Third string quarterback Brock Purdy did not beat the Miami Dolphins defense; Christian McCaffery did by consistently turning nothing into something.
Every time McCaffery touched the ball something bad happened to the Dolphins defense, and he touched the ball a lot. McCaffery touched the ball on 25 of the 49ers 73 plays. On those plays the 49ers picked up just under six yards a play.
Why was McCaffery so effective against the Dolphins?
Let’s start with the damage McCaffery did on the ground.
McCaffery had 17 carries for 66 yards, which led the 49ers. That’s just under four yards a carry.
However, 30 of those yards came off of one carry. That tells me that outside of one run the Dolphins run defense did its job.
On the other 16 carries, McCaffery averaged just over two yards a carry. That is an elite run defense against one of the best running backs in the league.
That follows the trend of the Dolphins run defense this year. The Dolphins run defense is top 10 in rushing yards allowed per game, and they are top 12 in yards per carry allowed this year.
McCaffery did most of his damage in the passing game.
McCaffery had eight receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. He led the 49ers in receptions and yards.
The Dolphins had no way to cover McCaffery out of the backfield. They tried to play man-to-man early and quickly realized their linebackers lacked the speed to cover McCaffery.
They made the adjustment and played a lot more zone, which did not help.
McCaffery would simply find the hole in the zone. The next thing you know he has the ball in space and the Dolphins are missing tackles.
In addition to his ability to find the holes in zone defenses and create separation from linebackers; he was lethal in the screen game and as the emergency outlet.
McCaffery caught two screens that went for a total of 31 yards, and on multiple occasions when Purdy was under pressure he would flip the ball to McCaffery and he would pickup five or six yards.
McCaffery consistently turned nothing into something and ended up being the best player on the field because of it.
The defense was not all bad. I know they gave up 26 points, but they only gave up two touchdowns.
Good defenses in the NFL hold teams to field goals and they get off the field on third down. The Dolphins’ third down defense was not terrible. The 49ers converted on 42% of their third downs.
That is a little below where you want to be, but the Dolphins defense was on the field a long time, 40 minutes to be exact. When you are on the field that long you’re bound to give up some third down conversions.
A couple players stood out as well.
Christian Wilkins had a great game. He was a big reason why the Dolphins stopped the run as well as they did, and Xavian Howard had the interception.
There were performances to build off of, and thankfully the Dolphins will not see Christian Mcaffery again. Unless they play on a Sunday in February.