Saleh on McCaffrey: 'There's no weakness in his game'

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The Christian McCaffrey Show heads to the West Coast for Sunday's showdown between the Carolina Panthers (4-2) and San Francisco 49ers (6-0).

Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh knows his defense will have its work cut out for it trying to track and slow down McCaffrey, the premier dual-threat back in the NFL.

"He's not your typical scatback that you can blow on and he'll fall," Saleh said of CMC, via the Associated Press. "He runs through arm tackles. He'll make you miss. He'll run right through you. He'll outrun you. He's tremendous with the ball in his hands."

It's not the first time Saleh's defense faced off against McCaffrey. The initial battle came back in 2017, the running back's first game as a rookie, and Saleh's first as San Francisco's DC. The Niners were able to hold CMC to 47 rushing yards on 13 totes, five receptions for 38 yards, and caused a fumble.

"I remember him vividly," Saleh said. "It felt like he was a scatback, change of pace. We had a plan for him. We felt he'd get his touches but didn't think he'd hurt us."

A lot has happened since then.

CMC has become one of the top running backs in the league, not only able to win by running past defenders but excelling between the tackles as well. The running back has carried the Panthers' offense this season, hauling the Kyle Allen-led squad to four straight wins.

"He has obviously had a heck of a meal plan and a heck of a weightlifting program," Saleh said. "There's no weakness in his game."

McCaffrey leads the NFL in scrimmage yards per game (153.8) and touches per game (27.0) this season. His nine scrimmage TDs are tied for most in NFL with Green Bay's Aaron Jones entering the week. CMC is the sixth player since at least 1950 with 900-plus scrimmage yards and nine or more scrimmage TDs over their first six games of a season -- last to do it was Kansas City Chiefs' Priest Holmes in 2002, per NFL Research.

McCaffrey is on pace for 2,461 scrimmage yards this season. Only two players in NFL history have had 2,400 or more scrimmage yards in a season: TEN Chris Johnson in 2009 and HOF Marshall Faulk in 1999.

It's notable that McCaffrey could join Faulk on that list.

"He reminds me of Marshall Faulk," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said of McCaffrey. "He can beat you in the pass game, he can beat you in the run game. They're doing a great job on how to use him because they are using him as much as possible. You can tell he's a very smart player, extremely talented and that's why he's being mentioned with some of the best in the league this year."

The 49ers defense provides CMC his toughest test thus far. Saleh's crew has been a game-wrecking menace, swallowing the run and smother the pass. San Francisco is one of two teams to not allow a scrimmage TD to a RB in 2019 (Patriots).

Linebacker Kwon Alexander is part of a crew that will be tasked with slowing down the Panthers' MVP candidate. The LB is used to trying to tackle McCaffrey after spending years in the same division with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"I've been playing Christian since he got in the league," Alexander said. "I've been playing him twice a year. He's a great player. We just have to get a body on him and get the ball from him and make him feel uncomfortable."

Even when defenses might make CMC "uncomfortable," the dual-threat RB still seems to break out game-changing plays. If the 49ers corral McCaffrey all day Sunday, Shanahan's crew would be in a great spot to remain undefeated.

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