Looking at Brock Purdy’s box score shows that he threw for 185 yards during his first career start. On the surface, failing to crack 200 yards won’t move the needle, even if it’s against a brilliant mind like Todd Bowles.
On the re-watch, you can argue that Purdy put up the best single-game performance of any 49er quarterback this season.
A seventh-rounder, making his first start, outperformed a No. 3 overall pick and a seasoned vet that’s a proven winner? But, hyperbole aside, the proof was in Purdy’s play.
Purdy was in a handful of situations Sunday where most quarterbacks fail. Tampa Bay, even shorthanded, put Purdy in positions to crack, and he never did.
The Bucs challenged Purdy, hit him, threw different looks at the rookie, and he remained unfazed. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be surrounded by Pro Bowlers. Having Kyle Shanahan as your play-caller is as big of a boost or benefit as anybody in this league, but you still have to execute, and Purdy did.
Numbers that paint the best picture of whether you’re moving the ball or not. Purdy led the offense to its second-highest success rate of the season and tied Jimmy Garoppolo’s Week 8 performance for the highest first-down percentage. That includes garbage time.
Creating under pressure
You’ll hear people say, “pump the brakes,” and “let’s wait and see him do it again.” But, the best way to judge a quarterback, especially a young one, is when they’re under pressure. How will they handle adversity when Shanahan can’t design the perfect play?
Well, Purdy was 7-for-8 under pressure for 109 yards, averaging 13.6 yards per attempt, and threw for two touchdowns. That’s the second-highest yards per attempt when under pressure among all quarterbacks in Week 14. Six of those seven throws went for either a first down or a touchdown.
Purdy was money under pressure, thanks to his athleticism, poise, and creativity in the pocket. There were a handful of plays where Purdy had to navigate the pocket and make a play. Some were as simple as this first down throw to Kittle:
Purdy has to turn his back to the defense. Once he turns around, to his surprise, there’s a defender in Purdy’s face. It would be understandable had the 49ers quarterback acted frantically, panicked, and kept running around.
Instead, his eyes remain down the field, and he finds George Kittle to move the chains.
Other examples are more extreme, like when you have a first-round edge rusher unblocked with a head start running at you. Let’s see how you handle that, rook.
From the end zone angle, you can see Purdy’s concentration never breaks, which is amazing considering the circumstance. You can’t ask for a better result on this play, but Purdy’s process leading up to the throw is impossible to ignore.
If you cannot manipulate the pocket to buy an extra split second, you cannot win in this league as a quarterback. This next play highlights Purdy’s subtle pocket movement and why Shanahan’s trust in the rookie will only grow.
Let’s set the stage. Bowles runs what’s called a “simulated pressure,” which means one player from the defensive line will drop back into coverage while a second-level defender blitzes. The defense only rushes four, so they’re not susceptible in coverage.
Simulated pressures have become increasingly popular over the past five years as it messes with your protection schemes and changes the eye level of the quarterback, among a few other reasons.
On this play, there’s a free rusher off the left side of the offense. Trent Williams does his job as he takes the closest threat to the quarterback. Watch Purdy slide to his right, which buys him enough time to get the ball to Deebo, who does what he usually does when the ball is in his hands.
Purdy is looking down the middle of the field, but Kittle doesn’t look back as he didn’t see any blitzing linebacker on his side. Because of this, at the last second, Purdy finds Samuel. So you have a quarterback that turns a negative play into a positive one because he knows where all his receivers are and doesn’t press the panic button because the opposite color flashes.
Using the entire field
The offense isn’t any different under Brock than Jimmy in two starts:
Obviously a small sample size, but...here's Jimmy G (L) vs Brock Purdy (R) thus far. Much more stress on defenses. pic.twitter.com/wWYecYrAHf— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) December 12, 2022
That graphic tells us that we see fewer throws from Purdy over the middle of the field than Garoppolo. We’ll see how that changes during the next month, but one thing has already stood out.
Purdy looks for the home run when blitzed. Garoppolo got better this year and deserved a ton of credit for looking down the field under chaos, but we rarely, if ever, saw him heave it deep under pressure. In two games, Purdy has shown that’s who he is.
Both touchdowns to Christian McCaffrey and Brandon Aiyuk came when Purdy was under pressure, and he wound up taking a big hit. But, like the deeper throw to Deebo above, Brock wasn’t flustered all afternoon when a defender was in his face.
During both touchdown passes, Purdy couldn’t see the result until he peeled himself off the ground:
You are going to get hit in this league. That’s a part of your job description. But can you deliver? Can you make these difficult throws? Purdy passes the second test of his early career.
The pump fake to draw the defender off his feet is brilliant and the only reason Purdy got that throw off. That’s a crafty quarterback who knows a trick or two.
This goes without saying, but you don’t want Purdy to keep sustaining hits. He’s on the injury report because of hits like these after one start.
For the rest of Purdy’s game, I made a video that you can watch below.
The 49ers have to feel great about where they stand after that performance by Purdy and the offense.
The Bucs were a difficult test, but Purdy’s first two appearances have come at home. Now, he travels to Seattle, where variance is king. Purdy won’t have to do it himself, but as there’s more film on him, defenses will continue to give him different looks and take away his strengths.
How will he counter? How will Shanahan? Will Purdy continue to extend plays with his legs and go to the right place with the ball on time? If so, the 49ers will remain Super Bowl favorites, especially if they can snag the #2 seed.
We can only evaluate what we see, and Brock has been Purdy, Purdy good through two games.