Less than two weeks ago, the San Francisco 49ers were riding a four-game winning streak ahead of a Week 13 showdown against Tua Tagovailoa and the explosive Miami Dolphins offense. At the time, San Francisco was humming on all cylinders thanks to an elite defense and some great play from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Sadly, the expected fireworks from the two talented teams took an abrupt hit early on as Garoppolo injured his ankle on the team’s first possession. Not only did the injury effectively end Jimmy G’s season, it likely ended his tenure with the 49ers.
Equally devastating, it also put a sudden, albeit brief halt to the Super Bowl dreams for this cruising 49ers’ team.
That’s all due to the play of backup quarterback Brock Purdy, a 22-year-old rookie suddenly thrust onto center stage and asked to play the latest version of the 49ers “savior under center.” The kid most commonly known as “Mr. Irrelevant” wasted zero time in making his mark, going 25-for-37 for 210 yard, two touchdowns, and an interception in the 33-17 victory.
The fearless Purdy has not looked back since, and that includes an extremely tough assignment on on short rest and on the road against the Seattle Seahawks for Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football.”
On that note, here are four winners and losers from the 49ers 21-13 win — the team’s seventh straight — that clinched the NFC West and left the now 7-7 Seahawks looking for some help when it comes to the NFC Playoff picture.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers prodigy Brock Purdy
Honestly, how could Purdy not be the first player to get a game ball? This game had all the feels of a possible letdown game for the rookie.
The aforementioned short rest, the always ridiculously loud Seattle crowd, and it being just his second career start while facing a desperate and hungry Seahawks team just seemed like a very obvious recipe for Purdy’s return to reality.
But after Thursday night’s game, this might just be Brock Purdy’s reality. He completed his first 11 passes, including a flawless first quarter that made tight end George Kittle a very happy man.
Seeing Purdy convert a huge third down by way of his own feet with just over two minutes left and, in addition, forcing Pete Carroll to lose a timeout after challenging the spot was some truly unbelieavble work.
If for nothing else, it bled away at the clock.
But it just so happened to be the play of the game because keeping the drive alive with that heads-up run led to another huge third down conversion that iced it, with rookie running back Jordan Mason calling game.
Loser: The Seattle Seahawks running game
Plain and simple, the San Francisco 49ers defense is as nasty as it gets. But if the best you can do is muster up 70 yards on the ground with Geno Smith contributing 18 of them, there’s almost no question you’ll be coming up on the losing side.
Asking Smith, who has had a great season, to launch the ball 44 times against San Francisco’s secondary while facing a near constant pass rush is a ridiclous task.
If it weren’t for a truly atrocious roughing the passer call on defensive end Nick Bosa, this game never even requires a couple tense, late third down conversions to finish things off.
It’s worth another look because these kind of calls are getting to the point where defensive players have no idea what else they’re supposed to do.
Amazon analyst Kirk Herbstreit discussing how Bosa finished the play being the issue might be the funniest part of the entire ordeal, as finishing a play — in this case a sack — requires a tackle, which is exactly what Bosa did.
Winner: George Kittle’s monster game
George Kittle finished a superb night with four catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns, with one of those trips to paydirt going for 54 yards. That one marked the longest touchdown for a tight end this season.
Sure, it involved some awful mixups in coverage.
What it also involved was a sensational effort by Kittle in making into the end zone.
Big George seeing this kind of success along with Christian McCaffrey continuing to do it in all aspects of the game has to be music to ears of 49ers fans. It might even make Kyle Shanahan smile, too.
Every week it seems like someone else plays the role of co-star next to the work of CMC.
Week 15 was Kittle’s turn.
Loser: Seattle Seahawks defense recording one sack
If the Seahawks had any plans of winning this game, it had to be centered around the lofty task of stopping McCaffrey but also getting consistent pressure on Purdy to force mistakes.
Quinton Jefferson being the lone player on Seattle’s defense to sack Mr. Irrelevant just wasn’t going to be enough.
The film session isn’t going to be a fun one tomorrow, as the Seattle defense did have a major opportunity to break Purdy and take the momentum, but Quandre Diggs absolutely blew it.
It doesn’t get more painful than that for Seattle fans.
As things tend to go in this league, after the tide almost turned, it truly turned on the next play when Kittle went for the 54-yarder that saw Diggs get completely lost trying to tackle the big fellow.