The 49ers' offense has struggled on multiple occasions this season. If we cite Football Outsiders' offensive DVOA, they were below average in Weeks 1, 3, 6, and 7. In fact, each of those weeks was worse than San Francisco’s output Sunday against the Dolphins.
Here’s a table that includes DVOA, success rate, and first-down percentage to compare Week 13 to the previous weeks:
The lowest offensive outputs this season
|Game||Week 1||Week 3||Week 6||Week 7||Week 13|
|Game||Week 1||Week 3||Week 6||Week 7||Week 13|
|First down %||23%||23%||33%||32%||30%|
Everyone wants to know if Brock Purdy is the answer. Can Mr. Irrelvant hold the fort down? Most quarterbacks don’t drop back to throw the football 40 times in a relief appearance. Most quarterbacks also don’t have the 49ers' supporting cast. We got to see Purdy against the blitz 12 times, how he dealt with free rushers, and whether or not he could keep the offense on schedule.
Let’s review Purdy’s performance against the Dolphins by referencing a handful of throws.
Remember, he’s a 7th-rounder
Purdy’s adjusted completion percentage was 74.3 percent, which was good for 14th in NFL in Week 13. Not bad. He put the ball in harm's way on 4.7 percent of his throws, per Pro Football Focus, which was the ninth-most of the weekend.
We have to set realistic expectations for Purdy under center. There were plays on Sunday that reminded you why Purdy was the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
There were a few throws behind his intended receiver that would have resulted in sure-fire first downs. However, this throw below is a gimmie the 49ers can’t afford Purdy to miss as they continue their rise up the NFC standings:
To me, that looks like a quarterback trying to overcompensate for his lack of arm strength. Any pre-draft, training camp or preseason report about Purdy echoed those same sentiments.
Accountability. Listen to Brandon Aiyuk speak about Purdy in the clip below:
That sounds like a receiver who believes in his quarterback. It sounds cliche, but belief alone can go a long way in a locker room.
If Purdy is aware of his faults, he can fix them.
Poise, Patience, Purdy
While there were times when Purdy was inaccurate, there were other plays where you could see his four years of starting experience shine. None bigger than this throw to Jauan Jennings for a first down.
From the All-22 view, it looks as though Purdy hits Jennings in a wide-open window. Piece of cake, right? Well, it’s not that simple.
From the end zone angle, Purdy is looking left — with zero intention of throwing the ball in that direction — to hold the linebacker. Why? He’s opening the “second window” for Jennings. The linebacker, No. 45, has his eyes on Purdy and is leaning toward his right.
Purdy’s eye manipulation in this play is something you’d expect from a veteran and should not be undersold. And that wasn’t the only rep where Purdy’s eyes did the work.
Before the end of the half, the 49ers scored a touchdown. First, Purdy found Christian McCaffrey for a walk-in score. But on the play prior, he delivered arguably his best throw of the game:
Watch Purdy’s helmet from the end zone view. He bounces through reads easily before landing on McCaffrey, his fourth progression. The ball is purposely behind CMC to protect him from getting hit.
What’s even more promising is this drop-8 defense was the same that gave Jimmy Garoppolo issues a week before in the red zone. That wasn’t a problem for Purdy.
It isn’t easy to teach poise and patience in the pocket. But, generally speaking, that’s something the quarterback either has or doesn’t. And while only two clips are shown, the entire game proved that Purdy’s eyes led him to the correct spot.
Hang in there, rook
Purdy was under pressure on 14 of his 40 dropbacks and was sacked three times and hit one other time. Some of those pressures should be credited to the quarterback.
If you’re familiar with Purdy going back to Iowa State — or those of us that live in the desert and have been watching him since high school — Purdy always had a tendency to run out of and retreat in clean pockets.
It’s what quarterbacks hovering around 6’ tend to do. Also, quarterbacks used to being a better athletes than everyone else have gotten away with all their life. That doesn’t work at the NFL level, and it didn’t work Sunday.
Here’s a sack that looks like it’s on Mike McGlinchey:
Purdy needs to climb, not retreat. This is something to monitor over the next month. If he breaks this bad habit, the 49ers will stay ahead of schedule. But if old habits don’t die hard, the offense would find themselves behind the chains, which would make it difficult for any team, even one with the best supporting cast in the NFL.
Purdy good under pressure
Something was off all game from a protection standpoint. Purdy faced a free rusher on four different occasions. Four is four times too many. Whether it was Purdy or Jake Brendel, the offense had trouble identifying where the pressure was coming from.
But thanks to that athleticism and sandlot style of play, it worked out:
Brock Purdy faced a free rusher four different times against the Dolphins. The only play that wasn’t a positive was a drop. Also converted on a pair of 3rd & 2 plays. He kept the 49ers offense on schedule by extending plays. You can’t ask for much more than that. pic.twitter.com/3ZwF0pEQj7— KP (@KP_Show) December 6, 2022
Are these plays you want to rely on? Of course not. In a dream world, Purdy can sit back, scan the field, and deliver a throw to a receiver in stride.
However, the other team gets paid too. The Dolphins blitzed early and often. What was promising is that Purdy kept his eyes down the field when he was flushed from the pocket.
When blitzed, Purdy went 8-for-12 for 49 yards and picked up two first downs. So long as he avoids mistakes like running into sacks or turning it over, the 49ers will be OK. As you can see in the clip above, Purdy turned most of the plays he was under pressure into a positive.
I reviewed Purdy’s entire game in the video below:
There was more good than bad, which wasn’t expected from Mr. Irrelevant. His surroundings help, but Purdy’s decision-making, timing, and aggressiveness all bode well for the 49ers.
He’ll have to cut out some of the sandlot play and hit the layup throws Kyle Shanahan has built in. If that happens, the 49ers' winning streak should continue. It’s not Purdy versus Tom Brady and Geno Smith in the next two weeks.
It’s Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams, George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey, the top defense in the league, and Shanahan, against these teams. Purdy needs to play point guard. And in his first lengthy appearance, Purdy passed the test.