The San Francisco 49ers solidified their playoff position with their ten-straight win, locking up the No. 2 seed with a 38-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the regular season finale. The team will play the No. 7 at home next week, however, who they will face during Super Wild Card Weekend is still up in the air. A win by Seattle Seahawks over the Rams means that there are two opponents left in play as of Sunday afternoon - the Green Bay Packers or the Seahawks.
"I felt really good about our team when we won the division about a month ago, and I feel better about them now," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "We've gotten better since that point, and we'll be ready to go. We'll see if it's Saturday or Sunday, but we're excited for this week, excited to find out who we are playing. We're really excited for the playoffs."
Here are eight takeaways from the 49ers Week 18 contest:
Samson Ebukam Sets a New Career High
The defensive lineman notched the first sack of the day for the 49ers defense, taking down Cardinals quarterback David Blough for a loss of eight yards in the first quarter of Sunday's contest. Ebukam's sack came on third-and-seven and helped force an Arizona punt on their second offensive series. He now has 5.5 sacks on the year which marks a new career high for the veteran.
Christian McCaffrey Adds Another TD to the Count
San Francisco's do-it-all running back barreled into the end zone early in the first quarter to punch in his tenth score of the season in a 49ers uniform. McCaffrey's 21-yard receiving touchdown capped off a six-play 75-yard drive and put the 49ers ahead 7-6 with 10:40 left to play in the first frame, a lead the team did not relinquish for the rest of the game.
McCaffrey closed out his Week 18 outing with 10 carries for 45 yards and added another 3 catches for 34 yards and a touchdown through the air.
Interception No. 31 (and No. 32) for No. 31
Tashaun Gipson Sr. has as many career interceptions as the number on his jersey and five total on the year. The veteran safety intercepted a pass intended for Arizona wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown at the 30 yard line and returned it for 12 yards to set up San Francisco inside the red zone. The 49ers were able to capitalize on the turnover, turning that error by the Cardinals into points on the ensuing drive.
Gipson Sr. also added interception No. 32 to the resume later on in the game. The safety picked off Blough again in the third quarter, returning the ball 23 yards this time to Arizona's 34 yard line. The 49ers next offensive series resulted in a 27-yard field goal by kicker Robbie Gould.
"He's been such a good player for a long time," Shanahan said. "I thought we were very fortunate that he was available when he was. He's come in and been the wisdom of our defense."
Welcome Back Elijah Mitchell
The sophomore running back completed his second comeback of the season on Sunday, rejoining the team after being sidelined with an MCL sprain (second of 2022) since Week 12. Mitchell put an exclamation point on his return with his first rushing touchdown of the year. His five-yard score in the second quarter put San Francisco ahead 14-6 with 12:07 left before the half.
Mitchell found the end zone one more time in Week 18, running in a six-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the second half to extended the lead once again. San Francisco took the 28-13 lead with 11:32 left to play in the third quarter.
Purdy Good, Again
Brock Purdy continues to impress in his fifth start of the year. The rookie quarterback closed out Sunday's game completing 15-of-20 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns and recorded his fourth 100+ passer rating in his sixth appearance of 2022. Entering this Week 18 game, Purdy was one of two quarterbacks (HOF Kurt Warner in 1999 was the other) all-time to win his first four starts in the NFL and throw multiple touchdown passes in each of those starts. After the finale, he is in a category all his own, extending this streak to five wins with at least two touchdown passes thrown in those wins.
"I feel great. I feel like everyone else is feeling great," Purdy said about the win streak and his six appearances. "When you're on a roll, when you're on a win streak, you feel like, the groove and how we're playing together, it feels really good when we're on it. A lot of us are real with ourselves too, though. We still haven't played to our full potential yet. We look at it as a challenge, but we're also excited because it's like, man, if we do play to our full potential, what else can we do?"
Purdy was replaced by Josh Johnson early in the fourth quarter.
Brandon Aiyuk Hits 1,000
The third-year wideout hit a career milestone in the final week of the regular season, racking up 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. Aiyuk entered the game needing just 44 yards to reach the 1,000 yard threshold and was able to get that and then some. The receiver tallied four catches for 59 yards against the Cardinals.
"That's the mark (1,000 receiving yards) for receivers, so that's what you think about when you're training in the offseason, when you're sitting at home throwing the ball up in the air as a kid on the bed," Aiyuk said. "That was huge."
The People's Tight End Goes Big in the Finale
George Kittle had four receptions for 29 yards in Week 18, two of which also also happened to be touchdown catches. Sunday marked the veteran tight end's fourth multi-touchdown game of 2022. Kittle scored a four-yard touchdown in the final minute of the first half and caught another in the third quarter to make it 25-point game.
"All the plays that we've called that have been designed to go to me, Brock Purdy has done a great job of keeping me in his first ready, just taking advantage of that opportunity to get open for him to throw it," Kittle said about the instant connection between him and the rookie quarterback. "When the play breaks down he does such a good job of keeping his eyes up, and he always looks for me in the back of the end zone. Brock is just a good football player that tries to give his guys a good shot at scoring touchdowns."
San Francisco Sets a New Franchise Win Streak Record
When is the last time the 49ers closed out their regular season slate with 10 straight wins? It's actually never happened before. This 2022 49ers team set a new franchise record for longest win streak to cap off the year. The previous record was held by the 1984 team that finished 15-1 and went on to win Super Bowl XIX over the Miami Dolphins.