Santa Clara – The Niners have won 10-consecutive games, marking the team’s longest win streak since 1997. The 49ers secured the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Philadelphia Eagles remain atop the NFC so, the Niners will host the Seattle Seahawks next Saturday, after the Green Bay Packers were eliminated by the Detroit Lions tonight.
“We’ll watch the game tonight, it sounds like we’re going to play Green Bay or Seattle, so we’ll see, said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.”
San Francisco dominated on both sides for the 38-10 victory the Arizona Cardinals. It was a “double-double” kind of day for the 49ers, both Elijah Mitchell and George Kittle recorded two touchdowns each and Tashaun Gipson Sr. picked off David Blough twice today. Mitchell registered 5 carries for 55 yds, the two touchdown rushes were his first two of the season, gave him 7 in his career and marked the first game of his career with 2-or-more TD rushes.
“We wanted to bring him in with depth, we had one of the best safeties in the league last year with [DB] Jimmie Ward and then when Jimmie got hurt and we knew there was a chance that his [Elijah Mitchell] playing time was going to go up and we were glad to get him. I was with Gip in Cleveland, which I think was his rookie or second year and I thought he was such a good player then, I haven’t gotten to be with him since then, but just following him his whole career, playing against him in Jacksonville and Chicago and he’s been such a good player for a long time.”
Gipson Sr. registered 2 tackles and 2 interceptions on the day. Gipson finished 2022 with a team-high 5 interceptions on the season. He now has 32 INTs in his career. It marked his 5th time in his career that Gipson has registered back-to-back games with 1-or-more INTs and the first time since 2019 as a member of the Houston Texans. Gipson Sr. is the first member of the 49ers to register 2-or-more INTs in a single game since DB Jimmie Ward [2 INTs at LAR (11/15/21)].
“The first one, I think that was a little easier,” Gipson Sr said. “It was just more so just attacking the ball. Cover three, I think it was an audible. So it was just kind of one of those, you know, you go up and attack the ball. But the second one, when the ball was up there, it was up there for a minute. I bobbled it a little bit, I wouldn’t have been able to live that down.
I’ve let a couple slip through the cracks this year, so I couldn’t let that happen. But obviously, heads up play by [CB] Deommodore [Lenoir], getting him inside leverage, and giving me chance to break on the ball. And [LB] Fred [Warner], obviously the best covering linebacker in the National Football League, making the quarterback elevate the throw. I give credit to those guys, man, and just God for putting me in the position.”
“Man, best Safety in the league right there,” said Talanoa Hufanga. “He’s really been doing his thing, and he’s just been a part of my life tremendously. Coming in here and teaching me the game, bringing a lot of knowledge, and it’s just a true pleasure to be on field with him. He has a great attitude. Everything about him is just awesome.”
Kittle connected with Brock Purdy in the second quarter for a 4-yard touchdown pass and also late in the third for a 1-yard touchdown pass from Purdy. San Francisco did not disappoint in their final regular season game. Their winning streak continues with 10 wins since Halloween. While this streak means nothing in the playoffs, but it’s great momentum to start the postseason.
Kittle registered 4 receptions for 29 yds. he has also recorded 1-or-more TD recept. in 4-consecutive games, marking the first time in his career he accomplished the feat. Kittle is the first member of the 49ers to register 1-or-more TD recept. in 5-consecutive games since TE Vernon Davis in 2013 (5 games, Weeks 15-18). With 29 rec. yds., Kittle (5,254) passed Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (5,236) for the 3rd-most receiving yards by a TE through his first 6 seasons in NFL history.
“We have the plays that we’ve called that have been designed to go to me,” Kittle said. “Brock does a great job of just keeping me in his first read. I’ve taken advantage of that opportunity to get open for him to throw it. But when the plays breaks down, he does such a good job of keeping his eyes up and he always looks for the back of the end zone. I think Brock is just a good football player that tries to give his guys a good shot at scoring touchdowns and getting the ball and we’ve been very fortunate to connect on seven of them.”
Purdy the third quarterback this season went 15-for-20 for 178 yards with three touchdowns. Blough went 14-for-18 for 180 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Cardinals got off to a strong start, on the first series with no huddle, Blough went deep to A.J Green for a 77-yard touchdown. Matt Prater missed the field goal. The 49ers clapped back, Purdy connected with Christian McCaffrey for a 21-yard touchdown to give San Francisco a 7-6 lead.
The Niners finished the regular season 13-4, marking its best regular season record since 2019 (13-3) and the 3rd time since 1998 that the team won 13-or-more games in a single season. The 49ers finished the regular season undefeated in divisional play for the first time since 1997 and for the first time since the NFC West was realigned in 2002. It marks the 5th time since at least 1970 that the team did not lose to a divisional opponent in the regular season.
“We’re excited. We’re excited,” said Brandon Aiyuk. “Last week we handled our business, so we got to move up, or two weeks ago, we got to move up to the two [seed]. This week we thought we had a chance depending on what went on, wherever they played at Philly or New York, but that didn’t go our way. We still had to handle our own business. We’re excited to be able to have two home games here. The crowd, even like today, they showed up, they showed out today even though we got out to a slow start. Seeing all the red being at home, we’re excited to be able to start the playoffs off here.”
J.J. Watt announced last month after the birth of his son, his playing days would end this year. After a 12-year career, the five-time Pro Bowler and Walter Payton Man of the Year for his efforts in raising money to rebuild Houston after Hurricane Harvey. The former defensive end played his last game after Arizona lost to the 49ers today.
With two minutes left in the game, Watt began walking off the field and the Jumbotron above congratulated Watt on his retirement, and the crowd rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation. Play was held to give Watt an opportunity to embrace the moment before play was resumed.
“The reception was awesome,” Shanahan said. “It was really cool that he could get that, especially on the road. I was very upset with him all game because he’s still unbelievable. He was a problem throughout the game for us in the run game and the pass game, but for it to slow down there at the end, for him to have his moment where he could walk off, I think everyone in this country respects the hell out of him for what he’s done on and off the field and he’s an all-time great.”
“It was great. He’s a hell of a player,” said Arik Armstead. “I’ve watched a lot of his game growing up so to be a part of that and see that performance was definitely great. To be able to talk to him and tell him how much respect I have for him and just like everyone else does too.”
“They’re calmed down now,” Watt said. “They’re calmed down now, but I want to thank the 49ers. That was very classy, and their fans. You don’t have to do that for an opposing player in your stadium when you’re going to the playoffs, and I just appreciate them doing that. That was better than I could have expected it to be, certainly from that standpoint. Have my wife and son here, have my parents here. I wish the game would have gone differently in many ways, but I’m thankful and grateful, and I’ll always remember it, that’s for sure.”
Photo by 49ers/Twitter
49ers defense exchange pleasantries pregame.