How Christian McCaffrey changed the trajectory of the 49ers' 2022 NFL season

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams
Christian McCaffrey leaves the field - San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams

Six weeks into the 2022 NFL season, things were going nowhere fast in San Francisco - enter Christian McCaffrey. Posting a record of 3-3 after six contests is never ideal, much less when you start the season with expectations of being a contender. How do you get back on the right path? It's easy - add a first-team All-Pro to your roster.

By taking down the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football, the San Francisco 49ers moved to 6-4 on the season. Since adding running back McCaffrey to their roster, the 49ers have won three-of-four contests. Just like that, they sit atop the NFC West.

Christian McCaffrey, who's stuffed the stat sheet since his arrival, is a big reason as to why. The former Carolina Panthers star has totaled over 60 scrimmage yards through each contest as a 49er, with 21 receptions and four total touchdowns (including a passing touchdown).

Over the team's last four contests, no player on San Francisco's roster has been targeted more times than McCaffrey. This has not only resulted in the 26-year-old being tied for most receptions on the team during this span, but has earned CMC a receiving grade north of 90 via Pro Football Focus. This is the highest on the team, and second-highest among running backs with at least five targets league-wide.

That's just McCaffrey's impact in the passing game, though. On the ground, CMC's two touchdowns while carrying the football are equal to half of all the team's rushing touchdowns combined. So, how do you get back to winning football after a rough start? You go out and grab a player to lead the team in both receptions and rushing yards. You go out and grab Christian McCaffrey.

Christian McCaffrey makes life easier for everyone on offense

Christian McCaffrey (r) celebrates during San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams
Christian McCaffrey (r) celebrates during San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams

It's obvious that Christian McCaffrey betters the team when the ball is in his hands, but his presence alone makes everything easier for the offense. The proof is in Jimmy Garoppolo and his much-improved play since CMC's arrival.

Garoppolo has finished a contest with a completion percentage of 67% or higher five times this season. Without McCaffrey, the veteran quarterback achieved this feat once. Now aided by the All-Pro running back, Jimmy Garoppolo hasn't gone a single game without hitting the 67% mark; four-of-four times.

Garoppolo is also averaging more touchdowns and yards per contest with fewer interceptions since the addition of McCaffrey. These things are a direct result of the respect defenses have for CMC's presence on the field, and sometimes a result of tossing the ball to him.

.@49ers @CMC_22 without the ball was as good; if not better; than when he had the ball. #BaldysBreakdowns

It remains to be seen if the 49ers can keep their three-game winning streak alive moving forward. Regardless, it's undeniable that the change in trajectory in San Francisco's 2022 season is due to the acquisition of Christian McCaffrey.

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Edited by John Maxwell
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