Healthy 49ers rout Cards 38-13 to finish with tenth straight win

BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER

The San Francisco 49ers tuned up for a run at their first Super Bowl championship since 1995 with a dominating 38-13 win over the Arizona Cardinals Sunday afternoon.

With injured starters Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell both back in uniform for the first time in weeks, the Niners bounced back from a stunning 77 yard touchdown pass from third string Arizona quarterback David Blough to A.J. Green on the second play of the game to finish the regular season in a celebratory mood. The sole consolation for the wretched Cardinals (4-13) will be the third pick in the 2023 NFL draft.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Eli Mitchell gets congratulated by George Kittle following his second quarter touchdown run, his first of two on the day after missing five games, during the Niners 38-13 win over Arizona Sunday afternoon.

The Niners (13-4) came right back, wasting less than four minutes on a six play 75 yard touchdown drive of their own, capped by a 21 yard scoring pass from Brock Purdy to Christian McCaffrey to take a 7-6 lead they would never relinquish.

It was the tenth straight win for San Francisco, establishing a franchise record to end a season. The 49ers run earned them the second seed in the NFC and a postseason Wild Card matchup with their division rival Seattle Seahawks (9-8) Saturday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium kicking off at 1:30PM.

Back in the lineup for the first time since Week 12 following an MCL sprain, Mitchell had a pair of touchdown runs in addition to a 37 yard third quarter run on the way to a team leading 55 yards on 11 carries.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Retiring Arizona linebacker J.J. Watt records the final sack of his NFL career against Brock Purdy early in the second half of the 49ers 38-13 win over the Cardinals Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium.

Brock Purdy improved to 5-0 as a starter with a solid 15-20 passing performance and a career high three touchdown passes in spite of being sacked four times, twice by future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt in his final game before retiring.

Nick Bosa recorded another sack to finish with a career best and NFL leading 18.5 on the season, the second highest total in San Francisco’s franchise history, before being pulled in the third quarter with the game’s outcome and his status as front runner for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year no longer in doubt.

Safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. recorded two tackles and a pair of interceptions on the day to finish the season with a team leading five picks, three in the past two games.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
San Francisco’s Nick Bosa celebrates his NFL leading 18th and a half sack during the second quarter of the 49ers regular season ending 38-13 win over the Arizona Cardinals Sunday.

George Kittle continued to display his chemistry with Purdy with another pair of touchdown receptions, increasing his total to seven in the past four weeks. Brandon Aiyuk finished with four receptions for 59 yards to finish with 1,015 receiving yards for the season, the first time he’s reached the plateau in his three year career.

Asked about finally having a healthy team and getting out of the game unscathed, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan rejoiced, “Huge relief. It was a stressful week when you know you need to win, but you know what you’re doing the next week also, so to be able to pull off the win, protect the guys a little bit there at the end, and to get out without any serious injuries, we were very relieved. I feel really good about our team when we won the division about a month ago and I feel better about them now. I think we’ve gotten better since that point and we’ll be ready to go. I’m excited for this week. I’m excited to find out who we’re playing and I’m real excited for the playoffs.”

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Deebo Samuel picks up yardage following a second quarter reception in his first action after missing three games during the Niners 38-13 win over the Arizona Cardinals Sunday afternoon.

Shanahan added ““The other thing is like, man, we get these guys back. It was good to get some work in with Deebo today, Elijah getting his reps. It’s like, once we’re all in rhythm and in sync then I feel like we can play our full potential. So, I feel like today we got a little glimpse of it, definitely some room to improve, but I’m excited for all of them to be healthy going into the playoffs. It’s going to be fun.”

GAME NOTES:

San Francisco finished the season undefeated in divisional play against the NFC West for the first time since 1997.

The 49ers 8-1 home record matched Dallas and Minnesota for the best in the NFL and is the teams best mark since going undefeated (8-0) in 1998.

The Niners defense finished the season allowing an NFL low 16.3 points per game, and the team led the entire NFL with a +13 turnover margin.

With 79 total yards on the day, Christian McCaffrey’s 1,210 yards since joining San Francisco broke Eric Dickerson’s 35 year old record for the most scrimmage yards by a midseason acquisition in NFL history.

Purdy is just the third rookie QB in NFL history to win at least his first five starts.

San Francisco’s 13 wins mark the third time since 1998 that the team has won 13 or more games. Their ten game winning streak is the team’s longest since they won 11 in a row in 1997.

The Niners 38 points was their third consecutive game with 37 or more points, matching the longest streak by the team since at least 1970.

About Daniel Gluskoter

Daniel Gluskoter is the Martinez Tribune's national music and sports editor and a Bay Area photojournalist who's work has been featured in Rolling Stone, Time Magazine and Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2008 Presidential campaign as a correspondent for United Press International and has travelled worldwide covering events ranging from numerous Super Bowls and Olympics to Live Aid and the Grammys.

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