When Brock Purdy rolled out of the pocket and to his left on a 3rd and 10 on the Seattle Seahawk's 15-yard line with about five minutes left in yesterday's wild-card game, no one was open. Deebo Samuel was covered in the back of the end zone. Purdy scrambled back the other way and was nearing the opposite sideline, looking to unload the ball. At that point, the Niners had already blown the game open, but rookie QB Brock Purdy was fighting for more points as if the game was on the line.
San Francisco had played well in the first half, but so had the Seahawks, who managed to steal a field goal at the bitter end of the second quarter to make it 17-16. Brock Purdy had decent start playing in the rain, but definitely seemed a little out of rhythm, missing a few (as in two) throws to open players. The Niners settled for field goals in something like three first-half trips to the red zone. The game never felt out of hand, but an epic upset — especially after Seattle's late field goal — certainly seemed possible. (Pete Carroll went into yesterday's game 6-0 when leading after the first half in the playoffs.)
For Brock Purdy, who fairly or unfairly carries the weight of the 49ers' championship hopes, there had been chatter about his absence of playoff experience, the fact that he's rarely played in rainy conditions, and the general unlikelihood of his short, spectacular existence as the San Francisco 49ers' quarterback.
But it was all Niners in the second half. They started the third quarter with a seven-and-a-half minute drive for a touchdown (23-17), then forced a turnover on Seattle's next possession when the Hawks were deep in Niners' territory. That San Francisco possession led to another long drive, where Purdy scrambled in the red zone again, finding Elijah Mitchell (31-17 after a successful 49ers' two-point conversion). The Seahawks started to fall apart, racking up nearly 30 negative yards in penalties on their next possession and ultimately punting. Then Deebo Samuel went 74-yards for a touchdown (38-17). On the Seahawks very next 1st and 10, the Niners got an interception, leading to that moment when Brock Purdy was scrambling back to his right, looking for a target, and fighting for one more touchdown.
Scrambling and scrambling, Purdy made a little move on a Seahawk defensive lineman. As another white jersey was bearing down on him, he fired the ball to Brandon Aiyuk in the top-right corner of the end zone who pulled it in and dragged his feet, but dropped the ball at the last second. (Purdy took a big hit for his troubles.)
Had Aiyuk hauled it in, it would have cemented Purdy's utter dominance, which was already kind of on display.
In the first half, Purdy had been flushed to his left several times, barely escaping the Seattle defense before turning his body 180 degrees to fire the ball out of bounds and avoid a sack. Purdy had "faced adversity" against Seattle, though one has to remind themselves that the Niners were never down by more than one point. (Purdy's "adversity" would be a "very good game" for most quarterbacks.) Purdy went nuclear in the second half, going 9-of-11 for 185 yards with two passing touchdowns and one rushing score. Purdy had 332 yards on the game — a career high — with three touchdown throws.
The Niners won 41-23 and advanced to the divisional round where they'll host either the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys or Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium next week.
Sorry to fixate too much on Purdy. (Sorry not sorry.) To be fair, the quarterback is like the lead singer and/or guitarist, with all eyes on them in the spotlight.
"Did you feel the moment?" a reporter asked Purdy about overthrowing a wide-open player early in the game. "Honestly, the ball was a little wet," Purdy shrugged. "It was raining at the time, and it just got away from me." How perfect do we expect him to be?
The rest of the 49ers band played pretty well, too, and the staggering depth of the team once again overwhelmed an opponent who had been hanging in there through the first half. The Niners were up 10-0 when Seattle came roaring back. Credit Seattle QB Geno Smith, and credit wide receiver DK Metcalf who had a fantastic, 136-yard game. Credit Pete Carroll, and his now-broken record, for heaven's sakes.
Christian McCaffrey thundered up the field for 119 yards and a touchdown on Saturday, again establishing himself as the Niners' workhorse. I felt like I saw the same 20-plus-yard Purdy-to-Brandon-Aiyuk pass up the middle at least five times yesterday, contributing to Aiyuk's 73 yards. Deebo Samuel had 133 yards on a mere six receptions, and seemed to leave streaks of fire on the field in the wake of his runs. George Kittle had a few big catches and even bigger blocks. Nick Bosa recovered a loose ball the 49ers had jarred loose while rushing Geno Smith.
Deebo Samuel said that Brock Purdy had displayed his "slithery-ness," referring to his scrambling, and a reporter conveyed the compliment to Purdy, adding, "Is this something that you knew you had? Or is this just instinct?"
"I mean, it's not something where I go into a play [thinking] I'm going to scramble. Growing up, I've been able to scramble and make plays off-schedule. It's something I've done my whole life in terms of finding a way when it's not there."
A reporter asked Purdy about that 3rd-and-10 roll out late in the game that started this story: "You almost had a fourth touchdown pass to BA [Brandon Aiyuk] in the corner, on that roll-out, and you took a big shot at the end. When you look back on that play, was it worth it?"
"Yeah," Purdy laughed.
He went into his typical press-conference self-analysis in real-time: "Obviously I've got to be smarter, I've got to get the ball out if the first read's not there instead of doing all that extra stuff." But then he said: "Yeah, I feel like it was one of those situations where if we can put one more touchdown in, [we can] put the nail in the coffin ." Purdy said a field goal was "just as good," but he also said, in his understated way, how hungry he was to really seal the game, and that it was worth it to try.
I like that Purdy and BA left a little bit out on the field, because there's still a long way to go.
Top Image: Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images