The San Francisco 49ers hit the road in Week 15 for their second-to-last divisional matchup of the season. Just like in 2022, the red and gold had the opportunity to secure the NFC West crown in Week 15, and did just that, with a 45-29 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The victory in Arizona also keeps the team at the top of the conference standings and in the driver's seat of their playoff positioning. This road trip also has a personal element for starting quarterback Brock Purdywho made his first-career start in his home state.
"To come and have everyone from high school, Perry, Queen Creek and Gilbert come to the game and support, it means everything to me," Purdy said. "I've always dreamed of being able to come home and play in front of everybody, just because of how much I know they have my back and support me. I hope I was able to give them a good game, and I appreciate everything they've done for me in my life."
Here are five takeaways from Sunday afternoon's game:
WR Deebo Samuel Extends His Touchdown Streak
The wideout now has scored in four-consecutive games beginning on the 49ers Thanksgiving night game in Week 12. After allowing an opening drive touchdown to Arizona, the 49ers responded quickly with a score of their own. Quarterback Brock Purdy went to Samuel, who in motion and left wide open on the left side, for the 12-yard touchdown reception. The score tied the game up at 7-7 with 6:33 left in the first quarter. The wide receiver went on to secure a second touchdown during the fourth quarter.
CB Charvarius Ward Notches a Career-First in Arizona
The veteran cornerback came up with his first-career pick-six, intercepting a Kyler Murray pass attempt on fourth-and-three in the first quarter of Sunday's game. Murray targeted Cardinals tight end Trey McBride and had his throw picked off by Ward and taken all the way back for a 66-yard interception return touchdown. The pick-six is San Francisco's first defensive touchdown of the 2023 season and the first pick-six since Week 5 of the 2022 season. The interception return touchdown put the 49ers up 14-7 with 4:22 left in the first frame. Ward secured a second interception late in the fourth quarter.
"I had a big smile on my face probably for the whole first half after the touchdown," Ward said. "I feel like I made a great play. I (would like to) thank God first of all - two picks, that's the first time that's ever happened in my career, even in high school, college and junior college. I'm definitely happy and thankful for that."
Defensive Front Stacks the Sacks, Again
The 49ers defensive front was missing two of its starting interior defensive linemen in Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave and still delivered a disruptive outing in Week 15. The high production level of the past five games, 22 total sacks, continued with the defensive front adding another three in Week 15.
Defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw, who was making his second start of the season, got things started, bringing down Murray for a loss of seven yards on the Cardinals second offensive series. The sack came on first-and-15 and backed up Arizona to their own 48 yard line. The Cardinals were unable to convert and were forced to settle for the 58-yard field goal.
It was a similar story with defensive lineman Nick Bosa and his second quarter sack. On Arizona's next offensive possession, Bosa got home on Murray for a loss of four yards and forced fumble, however, the Cardinals recovered the loose ball and ended up losing just a yard of ground. Arizona pulled off one more passing play, and after failing to convert, kicked a 43-yard field goal to get within a point with 6:44 left in the first half. With that sack, Bosa increases his season total to 10.5 sacks. The 49ers third sack of the day came in the third quarter, split by Chase Young and Fred Warner, for a loss of a yard.
Second Quarter Quarterback Swap
Quarterback Brock Purdy took a hard hit during San Francisco's third offensive series on a nine-yard completion to fullback Kyle Juszczyk. The hit drew a 15-yard roughing the passer call, and after going down on the field, Purdy exited to game to be evaluated in the medical tent. Sam Darnold entered the game for three plays before Purdy was cleared to return to game action. The official injury update on the sophomore quarterback indicated he suffered a left shoulder stinger. He went on to complete the series for the 49ers and capped off the 10-play, 75-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown pass to running back Christian McCaffrey. Purdy went on to a complete 16-of-25 pass attempts, 242 yards and four touchdowns in his hometown NFL debut.
"I've never had a stinger before, so when I got hit, I probably could have popped up if someone grabbed my arm and pulled me up," Purdy said. "It was one my left side. I just laid there for a second, sort of let it calm down and stuff, and I was able to get up and go to the tent. From there it got better. Literally as time went on, it just started going away, and that was why I was able to get back in there mid-drive."
Three-Touchdown Day for CMC
After failing to reach the end zone in Week 14, the 49ers RB1 netted two receiving and a rushing touchdown against the Cardinals. McCaffrey got things started with a five-yard touchdown reception late in the second quarter and also provided an offensive boost on the third quarter opening drive. Following a 35-yard reception by tight end George Kittle, Purdy made a play outside the pocket, hitting a wide open McCaffrey near the left sideline. The running back executed a 41-yard catch and run, stumbling at the 10 yard line before running the rock into the end zone.
"I didn't see the ball until like halfway in the air, and I was just happy we connected," McCaffrey said. "Brock made a great play of scrambling and sticking with it."
He scored again late in the third quarter, running in a one-yard touchdown to give San Francisco the 35-16 advantage. With his third touchdown, McCaffrey tied Miami Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert for the league-lead in touchdowns.
View postgame photos following the San Francisco 49ers matchup vs. the Arizona Cardinals.