Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers put league on notice in blowout over Cardinals

There are who we thought they are. 

The San Francisco 49ers continue to prove that they are Super Bowl contenders as the NFL moves through the second half of the regular season.

San Francisco’s latest opportunity to show they are one of the best teams in the league came in Mexico City, as the 49ers manhandled the shorthanded Arizona Cardinals 38-10 in front of nearly 80,000 fans at Estadio Azteca — most of them cheering, despite a steady rain, for the red and gold in a nationally televised game Monday evening. 

“We were told it might be like that, but it was even better than we expected,” San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said about the crowd. “Everywhere I’ve gone in Mexico we’ve been given love like that. And to come here in Mexico City, it was so cool.” 

Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo served as the catalyst for his offense, completing 20 of 29 passes for 228 yards and a season-high four scores. It’s the fourth time Garoppolo has thrown for four touchdown passes in his NFL career, and three of them have come against the Cardinals. 

According to Next Gen Stats, 71% of Garoppolo’s passing yards came after the catch. 

“Guys were just making plays today,” Garoppolo said. “All the receivers stepped up. The offensive line played great. It was a clean pocket all night. When it’s like that, it makes for a fun night. It was an electric atmosphere out here, so we were feeding off that.” 

As Garoppolo said, San Francisco’s playmakers showed up. Tight end George Kittle finished with four receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Brandon Aiyuk totaled two receptions for 20 yards and two scores. Deebo Samuel finished with 94 scrimmage yards, including a 39-yard touchdown run on a reverse. Christian McCaffrey recorded 106 scrimmage yards and Elijah Mitchell rumbled for 59 yards on the ground.

Before trading for McCaffrey, the 49ers averaged 20 points per game. Since the trade, San Francisco is averaging 28.5 points per contest. 

The 49ers improved to 6-4 on the season and are now tied with the Seattle Seahawks for the top spot in the NFC West. San Francisco has won three in a row and five of its past seven. And the 49ers held their opponent scoreless in the second half for a third straight game. 

The Cardinals dropped to 4-7 with the loss and have lost three of their past four games. They will have a hard time climbing out of that hole to compete for a playoff spot. 

Greg Dortch led the Cardinals with nine receptions for 103 yards. DeAndre Hopkins added nine receptions 91 receiving yards. Starting in place for an injured Kyler Murray (hamstring), Colt McCoy completed 24 of 34 passes for 218 yards, with no touchdowns and an interception. 

The Cardinals host the Los Angeles Chargers (5-5) on Sunday, while San Francisco hosts the New Orleans Saints (4-7). 

“We’ve got to flush it,” Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury said about the loss. “We have a short week with the Chargers coming in. That’s what we talked about. We know we have to improve in a lot of areas, in a short amount of time. There’s going to be a lot of mental preparation going into Sunday’s game, so we’ve got to find a way to get aggressive.” 

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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