cardinals on Sunday.
“In high school, I'd come watch the Cardinals, and now I'm playing on the field,” Purdy said. “It's so cool. Definitely something I'll look back on in life and be thankful.”
Purdy — making his first NFL start at State Farm Stadium, which is about 45 miles from where he grew up — completed 16 of 25 passes for 242 yards and tied a career high with four touchdowns. He also shook off a hard hit in the second quarter that caused him to miss a few plays.
Charvarius Ward had two interceptions, including a pick-6 in the first quarter.
During their winning streak, the 49ers (11-3) have won all of their games by at least 12 points. They've also won 12 straight against divisional opponents in the NFC West.
San Francisco has won back-to-back division titles for the first time since the 2011-12 seasons.
“Winning the division is very important — it's a big step for us,” McCaffrey said. “But everyone knows where we want to be. We know that each week, we have to play our best ball. We're going to get everybody's best shot, so the standard has to continue to rise.”
McCaffrey scored his second touchdown early in the third quarter, sneaking out of the backfield for a 41-yard score and a 28-13 lead. The running back was so wide open that he leaped for the catch, fell down, got to his feet and sprinted to the end zone.
“He does everything for us,” Purdy said. “Runs the ball well, catches the ball, everything. In my eyes, that's an MVP.”
He made it there a third time later in the third quarter after plowing ahead 1-yard for the touchdown and a 35-16 advantage. Deebo Samuel followed with his second touchdown catch in the fourth, a 19-yard reception that made it 42-22.
The 27-year-old McCaffrey finished with five catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns while also running for 115 yards and a score.
Ward put the 49ers ahead for good when he stepped in front of Trey McBride to grab Kyler Murray's pass after the Cardinals (3-11) decided to go for it on fourth-and-3. The cornerback ran 66 yards the other way for a 14-7 lead, pulling away from a pair of Arizona defenders.
The mistake ended Murray's streak of 96 passes without an interception.
Arizona's Matt Prater cut the margin to 14-13 by making two field goals in the second quarter, one from 58 yards and another from 43.
Purdy briefly left during the second quarter with a left shoulder stinger after a big hit from Arizona's Dennis Gardeck, who was called for a 15-yard penalty. But the quarterback returned later in the drive and hit McCaffrey for a 5-yard touchdown with 1:14 left before halftime for a 21-13 lead.
“We’ve got to play cleaner than that to play a really good football team,” Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon said. “We hung in, it kind of got away from us at the end. I appreciate the effort.”
Murray completed 26 of 39 passes for 211 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The Cardinals are 2-3 since he returned from a ACL tear in his right knee last month.
Emari Demercado added a 49-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. McBride caught 10 passes for 102 yards.
The Cardinals ran for 234 yards, finding some holes in the NFL's No. 1 rush defense.
Arizona got off to a hot start with Murray finding McBride twice for a total of 49 yards through the air before James Conner ran for a 2-yard touchdown, capping an efficient seven-play, 75-yard march.
“We drove the ball all day,” Murray said. “We just got in the red zone and couldn't score.”
But the 49ers weren't down long, responding with their own touchdown drive that ended with Purdy hitting a wide-open Samuel for a 12-yard touchdown.
49ers: CB Deommodore Lenoir (ribs) left in the second half and didn't return.
Cardinals: TE Geoff Swain (calf) left in the second quarter and didn't return. ... WR Marquise Brown (heel) was also injured in the first half.
49ers: Home vs. Baltimore on Dec. 25.
Cardinals: At Chicago next Saturday.
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