Running a slot fade, the star tight end beat Jaguars linebacker Devin Lloyd in man coverage down the sideline. There were no defenders between him and the end zone. So Kittle started strutting. Then he walked the final three yards. He roared as he spiked the ball. It was a 66-yard touchdown, giving San Francisco a three-score lead on the road.
Following a three-game losing streak after starting the season 5-0, it was a reminder of who the 49ers are: a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
The 49ers regained their mojo as an elite team in the NFC with their 34-3 blowout victory Sunday over the Jaguars. They handed the NFL’s hottest team — Jacksonville entered the game with a league-leading five-game winning streak — a humiliating defeat at home.
One of San Francisco’s biggest issues in the losing streak was defense.
The unit got back on track Sunday with four takeaways — three of which came in plus territory.
None was bigger than cornerback Ambry Thomas‘ strip of Jaguars receiver Christian Kirk late in the third quarter, with Jacksonville in goal-go-territory and the 49ers holding a 20-3 lead. While Thomas’ 92-yard touchdown return was nullified by an unsportsmanlike penalty, San Francisco still reached the end zone on the ensuing possession, capped by a 23-yard end around from receiver Deebo Samuel. That essentially put the game out of reach late in the third period.
Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who had two interceptions and a lost fumble, struggled mightily under duress from a talented 49ers’ defensive line that had been playing below its standard. Former No. 2 overall pick Chase Young, making his San Francisco debut, split a sack fumble with his former Ohio State teammate Nick Bosa in the second quarter, leading to the first of Lawrence’s three giveaways. The 49ers sacked Lawrence five times and registered 23 pressures, according to Next Gen Stats.
San Francisco held Jacksonville to season lows in total yardage (221), rushing yards (59) and first downs (12).
Purdy, who had regressed during the three-game skid, also rebounded Sunday with one of his best games of 2023. He completed 73% of his passes for 296 yards for three touchdowns, no turnovers and a season-high 148.9 passer rating. His most impressive throw was his first touchdown. He booted to his left and fired a pass from outside the numbers, as he was drifting toward the sideline, into traffic to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk in the middle of the end zone.
Purdy played an efficient game. Superstar running back Christian McCaffrey had a team-high 142 scrimmage yards (95 rushing, 47 receiving), although his touchdown streak was snapped at 17 games, leaving him tied for the NFL record with Lenny Moore. Kittle had a team-high 116 receiving yards. All-Pro defenders Fred Warner and Talanoa Hufanga grabbed an interception apiece. Bosa and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave led the team in sacks (1.5 apiece). San Francisco’s best players led the way Sunday.
The 49ers were clicking on all cylinders.
This is who they are, and they got back to it.
Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.
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