What 49ers discovered 3 days before Christian McCaffrey’s 3 TDs

Will Christian McCaffrey change the San Francisco 49ers?

No question.

As for McCaffrey in the group?

No questions.

That’s right, not a single “What am I doing here again?” from the jack-of-all-trades, who ran back on Sunday just nine days after joining the team. The one-time Stanford star burned the midnight oil as vigorously as he set the Rams on fire, scoring three touchdowns – rushing, received and passing – in a 31-14 blowout.

“Honestly, no questions in the group from him, which is incredible, the mental ability to grasp that so quickly,” said quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

The 49ers traded a truckload of picks to the Carolina Panthers for McCaffrey, outbidding the Rams, among others, for his services. A week earlier, he played 22 snaps against Kansas City and then stepped in as an offensive heart on Sunday, a particular area where Deebo Samuel was sidelined with a hamstring injury.

“He was clean today,” Garoppolo said of McCaffrey. “I give him credit for all the learning he’s doing, it’s not easy. I’ve been in this situation before and with the whirlwind going on around you it takes someone special to focus on the game plan.

McCaffrey ran for 94 yards and scored, caught eight passes for 55 — including a 9-yard touchdown — and connected with Brandon Aiyuk on a 34-yard scoring pass.

He is the fourth player since the 1970 merger with a touchdown pass, touchdown run, and touchdown reception in the same game. He joins the Hall of Famers Walter Payton and LaDainian Tomlinson along with David Patten.

“Both of my little brothers are quarterbacks, so I learned a lot from them,” McCaffrey said. “I used to always want to play quarterback just because it was the best position, but I’ve been a running back since I was 7 years old.”

He remembered some tips from his brothers.

San Francisco's Christian McCaffrey runs past Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey in the third quarter.

San Francisco’s Christian McCaffrey runs past Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey in the third quarter. McCaffrey had 94 yards rushing and another 55 yards on eight catches.

(Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times)

“I have to raise my elbow,” he said. “Get loose, elbows up, and it helps when someone’s wide open too.”

San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said the thought of McCaffrey throwing a halfback pass came during Thursday night’s red-zone preparations.

“I remember yelling into the rooms to see if anyone would reply, ‘Anybody know if Christian can throw?’ ‘ Shanahan said. “[Tight end coach] Brian Fleury emailed or texted a video of himself throwing a 53-yarder a few years ago. When I saw that, I felt like he could throw and we repeated that in practice the next day.”

In fact, McCaffrey threw a long touchdown pass for the Panthers in 2018 — actually, it was 50 yards — and had two more attempted passes that were incomplete the following season.

Regardless, the Rams had no answers when it came to stopping him. Oddly enough, they had faced him in their game two weeks ago when they beat Carolina in a home game. McCaffrey had 158 all-purpose yards that game. Was it an advantage for him to face the Rams twice in three weeks?

“Every game is different,” he said with a shrug. “I’m on a whole new offensive. For me I’m just trying to master my craft and I think there is so much more to learn and understand. I look forward to continuing to grow and get better with this team.”

That’s the scary part, not just for the Rams — who have already been swept by the 49ers — but for the rest of the NFC. San Francisco was coming off back-to-back losses but now goes into the break 4-4 and all arrows up.

Samuel will return, as will receiver Jauan Jennings, giving Garoppolo a wealth of options. And the 49ers’ defense is fanning out, limiting the Rams to 58 yards of offense in a scoreless second half.

When asked about that particular divisional rivalry, Nick Bosa, the 49ers defensive end, said, “Intensity always starts off really hot, and it’s all about who sticks with it during the tough times of the game.

“Today, when we were down, we stuck with it. And they didn’t. And that’s why we won.”

Bosa said of McCaffrey, “He plays our style. I think he will keep getting better.”

While his old team is 2-6 at the bottom of the NFC South, McCaffrey’s new team sits second in the NFC West behind the 5-3 Seattle Seahawks.

“We’re just going to carry that momentum with us — I honestly hate saying goodbye now because it feels like we figured something out,” said 49ers tight end George Kittle.

Kittle, whose team just blew the roof off of a SoFi stadium full of 49ers fans, made another observation about an offense McCaffrey added:

“There is no upper limit.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-10-30/farmer-analyzes-rams-vs-49ers What 49ers discovered 3 days before Christian McCaffrey’s 3 TDs

Emma Bowman

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