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Thursday night recap

49ers look Super in demolition of Giants

It’s a long season, but as of right now, the 49ers sure look like Super Bowl contenders. They might have the league’s best defense, and their offense is good enough that it didn’t miss Brandon Aiyuk at all on Thursday night.

A handful of thoughts from a game against the Giants that went about how you’d expect.

There is no Barkley backup. With Saquon Barkley out, the Giants went with a combo of Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell. I don’t have the snap counts yet, but it seemed like Breida played more in the first half, but Brightwell might have played more in the second. They both had 4 carries and they both caught multiple passes. There was some ill-advised anticipation about Eric Gray in the offseason, but I don’t think he got in the game as a running back (I saw him returning punts and kickoffs).

There is no Aiyuk backup. Brandon Aiyuk didn’t play, and it doesn’t seem like there’s a clean backup to replace him. I saw plenty of Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud and Ronnie Bell. Entering this game, I would have called Jennings the team’s third receiver. Now I’m wondering how long it might be before Bell becomes their third guy. Bell (a seventh-round pick) had a good game in this one. He caught a touchdown, made a head’s up catch on a deflected ball and had a good tackle on a punt returner. (But Jennings also caught a couple of balls and is more experienced – neither guy should be rostered in any fantasy format I’m aware of.)

Tackle breaking. In Deebo Samuel and George Kittle, the 49ers might have the league’s best tackle-breaking wide receiver and the best tackle-breaking tight end. Samuel picked up about an extra 25 yards on one play in this one, and they mentioned during the broadcast that he was at 78 yards that were generated after contact (out of his 129 receiving yards). Only problem with this playing style is that it makes both guys unlikely to play in all 17 games.

Wan’Dale sighting. Wan’Dale Robinson played for the first time since tearing his ACL last year, and it looks like he might lead the Giants in receptions the rest of the way. They played him a lot in the slot, and he caught 4 short passes. Those totaled only 21 yards, but if you’re in a large PPR league, there would be some sense in making a waiver claim on this receiver (if you’re looking for a low-upside option who’ll at least catch some balls).

Purdy impressive. Brock Purdy sure has a good head for the game. Gets the ball out of his hands to stay out of trouble. Has that sense of what to do. I could see the 49ers winning a Super Bowl with him at quarterback.

AWOL receivers. While Robinson and Parris Campbell combined to catch 10 passes, Isaiah Hodgins was the intended target on only 1 pass (an incompletion). And rookie Jalin Hyatt (who’ll probably be the Giants’ best receiver at the end of the 2024 season) hardly even made it on the field. I never saw Hyatt, and he didn’t have anything thrown his way, but I heard Kirk Herbstreit say in the fourth quarter that he had appeared for 9 plays. Hyatt can’t be used right now but definitely should be rostered in dynasty formats.

Daniel Jones. I was surprised when the Giants gave Jones the big contract in the offseason, making him an above-average quarterback financially. But I thought he held up well in this one. They were overmatched and beaten, but he stayed out of trouble. I didn’t see a bunch of errant throws or missed opportunities, and he wasn’t getting caught holding the ball. He was fine. Earlier in the day, I saw Justin Fields take a bunch of sacks against Tampa Bay, with him holding the ball on every one of them. Jones is definitely a much better quarterback than Fields.

Waller’s quiet night. Darren Waller wasn’t as much of a factor as I expected, with 3 catches for 20 yards. But he had a team-high 7 targets, and he drew a 22-yard penalty that set up the Breida touchdown. There will be better nights.

Running back rotation. Kyle Shanahan admitted he erred in not spelling Christian McCaffrey enough against the Rams. He caught that corrected, with Elijah Mitchell logging 11 carries in this one. Mitchell came in for the second series of the game and played throughout, looking like he’ll be a top-10 back if McCaffrey breaks down at some point.

Long-range field goals. Is it my imagination, or have their been more long-range field goals this year? Graham Gano banged in a 57-yarder in this one. Jake Elliott seems to hit something from 55-plus every week. I will run a check on the numbers, but I think we’re running way ahead of the usual on long-range kicks.

Jake Moody. The rookie kicker has scored 12 points in each of his games. He is currently on pace to break the all-time scoring record for kickers.

And that’s probably a good spot to call it a night.

—Ian Allan

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