It was an intriguing game for the 49ers, who sprung out to a 24-3 halftime lead, but faced some third-quarter struggles, which allowed Seattle to creep back to within two possessions, but the Seahawks never gained enough ground offensively to remain competitive.
The dagger came on Brock Purdy’s best throw of the evening, as the quarterback found Brandon Aiyuk for a deep 28-yard touchdown between the levels to give the 49ers a 31-13 lead in the fourth quarter.
While Purdy had a few shaky plays, he was unfazed at the end with the bomb to Aiyuk, working past Seattle’s deep zones and throwing with great touch and anticipation to hit his receiver in stride for the touchdown.
What was Purdy’s mindset going into the touchdown drive?
After the pick-six, the quarterback didn’t waver, instead looking to execute the offense, understanding that the shot play was incoming, given how the 49ers were running the football on that drive prior to the touchdown.
“It’s not like, all right, ‘I messed up and I got to prove to myself or to my team that I can make a big play to get us back in.’ It’s nothing like that,” Purdy said about his mindset. “We had actually ran the ball really well, that drive, and so for myself, it was, ‘all right, be smart with the ball. Take what the defense gives me.’”
“So we sort of had like a rollout set up play and I just went through my progression. I felt the safety came down on the right side just enough for BA to get behind him, and I ripped it. But obviously, looking back on it, there’s a guy underneath as a checkdown that was open, too. That would have been a big gain and for us to eat the clock up and stuff. But like I said, went through the progression. Trusted in BA being there and just let it rip.”
The 49ers actually designed the play for the checkdown to be open, as Charlie Woerner leaked out over the middle and likely could’ve gotten the first down with ease.
But, Purdy saw the window for Aiyuk and let it rip, which surprised head coach Kyle Shanahan.
“I couldn’t believe he was throwing it,” Shanahan said about the touchdown throw. “The zone coverages guys were so deep which usually you can check it down right underneath them and get about twelve but Brock thought he could drop it in over the guy and it was a clear view for all of us and it was just a hell of a throw like perfect touch. Got it over him. I think it was digs and it was a big play that sealed it.”
However, Shanahan has seen Purdy make those types of decisions fairly consistently, as the quarterback is looking to hit those shot plays in the progression.
“He does that pretty consistently. He’s always trying to get that one in. Very rarely does he check it down and you tell him he missed the deep one. He looks at it that way. Actually, he proved to us while the ball was in there it was the right decision [to throw] deep,” Shanahan said.
“Yeah, we’re all holding our breath as soon as he lets it go because the guy was so deep. But, Brock’s got some touch and he was able to throw it over him. And we took the safety out of there with a route, so he knew if he could get over him, there’s no one else left. And he made the throw. And I wouldn’t have known it until he threw it, but once he threw it, it obviously was there.”
While the play seemed to be designed for a checkdown, Aiyuk knew he had the opportunity to get the ball, given there were only two routes in the progression, and praised the throw from Purdy.
“I thought I had a chance to get it. We were in 22 personnel, and I think it was only two routes being ran, so I thought I had a chance [to get the ball on the touchdown play],” Aiyuk said. “That was what you call a dot.”
Over the past three weeks, it seems as if Purdy has hunted the shot play more often, as he’s held the ball for 3.07, 3.10, and 3.41 seconds per throw over the past three weeks, respectively, which are his longest marks of the season.
While the deeper passes aren’t always there, it seems to be on the forefront of Purdy’s mind, which is also attributed to the trust he has with wideout Brandon Aiyuk.
Aiyuk has enjoyed a strong 2023 campaign, being one of the NFL’s best downfield threats this season, but didn’t see as many targets on Thursday, catching two passes for 50 yards and a touchdown on four targets.
However, the trust between Purdy and Aiyuk has only grown this season, which is why the duo were able to be on the same page in the biggest moment on Thursday.
“It’s sort of like what we’re talking about earlier this week, just him being where he needs to be,” Purdy said. “And obviously I wish I could have hit him more throughout the game and stuff, but when we needed it the most, him being there and as a receiver, you never know when that ball is coming your way. NBA did his job and I got him the ball in the right spot and he made the rest happen getting into the end zone.”
“But that’s that trust, man. It’s the faith in each other, what we do every single day at practice and stuff, and then it’s showing on the field.”