As the final minute ticked off the clock, San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo turned toward the crowd at Estadio Azteca, lifted his hands over his head and started clapping.
It was clear that the Mexico City crowd loved the 49ers.
Jimmy G and the 49ers gave that love — and some really good football — right back.
“The whole atmosphere tonight, I haven’t played in anything like it,” Garoppolo said. “It was electric, the fans were nuts, they were cheering throughout the whole game. It seemed like a soccer game at some points, just the passion they brought. It was really cool. I’d love to do it again.”
It was the fifth regular-season NFL game played in Mexico City and first since 2019. Technically a Cardinals home game, the festive, raucous announced crowd of 78,427 fans at Estadio Azteca heavily favored the 49ers, roaring particularly loud when Kittle and Deebo Samuel each scored on 39-yard touchdowns.
Run that back, Deebo! <a href=”https://twitter.com/19problemz?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@19problemz</a><br><br>📺 : <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SFvsAZ?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#SFvsAZ</a> on ESPN<br>📱: Stream on NFL+ <a href=”https://t.co/tJ4LE3Y3DP”>pic.twitter.com/tJ4LE3Y3DP</a>
“Man, I love San Francisco, but if we can’t be there, I love to be here,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “This place is awesome. That was one of the coolest experiences I’ve been a part of.”
San Francisco (6-4) has won five of its last seven and is tied with the Seahawks at the top of the NFC West. Garoppolo had another efficient performance, completing 20 of 29 passes for 228 yards.
49ers pull away in 2nd half
It was a tight game through much of the first half, but the 49ers pulled away in the second half, jumping ahead 24-10 early in the third quarter on a nifty end-around play. Samuel took the pitch and sprinted 39 yards, weaving through the Cardinals defence on his way to the end zone.
It capped a powerful eight-play San Francisco drive that included seven run plays. Aiyuk’s second touchdown catch of the night — this one from 14 yards out — put the 49ers up 31-10 later in the third.
“I hope we made a good impression,” 49ers defensive end Joey Bosa said.
Murray misses 2nd straight game
The Cardinals (4-7) played their second straight game without Pro Bowl quarterback Kyler Murray, who has been battling a sore hamstring. Backup Colt McCoy had a 3-1 record in spot starts over the past two seasons — including a win over the Rams last week — but couldn’t recreate the same magic in Mexico.
McCoy finished 24 of 34 passing for 218 yards and an interception. The 49ers hit him hard multiple times, connecting for three sacks.
“It’s just a bummer we didn’t find a way to win that game,” McCoy said. “But San Francisco played hard. They’re a good football team, and we just didn’t make enough plays. But for the crowd, for the atmosphere, being able to play internationally in Mexico City, I thought it was fantastic.”
The 49ers took a 17-10 into the halftime break after Robbie Gould connected on a 39-yard field goal with 43 seconds remaining the second quarter. It capped a back-and-forth first half that saw the teams gain almost identical amounts of yardage: The 49ers had a 186-185 advantage.
The 49ers responded early in the second when Garoppolo hit Aiyuk over the middle for a 7-yard touchdown, capping a nine-play, 82-yard drive. San Francisco intercepted McCoy on the ensuing drive after a pass bounced off James Conner’s hand and was snatched out of the air by Jimmie Ward.
San Francisco capitalized three plays later when Garoppolo evaded pressure and lofted a pass to Kittle, who juked two Arizona defenders and then cruised into the end zone for a 39-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
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The cavernous Estadio Azteca — which is home to two of Mexico’s top soccer teams — sits at an altitude of about 7,200 feet, which is much higher than both San Francisco and Phoenix. The 49ers opted to train at altitude this week in Colorado, while the Cardinals decided to stay at their home practice facility in Tempe, Arizona.
Arizona’s defence looked gassed in the second half, missing several tackles as the game slowly got out of hand.
“That was a really good team,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “We knew we had to play as good as we’ve played all year. And I thought they played really physical in that second half and found a way to make plays.”