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2023 NFL season, Week 3: What We Learned from 49ers' win over Giants on Thursday night

San Francisco 49ers
2023 · 3-0-0
New York Giants
2023 · 1-2-0


  1. With Aiyuk out, Deebo, Kittle take center stage. In a bit of a pregame surprise, wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk was ruled out despite apparently trending in the right direction, health-wise. Deebo Samuel and George Kittle didn’t set the world on fire in Weeks 1 and 2, but they didn’t need to. With Aiyuk out, they did. Samuel started slowly (one catch in five opening-drive targets) as he and Brock Purdy weren’t on the same page. But they connected for passes of 30, 40, 18 and -- on his first receiving touchdown of the season -- 27 yards, racking up 81 of his 129 receiving yards after the catch. Kittle caught six passes for 49 yards the first two games, but surpassed that Thursday with seven for 90, bludgeoning the Giants defense repeatedly. He also smartly broke up a would-be interception on the first drive. Both came up huge, powering through tackles all night.
  2. Giants offense remains tepid. Losing Saquon Barkley in a short week on the road against a top-tier defense is less than ideal. But even so, the Giants on Thursday weren’t able to carry over from their historic comeback and offensive flourish in the second half. They gained only 150 yards on 46 offensive plays, stalling hard after a promising opening drive. Their touchdown came on a short field, and the Giants did nothing after cutting the game to a five-point deficit in the third quarter. The offensive line without Andrew Thomas had another tough game, and right tackle Evan Neal appeared to be rolled up on after Daniel Jonesinterception late in the game. And after two games where his legs were his most consistent weapon, Jones wasn’t a factor as a runner (two carries, 5 yards).
  3. Nick Bosa still makes sacks. Believe it or not, Bosa entered Thursday night with zero sacks in his past five games -- all three playoff contests last season and the first two regular-season games in 2023 entering Thursday night. Bosa pressured Jones on his first pass attempt, and it felt like he was due to have a big night. On the Giants’ second drive, they were backed up inside their own 10. Bosa came flying in on Jones and nearly took him down for a safety, marked at the Giants’ 2-yard line. Later, after the Giants had cut the lead to 17-12, Bosa and Arik Armstead snuffed out the two-point try, and the Giants never truly threatened again.
  4. Giants still trying to figure out Darren Waller’s role. Waller had a big second half in the comeback at Arizona, but it’s clear the Giants are still trying to figure out the best ways to get him loose. They tried to run a fade for him on third-and-9 late in the third quarter on a last-gasp type of play, but he and Jones couldn't connect. Waller had three catches on six targets for 30 yards on a night when they badly needed to displace what they lost without Barkley. There were other potential sources that came up empty. Jalin Hyatt, who had catches of 58 and 31 yards Sunday, was not targeted Thursday.
  5. Brock Purdy shaky early, settles in eventually. The game book says the 49ers engineered a workmanlike, 15-play, 64-yard drive in the first series to take a 3-0 edge. But Purdy came out pretty cold and could (should?) have had a few passes intercepted, at least two on the opening drive. Kittle even had to go full-on Talanoa Hufanga mode to break up a pick. Purdy was 3-for-8 on the first drive and was 5-for-14 passing before Samuel and Christian McCaffrey converted dump-offs into huge conversions on third-and-longs. Those helped Purdy settle in -- and beef up his stats -- just a tad. He made great tight-window throws to Ronnie Bell and Kittle and most importantly didn’t turn the ball over, despite fumbling once. Perhaps the white-hot Week 1 game skewed our expectations, but Purdy has been more fine than great the past four days. But as with the skill-position depth, the 49ers are uniquely built to support their quarterback on nights when he’s merely average overall.

Next Gen stat of the game: The 49ers gained 215 of their 310 passing yards after the catch (69.4%) in their 30-12 victory over the Giants. Deebo Samuel (+613), Christian McCaffrey (+278) and George Kittle (+257) all rank in the top two of their position in YACOE since 2021.

NFL Research: Thursday was Christian McCaffrey's 12th game in a row (including playoffs) scoring a touchdown, which tied Jerry Rice for the longest 49ers streak.

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