How about that backup quarterback? No one knew his name before he took the field yesterday, but he played with poise and swagger, passing for 365 yards and three touchdowns. Will he be the new face of the franchise? Will he lead his team to glory?
I'm talking of course about Jarrett Stidham, who made his first career start on Sunday and very nearly led the Oakland . . . sorry . . . Las Vegas Raiders to an improbable win against the San Francisco 49ers — almost doing a kind of Brock Purdy impersonation. After the Niners scored a touchdown with a little more than two minutes left in the game to make it 34-27, it was the last gasp for the Raiders, who were trying to reinvent themselves at the bitter end of the season. Coming into yesterday's game at 6-9, the Raiders had a slim chance at making the playoffs after benching their longtime QB Derek Carr for "personal reasons."
Anyway, Stidham and the Raiders managed to tie the game with about a minute left with an improbable, amazing 45-yard diving catch by Davante Adams that led to a rushing touchdown and a 34-34 tie.
With about a minute left, Brock Purdy did what he's been doing so well since his arrival into our lives less than one month ago: fire short passes up the middle for small, steady gains.
The 49ers were just inside field-goal range and had a 1st and 10 with about 30 seconds left when Purdy rolled out and was hit as he threw across his body, sending the ball wobbling through the air for several long, precarious seconds.
Anyone in the stadium could have gotten underneath it for an interception, but the ball floated right to Brandon Aiyuk, and the Niners were in business. It set up an easy, 41-yard field-goal attempt for Robby Gould, and I was hurrying to finish my beer at the bar, because this game was about to . . .
. . . Go to overtime?
Gould, who had made every single field goal over a seven-game stretch, kicked it wide right, and the unlikely Raiders' storyline still had some life. Would Jarrett Stidham wrestle the glass slipper away from Brock Purdy to become the NFL's newest cinderella story?
It was actually a shame when Stidham threw his own wobbler in overtime, which was easily intercepted by the 49ers and run back deep into Las Vegas' territory. Nick Bosa had shoved a Raider's linemen into the outstretched arm of Stidham, causing the ball to flutter well short of the intended target.
That set up another Robbie Gould field-goal attempt, this one a chip shot, which he kicked right down the middle.
Final score: 37-34 San Francisco. The Niners have won nine games in a row, and Brock Purdy — who already feels like he's been the 49ers' quarterback for several long, successful seasons — has won his first four starts.
Has it been a little too easy for the 49ers?
This might be neither here nor there, but most of the Niners' losses this season have come against subpar teams. Yesterday's nail biter with the now-eliminated-from-the-playoffs Raiders seemed to continue that odd and perhaps alarming trend. "San Francisco overcame a rare off day from what was the league's top-ranked defense entering the game," the San Francisco Chronicle reported. "The 34 points were the most the 49ers have allowed since their most recent loss, 44-23 to Kansas City on Oct. 23."
Brock Purdy threw for 284 yards yesterday with two touchdown passes, one interception and a 62.9% completion rating on the day, his lowest of in his five appearances as QB, but still quite near his average of 66%. Purdy had never trailed after the first quarter until yesterday in the Nevada desert. "It was great to have some adversity like that for myself to get that kind of experience," Purdy said in a postgame interview.
"All these guys are playmakers, man," Purdy said of the 49ers' deep roster of weapons. "I just have to do my job and be a point guard and distribute it to the right guy."
The Playoff Scenarios
We might as well get a Ouija board to start talking 49er playoff computations, but here goes:
If the 49ers beat the Arizona Cardinals next week and the Philadelphia Eagles lose to the New York Giants, the Niners would clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC and earn a bye until the divisional round, The Mercury News reported. "In the event that the 49ers drop to the No. 3 seed with a loss [next week] and a Vikings' win, they would face the Giants on that opening weekend of the playoffs. [The 49ers] cannot fall to the No. 4 seed, which was wrapped up by the Buccaneers with a win Sunday over Carolina."
The Mercury News broke down several scenarios:
No. 1 seed: Win vs. Cardinals plus Eagles loss vs. Giants.
No. 2 seed: Win vs. Cardinals plus Eagles win vs. Giants or loss vs. Cardinals plus Vikings loss vs. Bears.
No. 3 seed: Loss vs. Cardinals plus Vikings win vs. Bears.
PS: Deebo Samuel is expected to return either next week against the Cardinals, or for the first playoff game.
Top Image: Yesterday's game felt as if it were in the Bay Area, with 49ers' red and gold dominating the stands and making it feel like a road game for the hometown Raiders. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)