There are only a few athletes who have it. I mean the italicized it. They are magic, they make you jump off your couch, they make you shout. In the NBA, Michael Jordan had it, now Steph Curry does, bombing improbable 3-pointers from Mars at crucial points in the game. Surprisingly, despite all their successes, Wayne Gretzky and Tom Brady rarely made your jaw drop. Their incredible run of championships mostly came from a workmanlike, though undeniably expert, approach to their crafts.
Of all the athletes in all sports, it was Bo Jackson in his sadly-shortened NFL career who produced the most astonishing moments. He’d glide around one person, then absolutely obliterate the next. We now have a Senate candidate in Georgia who was pretty amazing to watch too: Herschel Walker.
We can add a new member to the pantheon of most-watchable players: Christian McCaffrey, traded ten days ago to the San Francisco 49ers. He didn’t come out of nowhere; he was a star at Stanford and has been quietly excellent for the Carolina Panthers since 2017. I say quietly because no one cares about the Panthers. (That was a direct shot at my boss, Managing Editor Jennifer Van Laar, who inexplicably roots for Carolina. If this is the last article you ever see from me, you’ll know why.)
Christian McCaffrey is the first player since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2005 with a TD pass, TD rush, and TD reception in the same game.
He's the first player with 30 pass yards, 30 rush yards, and 30 receiving yards in a game since HIMSELF in 2018. pic.twitter.com/HLiNp43Yor
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 30, 2022
On Sunday, McCaffrey threw for a touchdown. He’s a running back, so he decided to run one in too. Just for good measure, he made a spectacular leaping catch for a TD. The last person to run, throw and catch a touchdown in the same game was LaDainian Tomlinson in 2005, and the only other person to do it since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970 was the late great Walter Payton in ‘79.
McCaffrey actually achieved the same trifecta at Stanford in 2015 against USC, so we shouldn’t be surprised.
As the great Chris Berman likes to say, “let’s go to the highlights”:
All three Greg Papa radio calls for Christian McCaffrey's triple crown
— KNBR (@KNBR) October 31, 2022
McCaffrey ended with 8 receptions and 94 rushing yards as the Niners went on to destroy the Super Bowl champion LA Rams 31–14. Not to be lost amidst McCaffrey’s brilliance, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had arguably one of his best games as a pro, going a stellar 21–25 for 235 yards and 2 TDs. It was the highest completion percentage by a Niner since Steve Young in 1997.
This was one heck of 2nd 49er game for McCaffrey. It remains to be seen whether he can have this kind of impact for the rest of the season, but as I said, he’s been a solid player throughout his career. Niners coach Kyle Shanahan seems to have the perfect feel for how to use him, and his system is optimal for McCaffrey’s formidable skill set. Though I love watching the NFL, even I admit it can sometimes be kind of a slog to watch all three hours.
But when a player like McCaffrey enters the game, you simply can’t take your eyes off him. On Sunday, he delivered in a huge way.