SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The only person who could stop Christian McCaffrey from tying a San Francisco franchise record with a fifth touchdown was his own coach.
McCaffrey scored a career-high four touchdowns and the 49ers won their 14th straight regular season game, beating the Arizona Cardinals 35-16 on Sunday.
McCaffrey had a chance to tie the Niners record held by Jerry Rice and Ricky Watters when San Francisco drove down to the 1 late in the game, but coach Kyle Shanahan called for a run to fullback Kyle Juszczyk that got no yards before Brock Purdy scored on a sneak.
“Honestly, I had no idea until I just came in here that he had four touchdowns,” Shanahan said. “I never know that type of stuff. I was actually shocked. I feel kind of bad about it. I wish I had tried.”
McCaffrey acknowledged after the game that tying the record “would have been nice,” but held no bitterness at his coach for the missed opportunity.
“He’s obviously got a lot going on in game,” he said. “That’s the last thing to worry about. As long as we scored, I was happy.”
McCaffrey gained 177 yards from scrimmage, scoring on three runs and one catch to help the 49ers get off to their fifth 4-0 start in franchise history. He also broke Rice’s franchise record by scoring a TD in his 13th straight game, including the playoffs.
Purdy went 20 for 21 for 283 yards with a TD run and pass, setting a 49ers franchise record for completion percentage in a game.
“Everyone just did their job,” Purdy said. “We sort of kept it simple. The quick game stuff was on point early on and got us into a rhythm.”
Purdy won for the ninth time in nine career regular season starts, leading the 49ers to their fourth straight game with at least 30 points to open the season.
Joshua Dobbs threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns to Michael Wilson for the Cardinals (1-3), who were unable to follow up last week’s upset at home against Dallas with another win against an NFC powerhouse.
The Cardinals fought back from 21-3 down early to make it a one-possession game late in the third quarter but couldn’t finish the job.
“We just didn’t make enough plays there,” coach Jonathan Gannon said. “But we got back in the game. We just couldn’t do enough to sustain to really make it a game, it kind of got away there in the fourth. But I’m proud of them, how they battled.”
Arizona had no answer to slow down McCaffrey, who became the first player in nine years to start the season with four straight games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage and a TD. He finished with 106 yards on the ground to go with seven catches for 71 yards.
McCaffrey scored on a 1-yard run on the opening drive, took a lateral and hurdled a defender for an 18-yard run on the second drive that caught his teammates attention.
“Oh, my gosh. It was amazing,” tackle Trent Williams said. “I was literally right there. I couldn’t believe that he stayed on his feet, got in the end zone. I was like, ‘You’re a bad boy.'”
McCaffrey added a 6-yard TD catch on the third possession of the game and a 2-yard run in fourth quarter to give the Niners a 28-16 cushion.
McCaffrey broke Rice’s franchise record by scoring a touchdown in his 13th straight game, including the playoffs. He’s the first player in the NFL to do that since Arian Foster had a 13-game streak for Houston in 2011-12. McCaffrey is two shy of the record since the merger held by John Riggins and O.J. Simpson.
He also became the fourth Niners player since 1991 to score three TDs in the first half, joining Rice, Watters and Tevin Coleman.
The Cardinals put together a scoring drive late in the first half thanks in part to a fake punt. Backed up at their 21 on fourth-and-2, Gannon called for a fake that upback Ezekiel Turner converted.
Dobbs capped the drive with back-to-back passes to Wilson, a 33-yarder to convert a third down and then a 16-yard TD that made it 21-10 at the half.
Cardinals: CB Kris Boyd (hip) left the game in the second half.
49ers: OL Jon Feliciano left the game with a concussion.
Cardinals: Host Cincinnati on Sunday.
49ers: Host Dallas on Sunday.