SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Christian McCaffrey offered one, crisp word to describe his chances of missing Sunday’s NFC Championship Game: “Zero.”
He’ll sit out his second straight practice Thursday because of a contusion on his right calf, from the 49ers’ divisional-playoff win Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.
How does that impact his preparation?
“It’s the same process for me, just lowering the physical load,” McCaffrey responded. “I’ll be ready to roll, man.”
McCaffrey said he participates in the walk-through sessions that preceded the official practices. He has scored at least one touchdown in eight consecutive games, the longest streak of his career and the best stretch by a 49ers’ player since Terrell Owens in 1998.
The 49ers have won 12 straight games since McCaffrey entered the starting lineup, after being rushed in as a reserve three days upon arriving in an Oct. 20 trade from the Carolina Panthers.
Whatever durability issues he had the previous two seasons with the Panthers have been replaced by resilience and reliability with the 49ers.
So, assuming he’s full-go for his first NFC Championship Game, what can the 49ers expect out of their offensive catalyst, all due respect to complementary stars Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk?
Simply put, if the 49ers fall behind fast like other Eagles’ opponents, coach Kyle Shanahan’s run-oriented approach must divert to Brock Purdy’s passing ability, and the offensive line’s blocking prowess against an Eagles’ front that produced a NFL-best 70 sacks.
On top of that, the early rounds of a playoff bout come with a feeling-out process.
“The running game, especially this late in the year, it’s not instant (success),” left tackle Trent Williams said. “It’s not like you open game and run the ball down people’s throat.
“We never go into the game expecting just to bust the gate open with 100 yards in the first quarter. But obviously that’s part of our identity, running the ball and having a balanced offense. It’s going to be tough sledding, just like it was last week.”
In that 19-12 win over the Cowboys, McCaffrey had just 35 yards on 10 carries, the final of which was a 2-yard, go-ahead touchdown run to open the fourth quarter. He also had six catches for 22 yards on a team-high eight targets.
While noting the Eagles “pose a lot of challenges,” McCaffrey has grown comfortable in the 49ers’ system and behind an ever-improving offensive line, of which he added: “They’re so talented and so detail oriented that understanding the purpose of every play is important.”
Elijah Mitchell, McCaffrey’s understudy, also will miss a second straight practice, because of a groin injury. Coach Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday he expects both to play and that outlook has not changed.
Although quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo remains out of practice, Shanahan said Tuesday’s X-ray on the quarterback’s left foot did not reveal any setback, and that Garoppolo merely had a “outside chance” to practice this week.
Slated for limited duty in practice were wide receiver Deebo Samuel (ankle), defensive lineman Charles Omenihu (oblique) and cornerback Ambry Thomas (ankle).
Omenihu’s clearance to practice, in light of Monday’s arrest on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic violence, was not solely at Shanahan’s discretion but rather team ownership. “Everything starts with them on a decision like that,” Shanahan noted.