Offensively, the 49ers clicked on all cylinders, getting over an early punt and fumble to put up 42 points on the No. 1 statistical defense in the NFL in a statement performance.
Defensively, the 49ers arguably had their best game of the year, shutting down the Cowboys in both facets of the game, while forcing four turnovers in the dominant victory.
However, the biggest storyline of the wins continues to be quarterback Brock Purdy, who strung together yet another efficient game, throwing for 252 yards on 17/24 passing, while tossing four touchdowns, a career-high.
What’s been the primary standout feature of Purdy’s in his ascension as an upper-echelon quarterback in 2023?
“Just the consistency,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said on Monday. “He does it all the time, but just to continue doing it at such a high rate has been pretty unbelievable. Just how good he’s been, how many plays he’s made and how many plays he hasn’t made for the other team. So yeah, the consistency of that has been what’s been impressive the most.”
The consistency has been highlighted on film and in the stat sheets, as Purdy has been ultra-efficient to begin his 2023 campaign, completing 72.1 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions to begin the season.
That factor was especially there for the 49ers against the Cowboys, as Purdy dusted off a shaky start where he missed a few receivers to compile a four-touchdown outing, learning from his mistakes as the game went along.
Shanahan could only praise his signal-caller directly after the game, pointing out the overall team’s dominance, but sharing his belief that Purdy really threw only one errant pass on the day, despite facing a tough pass rush and some different coverages from the Cowboys.
“I mean he was really good,” Shanahan said on Sunday night after the win. “Everybody was pretty good. But thought he missed one throw throughout the day, from what it seemed like, just a little behind BA [WR Brandon Aiyuk] in the first quarter on one and everything else seemed pretty flawless. He did a great job versus a real good pass rush, some tight coverages, guys gave him some time. Also, the guys made a lot of plays too.”
While the 49ers have been seen as a balanced team under Shanahan, running the ball at amongst the league’s highest rates, Purdy has allowed San Francisco to push downfield consistently, providing arguably the best quarterback play over the head coach’s seven-year tenure in 2023.
During a game where the 49ers were clicking in the passing game, head coach Kyle Shanahan could sense the growing confidence in his quarterback, but also wanted to ensure a balance between the run and the pass to keep the Cowboys’ defense on their feet.
“Yeah, I felt [comfortable] with him all day,” Shanahan said. “There wasn’t a time that I didn’t feel he was [hot]. You just got to be careful when you feel that way from the beginning to end, that you don’t just start calling too many passes.”
“That’s usually the challenge of a play caller because you do too many and eventually, you’re going to give them a chance to make a big play. But we felt if we could mix it in enough that he was pretty on and we could handle their protections just by him getting rid of it. He was fun to coach today.”
The 49ers operated with a mixture of quick dropbacks to erase the presence of Dallas’s defensive line, which allowed them to incorporate the intermediate passes as the game went along, leading to some bigger gains and explosive plays.
Purdy noticed the playcalling efforts from Shanahan on Sunday, which helped him gain a rhythm early against the Cowboys after some early misses, leading to the 42-point effort for the 49ers.
“I mean, yeah, he [HC Kyle Shanahan] was doing a good job just calling plays where I could just take a quick drop, get the ball out, get into a rhythm,” Purdy said. “Obviously, for me, I’m always like, yeah, I’m willing to throw every down, but just in terms of having to balance offense, run the ball, it’s what we have to do.”
“And so, yeah, I felt good early on. I actually felt like I missed a couple throws just with B.A. [WR Brandon Aiyuk], some opportunity balls early on that I wish I had back, but outside of that got into a rhythm and we were able to roll.”
How has Purdy improved from season to season, where he’s begun to emerge as a high-end quarterback option in 2023, leading to high MVP odds for the signal-caller five weeks in?
The changes came from challenging himself, while understanding the necessity of just doing his part and letting the game flow, rather than forcing unnecessary decisions.
“Obviously watching the film from last year, it’s like, man, I want to be better,” Purdy said after the game. “That’s really every game. Going back to last year, it’s like, all right, I’m going to play a lot of the same guys on defense and a lot of the same scheme.”
“For myself, it’s another challenge for me with this scheme. I want to be better than I was last time, but was that my only motivation and my only goal this week? No, man, I was just doing what I was asked. Knew that the game would come to me over time.”
“You’ve just got to get into a rhythm, hit the open guys, and do my part as a quarterback. Don’t try to force stuff and be a superhero and that’s that. So, I learned from the game last year, moved on, and just played this week.”
The game-by-game improvements have been apparent, as Purdy has now compiled back-to-back strong performances, while, most importantly, learning from his mistakes.
The 49ers are as strong as ever, which allows for leeway when it comes to Purdy, but the quarterback has continued to shock the world, continually improving and emerging as a high-caliber quarterback for San Francisco, potentially even cracking the top ten already.