The Brock Purdy experience has been one of the more fascinating months of 49ers football in recent memory. When all hope seemed lost as the 49ers saw their second starting quarterback lost to injury this season, the seventh-round pick out of Iowa State stepped in and allowed this offense not to miss a beat. At the same time, the inexperienced signal caller found his footing in his first NFL action.
I would go as far as to say that Purdy has kept the ship afloat and elevated the offense in the process. At the forefront of this offensive boost has been Purdy’s ability, but more importantly, his willingness to take shots downfield in the passing game.
Purdy has been remarkably efficient when throwing the ball ten-plus yards downfield in his two starts, giving the 49ers' offense an added dynamic that has been sorely lacking during Kyle Shanahan’s time with the 49ers.
Here are Purdy’s numbers against Tampa Bay and Seattle on throws that traveled ten or more yards in the air:
9/11 (81% completion percentage)
22 yards per attempt
158.3 passer rating
These numbers are even more eye-popping when you consider that the majority of these throws downfield have come outside the numbers. If you take away the middle of the field, here is what Purdy has done outside the numbers on throws 10-plus yards downfield over the last couple of weeks
Twenty-two yards per attempt and a perfect passer rating would be exemplary numbers from the elite players at the position in the league, but to get it from a guy who is in the midst of getting his first real action as a quarterback at the NFL is unheard of.
Purdy has been doing it in a multitude of ways as well. One of the many benefits of playing quarterback in Shanahan’s offense is that you can count on getting open looks on a regular basis. Purdy’s ability to hit these open looks has resulted in a handful of splash plays for this 49ers offense, which has proven vital during this feeling-out process that the offense is experiencing in the midst of their second quarterback change of the season.
While Shanahan's open looks for his quarterbacks absolutely lessen the burden on whoever is under center, Purdy’s ability to put the ball right on these open receivers with tremendous ball placement has been exceptionally valuable in its own right.
There were a couple of examples of this in the 49ers' division-clinching win over the Seahawks. The first came early in the third quarter when Purdy connected with George Kittle on a 54-yard touchdown after Kittle was able to slip behind the second level of Seahawks defenders.
Watch how Purdy is able to lead Kittle into the open space outside the numbers and create the opportunity for a big gain after the catch, which Kittle, in turn, parlayed into a touchdown that put the 49ers up 21-6 at the time.
Another came in the fourth quarter when Purdy was able to connect with tight end Tyler Kroft for a 28-yard gain on “P18 Stretch”. Again Shanahan and the rest of the offense deserve their share of credit for getting Kroft so open.
They did a tremendous job of selling the run action of an outside zone carry, which got the Seahawks' defense to bite, which allowed Kroft to run free on the vertical route. But watch closely on the end zone angle where Purdy puts this ball.
Brock Purdy connects with Tyler Kroft for a 28 yard gain on “P18 Stretch” pic.twitter.com/duM3bDI9v8— Jordan Elliott (@splash_cousin) December 17, 2022
While hitting these open looks will raise the floor of what this offense is capable of, Purdy himself has also raised the ceiling with his ability to diagnose and execute throws into tighter windows downfield.
A perfect example of this came on the 32-yard touchdown Purdy threw to Christian McCaffrey against Tampa Bay in Week 14. The play call was “Tony Knife,” which had Brandon Aiyuk as the primary running a “Tony” route out of the slot, with McCaffrey split out wide running a go route as an alert within the progression.
Purdy was able to quickly identify that McCaffrey had adequate separation on the go route and deliver a ball deep down the left side that was put into a spot where only his guy could make a play on it.
Kyle Shanahan has to be elated now that he has a QB who is willing and able to throw built in alerts— Jordan Elliott (@splash_cousin) December 14, 2022
28 yard TD to McCaffrey on “Tony Knife”
Aiyuk running ‘TONY’ is the primary and the ‘Go’ by CMC is the alert
Great recognition by Purdy to see this and let it rip for a TD pic.twitter.com/bwwjIMawqB
Who knows where this journey with Purdy under center will ultimately end up? One thing is for certain, however, and that is what we have seen in Purdy’s limited sample size makes the 49ers a legitimate title contender with him under center, which in and of itself is a remarkable accomplishment given the circumstances that led to this remarkable run they currently find themselves on.