Continuing the list of the top 10 most impressive performances from the 49ers 2022 season, today we have our third entry on the list coming in at the number eight spot.
As a refresher, the main thing I considered was how did each performance hold up with the eye test. After going back and watching the game film, was it as impressive now as it was at the time?
I also weighed the game’s impact, meaning the stakes of each contest played a role in how these rankings ultimately panned out, and finally, good old-fashioned statistics. So while the eye test was the primary factor being weighed, I also made it a point to place enough emphasis on the objective numbers a player posted in their respective games.
Brock Purdy vs. Tampa Bay Week 14
For a moment, put yourself in Purdy’s shoes. Coming off the emotional high of an emotional win in your first meaningful NFL action, you now go through the rigors of preparing for the first start of your career. Oh, yeah and by the way, it’s going to come against arguably the greatest player to ever pick up a football.
The immense weight and pressure leading to that moment was probably incalculable, you would have never been able to gauge that based on Purdy’s demeanor. He was as calm, cool and collected as one could be leading up to kickoff, and was tested immediately upon taking the field.
On the very first play from scrimmage for the 49ers offense, Purdy got absolutely smoked by Keanu Neal. For countless rookie quarterbacks in this situation, having a free rusher bury them in the dirt would have been more than enough to rattle them into an atrocious performance in their debut start.
Working on something for an article tomorrow— Jordan Elliott (@splash_cousin) June 23, 2023
This has to be one of the more underrated moments of the year
First play from scrimmage in his first career start and Brock Purdy gets SMOKED by Keanu Neal
Moments like that make a lot of guys fold at the NFL level
Purdy didn’t pic.twitter.com/h8HkgoJOts
Not this rookie, however. What made this inauspicious start so special was the fact it gave us our first true glance into the kind of mettle and moxie that Purdy possesses. Rather than spiraling out of control and playing scared, he bounced right back up off that turf and led the 49ers to a trouncing of Tampa Bay.
The stat line for Purdy in this one doesn’t jump off the page in a more traditional sense. The gaudy numbers might not be there, but he was still extremely efficient and flashed the building blocks that allowed him to reel off a seven game winning streak in the games he started and finished last season.
His final numbers were 16-for-21 for 185 yards and three total touchdowns. Purdy averaged 8.8 yards per attempt, with a passer rating of 134.0. He was so effective, in fact, he didn’t even finish the game as Josh Johnson was called on to come in and handle mop up duty with the game well out of hand in the fourth quarter.
Perhaps the greatest ability that Purdy flashed in this game, was the way he was able to extend plays. His improvisation and ability to turn nothing into something became synonymous with the unprecedented run that was kick-started by this game.
Here are a few examples, starting with a 1st & 10 from the 49ers 38-yard line. Purdy could feel the pressure coming, evaded the rush, and got this ball out to George Kittle. His All-Pro tight end then did what he does best, creating with the ball in his hands after the catch.
On a play, that often times would turn into a loss of ten yards or so, Purdy was able to find a way to buy time and instead turn that would be loss into a gain of 15 yards for the 49ers offense.
He also did it with his legs too, recording the first rushing touchdown of his career on a 2nd down near the Buccaneers' goal line. Making multiple defenders miss in open space, it highlighted the extremely underrated elusiveness that he possesses.
Perhaps the most impressive iteration of his ability to extend plays in this one came on a connection to Deebo Samuel early in the second quarter. He was dead to rights with a free rusher bearing down on the backside of a play fake, leaving Purdy exposed on the boot.
He was able to make him miss, before delivering a fantastic ball to Samuel, who also happened to be the primary read on the play call that was dialed up.
Play call is ‘FK 19 Keep RT’— Jordan Elliott (@splash_cousin) December 14, 2022
Low crosser to Deebo is the primary read in the progression
High corner to Aiyuk is the secondary
Down flat to Jennings is third
Purdy is able to elude the free rusher on the boot and step up to find his primary read for a nice chunk of yardage pic.twitter.com/Wxx3riu2KD
Sometimes we get so caught up in the splash plays, that little things tend to go unappreciated. A great example of this came on this connection to Samuel, that saw Purdy hang tough in the pocket before checking down to Samuel in the flat as he got drilled in the pocket.
On the surface, the ten yard gain might not seem like a big deal, but the context behind it tells the story of why Purdy was so successful during his stint as the 49ers signal caller. Instead of eating the five yard sack, once again Purdy was able to get the ball in the hands of one of his playmakers.
Instead of a small loss of yards, instead the 49ers now had a fresh set of downs due to Purdy having the instincts to get the ball to one of the many dynamic weapons at his disposal. Nothing flashy, but effective nonetheless.
One of the first big time throws we saw from Purdy cam eon 3rd & 5 from the Tampa Bay 27-yard line. The play call is ‘Tony Knife’ and the primary read is going to Aiyuk running “Tony” which is essentially a stick route that breaks to the outside at five yards.
With a receiver like Aiyuk and his ability to separate, it would make sense that a young quarterback like Purdy would be sitting on his primary read on this play. What made this throw so special, however, was the fact that it highlighted his cerebral ability and showcased just how well he sees the field.
With Tampa Bay bringing pressure and Purdy not having much time to think or hold on to the ball, he did something many of his predecessors in San Francisco failed to do. He identified the alert as a viable option, and took a chance on a shot play deep down the left sideline before getting hammered.
He delivered a great ball that went only where McCaffrey could make a play on it, and the result was a 28 yard touchdown for the 49ers offense.
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
Perhaps the greatest example of what made this game so impressive for Purdy came on a back to back play sequence late in the first half. On 3rd & 3 from the Tampa Bay 37, Purdy threw a ball intended for Ray-Ray McCloud that was picked by defensive lineman Aaron Nelson who dropped into coverage.
By all accounts, it looked like Purdy had never even seen Nelson before he dropped into the throwing window and snagged this interception. Fortunately for the 49ers, Buccaneers defensive back Carlton Davis was flagged for a holding penalty that negated the pick and gifted the San Francisco offense a fresh set of downs.
For a player making their first start while holding on to a three-score lead, it would be reasonable to expect Purdy to get a bit conservative after that. Up 21 points with a chance to add at least three more, could anyone blame the young quarterback if he played it safe and minimized his willingness to take a risk? Of course not.
But that's not how Purdy is wired. There is no playing it safe. He instead followed that up by connecting with Brandon Aiyuk deep down the left sideline for a 32 yard touchdown. Once again, while getting drilled in the process, Purdy was able to identify a shot play that was available and turn it into seven points for the 49ers offense.
There were a number of impressive performances that Purdy strung together to close out last season. The reason I chose this one was because I think it speaks volumes of who he is as a player. Calm, cool, collected, and wise beyond his years.
Most importantly, an intrinsic feel for playing the quarterback position that you cannot be taught. You either have it or you don’t, and this young quarterback seems to have it in spades.