All this is to say that the 49ers’ sudden starter has an unprecedented opportunity in modern football.
San Francisco declining to put in a claim on Baker Mayfield suggests Shanahan is comfortable riding Purdy through the final gauntlet. It’s possible the 49ers had an inkling the division-rival Rams would scoop up Mayfield and decided it’d be more prudent to project confidence in the rookie than spark questions by placing a would-be empty claim. Either way, the Niners are set to roll with Purdy.
A four-year starter at Iowa State, Purdy entered Sunday’s contest against Miami in the first quarter with the 49ers trailing 7-3 and immediately led them on a 54-yard touchdown drive. San Francisco added another 76-yard TD drive to close the half, giving the Niners a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The rookie displayed moxie, standing in and delivering under pressure to tight windows. Even against free rushers, he released the ball quickly or avoided pressure. Purdy got the ball out on time and showed some ability to get through his reads. That Shanahan trusted Purdy to throw on a swarm of short third downs underscored the coach’s confidence in the rookie.
“Brock came in and made some big plays. He’s got some balls out there, forgive me for saying it that way,” Shanahan said Sunday after the win.
It wasn’t all pretty for the rookie, as he didn’t display the ability to stretch the field and threw several passes behind targets. His red-zone play needs cleaning up, as with most young QBs. And a yards per attempt average of 5.7 leaves a lot to be desired.
But thrown into the fire against a playoff-caliber opponent with little preparation, Purdy performed swimmingly. The question is whether he can continue to develop as defenses get more tape, begin to take away his first reads and load up to stop the run. We’ve seen other young quarterbacks play well for stretches before defenses caught up and exploited their inexperience. On the plus side, these 49ers are built to withstand the catastrophic injuries they’ve suffered at quarterback — from Trey Lance going down in Week 2 to Jimmy G hitting the shelf on Sunday.
San Francisco boasts a menacing defense that hasn’t given up more than 17 points in five straight games, ranking first in scoring D and total D. It’s a shutdown unit littered with playmakers — from Nick Bosa to Fred Warner to Dre Greenlaw to Talanoa Hufanga — capable of carrying any club deep into the postseason.
Offensively, thanks to October’s Christian McCaffrey addition, the running game can shoulder the load in big situations if needed. The Niners also boast a bevy of run-after-catch demons in Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings and George Kittle, all of whom can turn short throws into big gains. From Weeks 3 through 12 with Garoppolo under center, according to Next Gen Stats, the Niners led the NFL with 60.1 percent of its receiving yards coming after the catch. While that stat might not signify a work-of-art offense, it underscores that Shanahan’s attack can buoy a young quarterback. San Francisco’s pass catchers punish the first tackler, daring the next man to bring them down.
Image & Story Credit: nfl.com