The San Francisco 49ers clinched the NFC West in Week 15 with a 21-13 win against the Seattle Seahawks with Brock Purdy playing great football.
For any casual NFL fan looking on from afar, it probably would have appeared that everything was going according to plan for head coach Kyle Shanahan and his very talented 49ers roster.
That was hardly the case, as Shanahan and general manager John Lynch’s script for the 2022 season had already been ripped to shreds in Week 2 when first-year starting quarterback Trey Lance went down with a fractured right ankle that required season-ending surgery.
Luckily enough for the 49ers, after an entire offseason that had everyone making predictions and proclamations as to where Jimmy Garoppolo would be traded, the veteran quarterback ended up restructuring his contract to stay in San Francisco for one last hurrah.
It was a brilliant move, to say the least.
But after an exceptional stretch that saw the 49ers go 6-3 — including a four-game winning streak with Garoppolo and the offense truly starting to thrive in all facets — Jimmy G went down early in Week 13 with a foot injury, effectively ending his season, too.
Much to the amazement of practically every NFL media member and any fan paying attention, this was actually the moment where all the fun started.
The next man up happened to be rookie quarterback Brock Purdy, more commonly known as “Mr. Irrelevant,” the final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Anchored by a dominant defense to lean on, the seemingly fearless Purdy turned that four-game winning streak into an eight-game winning streak, with the Niners now gunning for the No. 2 playoff seed in the NFC.
Brock Purdy’s numbers make strong case for future with 49ers
In Purdy’s three official starts, along with the win over the Miami Dolphins where he played the bulk of the game after Garoppolo went down early, the 49ers are averaging an impressive 31.5 points per game.
During that span, he’s thrown eight touchdowns to just two interceptions.
Most people, head coach Kyle Shanahan included, would have expected some kind of letdown or at least a few jarring hiccups at this point. After all, this is a rookie who turned just 23-years-old a few days ago and was taken dead last in the NFL Draft.
But it just hasn’t happened.
The one game that felt like a near certainty to see a dropoff or a full-blown meltdown from Purdy was the aforementioned division-clinching victory in Seattle.
It held all the fitting ingredients. The game came on a short week, it was on the road with a notoriously loud and hostile crowd, and it had the “Thursday Night Football” spotlight shining brightly on Purdy following a dominant win over Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
Despite putting up a flawless first quarter and completing his first 11 pass attempts, it was by no means Purdy’s best game statistically. The more significant portion of his heady performance came late in the game when the 49ers were up by just one score and badly needed to bleed the clock and convert on third down.
Purdy did just that with a hasty scramble to get the first down and keep the drive alive, one that would soon ice the game.
Purdy’s ability to improvise adds another dimension to San Francisco 49ers’ offense
Brock Purdy has made plenty of big-time throws in his short time as the 49ers’ starter, but it’s been his creativity and elusiveness on the broken plays that have really stood out the most.
The ability to escape from a collapsed pocket and extend plays by weaving his way through defenders to either run for a healthy gain or simply throw it away has been crucial to Purdy’s success, and something that had almost become a foreign concept to this 49ers team.
Those are two elements of the game that simply have not been and never will be Garoppolo’s strong suit.
With all the weapons surrounding Purdy — including Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mithcell gearing up to return — the added threat of his ability to run as well as accurately throw on the run has opposing defenses finding themselves with extra homework in the film room.
George Kittle is playing some of his best football thanks to Brock Purdy
In Purdy’s three starts at quarterback, tight end George Kittle has seen an uptick when it comes to the big play department.
Given the absence of the injured Deebo Samuel — a dynamic player who draws a whole lot of attention from the defense — one would assume getting the ball to Kittle would become an exceedingly more difficult task.
But over this three-game span with Purdy running the show, Kittle has 14 catches for 241 yards and four touchdowns. And the Purdy-to-Kittle connection seems to be evolving on a week-to-week basis as the rookie’s confidence continues to grow.
Prior to Kittle’s re-acquaintance with the end zone, the All-Pro tight end had a total of four touchdown catches over the 10 games he had played in.
That’s a great thing for 49ers fans. When Kittle is actively involved in the offensive game plan in addition to his ever-present blocking role in the run game, the San Francisco 49ers’ offense hums on a different level.
While Purdy still has an “oh no” throw here and there, it would be wrong not to include the fact he became the first NFL quarterback since Kurt Warner in 1999 to win his first three starts and throw two touchdowns in each of them.
To level things up even further in making the case for Brock Purdy, the only other quarterback since 1950 to throw at least two TDs and hold a pass rating over 100 in their first three starts was Dan Marino.
A ridiculously impressive achievement no matter how one chooses to slice it.