Christian McCaffrey’s TD streak snaps despite the 49ers’ late efforts

Normally, NFL coaches don’t experience a “nerve-wracking” moment when their team pulls off a stunning win with just minutes left, but Kyle Shanahan subjected himself to that level of stress on Sunday – just to see if he could help Christian McCaffrey make history write .

In the San Francisco 49ers’ 34-3 road win over the Jaguars, McCaffrey was brought back onto the field late and appeared on four straight plays starting at the Jacksonville 10-yard line. The final play consisted of a pass attempt on fourth down and a goal from the 5, usually a situation in which a team with a large lead could collapse or at most attempt a field goal.

The pass was incomplete, ending McCaffrey’s streak of 17 consecutive games, including the playoffs, with at least one rushing or receiving touchdown. The star running back will have to be content with tying Baltimore Colts great Lenny Moore for that league record.

However, it wasn’t because McCaffrey’s coaches and teammates didn’t try.

“Eighteen games in a row is a great record,” Shanahan said after the game. “So if we had the chance to do that, I would try to do it for him. It’s a little nerve-wracking. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt him, but when we got…close, I told him to lighten up because we were going to try. I wish we could have done it for him, but I think it was a pretty big accomplishment to make it 17 games in a row.”

The possibility that McCaffrey could injure himself while pursuing a single mark in garbage time brought up Shanahan criticism by some observers.

While the series was unfolding, a writer was working for The Athletic tweeted that the effort amounted to a “ridiculous hunt for statistics”. He added: “If McCaffrey gets hurt, Kyle will know about it for the rest of his life. Crazy gambling.”

Shanahan seemed to have the support of his players. Starting quarterback Brock Purdy said of watching McCaffrey score a touchdown in his 18th straight game: “We all wanted it for him.”

“Everyone on this team wanted it for Christian,” Purdy told reporters, “and obviously I think Christian wanted it more than anyone.” He’s a humble guy and wants to win, so he puts the team first , but at that moment everyone wanted it for Christian. So it hurts, but at the same time he has a long career ahead of him and I told him we will do it again.”

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When McCaffrey failed to complete the final pass target near the Jaguars’ end zone, Purdy was lifted for backup Sam Darnold. Early in the game, Purdy helped the 49ers build a large lead by throwing touchdown passes to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and tight end George Kittle. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel also scored on an end-around, while Purdy’s final scoring pass early in the fourth quarter went to a relatively unheralded 49er fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

Purdy said he “felt kind of bad” after his 22-yard throw found Juszczyk, not McCaffrey, in the end zone.

“We got to the sideline and the guys were talking about it and I was like, ‘Damn.’ I was kind of crazy,” the second-year quarterback said. “Getting a touchdown is the biggest thing, but on the next drive it was like, ‘Let’s drive for Christian and try to get him a touchdown.’ This is huge.’ ”

For his part, McCaffrey took a lighthearted approach to the end of his series.

“I suck,” he told reporters, smiling. “Everyone else on the team scored a goal except me.”

“It means a lot to me that they keep me there at the end of the game and try to get me that record,” McCaffrey added. “But hey, I’m taking a big win.”

The win ended another San Francisco streak they were happy to see end. Before Sunday’s game, the 49ers had lost three straight after a 5-0 start. At 6-3, the team is tied with the Seattle Seahawks at the top of its division and remains among the NFC leaders. The 31-point win also increased San Francisco’s point differential to plus-109, making it second only to the Baltimore Ravens (plus-113) in the NFL.

After entering Week 10 as the NFL’s leading rusher, McCaffrey increased his league-best 747 yards rushing total by gaining 95 more yards on 16 carries. He added 47 yards on six catches, giving him 339 receiving yards on the season, but McCaffrey will have to wait at least another week before he can increase his total of 13 touchdowns in 2023. He is on pace to break his personal mark of 19 touchdowns over a single season playing with the Carolina Panthers in 2019.

San Diego Chargers Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson holds the single-season record for rushing and receiving touchdowns with 31, set in 2006, and a year earlier he set an NFL record by scoring in 18 consecutive regular-season games . However, after the 2004 season, he failed to reach the end zone in a playoff game, preventing him from achieving a feat Moore accomplished in the 1963 and 1964 seasons.

Shanahan expressed regret in 2018 after Kittle racked up 210 receiving yards in the first half of a game against the Denver Broncos but then didn’t get another catch the rest of the season, leaving him just five yards shy of receiving. Record for a single game remained tight ends. Kittle told reporters at the time that his coach apologized “multiple times” for not being more proactive in helping Kittle reach a statistical milestone.

On Sunday, Shanahan had no plans to deny any of his players a shot at making history, even if it meant upsetting the opposing sideline. Shanahan said after the game that he told Jaguars coach Doug Pederson, “I hope you know why we tried that.”

“He was very aware of it. He said they talked about it,” Shanahan said of Pederson, “so I hope it didn’t offend him too much.” Christian McCaffrey’s TD streak snaps despite the 49ers’ late efforts

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