Brock Purdy emerged out of nowhere to become just the third rookie quarterback to win his first two postseason starts.
However, a bigger prize looms on the horizon when the San Francisco 49ers play in the NFC Championship Game for the third time in four seasons, visiting the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
Purdy will be striving to lead the second-seeded 49ers to their second Super Bowl in the past four seasons. His rise from the 262nd and last pick in the NFL draft to unbeaten in seven career starts is becoming legendary stuff. But his coolness and poise are what resonates with teammates.
“He doesn’t care if he messes up,” San Francisco receiver Deebo Samuel said. “If he does, he’s going to go full speed and we’ll talk about it at the end of the day.
“I have seen him grow throughout the whole year from zero snaps to being the starter of this team.”
Injuries to Trey Lance (ankle) and Jimmy Garoppolo (foot) created an opportunity, and Purdy has cashed in with playoff wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys. Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens in 2008-09 and Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets in 2009-10 are the other rookies to win their first two playoff starts.
Coach Nick Sirianni of the top-seeded Eagles is impressed with Purdy’s rise and said his club studied the former Iowa State star during his college career.
“You do your homework on everybody,” Sirianni said. “Then a guy that has won as many games and has as many records as he does, of course you’re going to do your homework on him. He had a really good college tape for sure and he has a good pro tape. He’s done a nice job since he’s gotten in this league.”
Philadelphia’s defense, which ranked second in total defense (301.5 yards per game) in the regular season, will be the best Purdy has faced. Counting the postseason, the Eagles have racked up 75 sacks, third most in NFL history. The only two higher outputs came from the mid-1980s Chicago Bears, who had a record 82 in 1984 and 80 in 1985.
Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick (16 sacks), defensive ends Brandon Graham (11) and Josh Sweat (11) and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (11) all established career highs for sacks. The defense also includes tackle Fletcher Cox (seven sacks) and safety C.J. Johnson-Gardner, who tied for the league lead with six interceptions.
Also part of the equation is the raucous Philadelphia crowd, which will provide noise.
“In these games, it all comes back to communication,” Purdy said. “How can you operate smoothly, get in and out of the huddle, get the play off in the right way and make sure everybody is on the same page. It’s definitely a big emphasis this week.”
The Eagles feature NFL MVP finalist Jalen Hurts at quarterback, an elite runner who has turned into a strong thrower. Hurts passed for 22 touchdowns and rushed for 13 during the regular season.
Hurts threw for two scores and ran for one as Philadelphia routed the New York Giants 38-7 in the NFC divisional round.
Hurts expects a strong test from the 49ers, who led the NFL in total defense (300.6 yards per game) and scoring defense (16.3 points per game). San Francisco defensive end Nick Bosa (NFL-high 18.5 sacks) is a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year honors.
“They’re really good across the board,” Hurts said. “It starts out with their front seven and then adding a really good defensive back group. They fly to the ball at every position and they’re well-coached. We have a task in front of us and a really big challenge.”
The Eagles are in the NFC title game for the first time since the 2017-18 season when they went on to win the Super Bowl.
Philadelphia listed just two players as limited after Wednesday’s walkthrough: offensive tackle Lane Johnson (groin) and cornerback Avonte Maddox (toe).
San Francisco’s top two running backs — Christian McCaffrey (calf) and Elijah Mitchell (groin) — both missed Wednesday’s practice. So did Garoppolo, who isn’t expected to play.
Samuel and cornerback Ambry Thomas were both limited due to ankle injuries. Defensive end Charles Omenihu (oblique) also was limited two days after he was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic violence.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said Omenihu would play Sunday if healthy.
–Field Level Media