May 26, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz. — After San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey had finished shredding the Arizona Cardinals for the second time this season to clinch the Niners’ second consecutive NFC West division crown, he received a significant show of support in the race for the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

Roughly 30 minutes following the Niners’ 45-29 throttling of the Cardinals to improve to 11-3, quarterback Brock Purdy was asked what the case would be for McCaffrey to win MVP. Instead of offering arguments, Purdy provided an endorsement.

“I think Christian should be MVP,” Purdy said. “I really do believe that. He does everything for us … and so in my eyes that’s an MVP.”

Purdy is always quick to deflect praise for others. But in this instance, it was more notable given that Purdy himself is considered one of the top contenders to win the award. And though Purdy had also just put the finishing touches on another big day, it was McCaffrey who once again shined brightest against the Cardinals.

Despite briefly departing the game in the second quarter with a knee issue, McCaffrey posted 18 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown on the ground and five catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns through the air. In two games against the Cardinals this season, McCaffrey has 364 scrimmage yards on 50 touches to go with seven touchdowns.

Those seven touchdowns are tied for the most by any player against a team in a season in the Super Bowl era.

“Sometimes it’s just the way it goes,” McCaffrey said. “You don’t really know what games you’re going to have big games.”

For McCaffrey, the big games have seemingly come just about every week as he continues to etch his name into San Francisco and NFL record books:

  • With a receiving and rushing touchdown Sunday, McCaffrey has 15 career games in which he has scored both ways. That ties him with Marshall Faulk for the most such games in NFL history.

  • With 1,292 rushing yards and 509 receiving yards on the season, McCaffrey is the fourth player in NFL history to record at least 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in four or more season in his career, joining Faulk, Thurman Thomas and Tiki Barber.

  • McCaffrey’s 6,018 rushing yards and 4,265 receiving yards since entering the NFL in 2017 make him the third player ever — along with Faulk and Roger Craig — to hit those marks in his first seven seasons.

All of those milestones are coming in the midst of a season in which McCaffrey, 27, might be the best he has been in his career. On the year, McCaffrey has 20 total touchdowns, tied with Miami’s Raheem Mostert for most in the league, and his six 100-yard rushing games are the most of any player in the league. He has also posted 100-plus yards from scrimmage in 11 games this year, tied with Craig for the most in a season in franchise history.

Suffice to say, all of that contributes to a compelling MVP case for McCaffrey even if coach Kyle Shanahan prefers not to choose between his two in-house candidates.

“I don’t have to differentiate, thank goodness,” Shanahan said. “But I’ve been around a couple MVPs probably in my career and … this is the most obvious thing to me. I might be biased being on their team but I don’t think so.”

While McCaffrey was racking up more big numbers Sunday, Purdy wasn’t exactly hurting his case. He finished 16-of-25 for 242 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 135.3.

It’s the third game this season Purdy has thrown at least four touchdowns with no picks, tying him with Steve Young (1994) and Jeff Garcia (2000) for the most in a season in franchise history. His 29 touchdown passes on the season are the most by a Niner since Garcia had 32 in 2001.

Purdy’s latest efficient outing came on a day when, like McCaffrey, he also had to depart for a short time with injury. With 4:13 left in the second quarter, Purdy took a hit to the helmet from Cardinals pass rusher Dennis Gardeck that drew a penalty for roughing the passer.

The hit left Purdy on the field in pain for what was later diagnosed as a left shoulder stinger. He slowly walked into the blue medical tent before being cleared to return three snaps later.

Purdy said after the game it was the first time he’s had a stinger in his career. But based on what teammates have told him about the injury, he said the key is to let it play out because it’s possible the pain will subside quickly.

“I just laid there for a sec, let it calm down,” Purdy said. “Literally as time went on, it just started going away and that’s why I was able to get back in there.”

When it was his turn at the dais, McCaffrey joined left tackle Trent Williams to answer questions in tandem, dubbing themselves “Rob & Big,” the duo made popular on a reality show about professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek and Christopher “Big” Boykin, Dyrdek’s best friend and bodyguard.

As Williams was asked how he would choose between Purdy and McCaffrey, he quickly shut down the question with a chuckle. Asked whether Williams should also be in the MVP conversation, McCaffrey said, “He’s got my vote.”

But the one thing both players and everyone else asked about the topic continue to make clear is that the Lombardi Trophy is the only one they truly value.

“We got the best running back in the NFL, so for him to get MVP consideration, I think that’s his just due,” Williams said. “And same way with Brock. Brock has been playing his but-t off. … I couldn’t be more proud of both of these guys … and I mean who cares, long as we can bring that trophy back to Santa Clara. That’s all I’m worried about.”

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