Looking at Brock Purdy’s box score shows that he threw for 185 yards during his first career start. On the surface, breaking 200 yards isn’t going to move the needle, even against a brilliant mind like Todd Bowles.
In retrospect, you could argue that Purdy turned in the best single-game performance of any 49er quarterback this season.
A seventh rounder, making his first start, overtaking a No. 3 overall pick and a seasoned vet who is a proven winner? But, hyperbole aside, the proof was in Purdy’s play.
Purdy was in a handful of situations Sunday where most quarterbacks fail. Tampa Bay, even shorthanded, put Purdy in positions to break, and he never did.
The Bucs challenged Purdy, beat him, threw various looks at the rookie, and he remained unfazed. Of course, being surrounded by Pro Bowlers doesn’t hurt. Having Kyle Shanahan as your play caller is as big of an upside or advantage as anyone in this league, but you still have to execute, and Purdy did.
Numbers that paint the best picture of whether you move the ball or not. Purdy led the offense to its second-highest success rate of the season and tied Jimmy Garoppolo’s Week 8 performance with the highest first down percentage. That includes garbage time.
Creates under pressure
You will hear people say “pump the brakes” and “let’s wait and see him do it again”. But the best way to judge a quarterback, especially a young one, is when they’re under pressure. How will they handle adversity when Shanahan can’t design the perfect play?
Well, Purdy was 7-for-8 under pressure for 109 yards, averaging 13.6 yards per attempt, and threw for two touchdowns. That’s the second-highest yards per attempt under pressure among all quarterbacks in Week 14. Six of those seven throws went for either a first down or a touchdown.
Purdy was money under pressure, thanks to his athleticism, poise and creativity in the pocket. There were a handful of plays where Purdy had to navigate the pocket and make a play. Some were as simple as this first throwdown to Kittle:
Purdy must turn his back on the defense. When he turns, to his surprise, there is a defender in Purdy’s face. It would have been understandable if the 49ers quarterback had acted frantic, panicked and kept running around.
Instead, his eyes stay downfield and he finds George Kittle to move the chains.
Other examples are more extreme, like when you have a first-round edge rusher unblocked with a lead running toward you. Let’s see how you handle it, tower.
From the end zone angle, you can see that Purdy’s concentration never breaks, which is incredible considering the circumstances. You couldn’t ask for a better result on this play, but Purdy’s process leading up to the throw is impossible to ignore.
If you can’t manipulate the pocket to buy an extra split second, you can’t win in this league as a quarterback. This next play highlights Purdy’s subtle pocket movement and why Shanahan’s confidence in the rookie will only grow.
Let’s set the stage. Bowles runs what’s called “simulated pressure,” meaning a defensive lineman will drop back into coverage while a second-level defender scrambles. The defense only rushes four, so they are not susceptible in coverage.
Simulated pressure has become increasingly popular over the past five years because it messes with your coverage schemes and changes the eye level of the quarterback, among a few other reasons.
On this play, there is a free rusher on the left side of the offense. Trent Williams does his job when he takes the closest threat to the quarterback. Watch Purdy slide to the right, which gives him enough time to get the ball to Deebo, who does what he usually does when the ball is in his hands.
Purdy looks down the middle of the field, but Kittle doesn’t look back since he didn’t see any blitzing linebackers on his side. Because of this, at the last second, Purdy finds Samuel. So you have a quarterback who turns a negative play into a positive because he knows where all his receivers are and doesn’t hit the panic button because the opposite color is flashing.
Uses the entire field
The offense is no different under Brock than Jimmy in two starts:
That graphic tells us we’re seeing fewer throws from Purdy over the middle of the field than Garoppolo. We’ll see how that changes over the next month, but one thing has already stood out.
Purdy looks for the home run when he gets confused. Garoppolo improved this year and deserved a ton of credit for looking downfield during chaos, but we rarely, if ever, saw him lift it deep under pressure. In two games, Purdy has shown that is who he is.
Both touchdowns to Christian McCaffrey and Brandon Aiyuk came when Purdy was under pressure, and he ended up getting a big hit. But, like the deeper throw to Deebo above, Brock wasn’t upset all afternoon when a defender was in his face.
During both touchdown passes, Purdy could not see the result until he peeled off the ground:
You’re going to get hit in this league. It is part of your job description. But can you deliver? Can you make these difficult throws? Purdy passes the second test of his early career.
The pump to get the defender off his feet is brilliant and the only reason Purdy got the sack. It’s a crafty quarterback who knows a trick or two.
This goes without saying, but you don’t want Purdy to keep sustaining hits. He’s on the injury report because of hits like these after a start.
For the rest of Purdy’s game, I made a video that you can watch below.
The 49ers have to feel good about where they stand after that performance by Purdy and the offense.
The Bucs were a tough test, but Purdy’s first two appearances have come at home. Now he travels to Seattle, where variance is king. Purdy doesn’t have to do it himself, but as there’s more film on him, defenses will continue to give him different looks and take away from his strengths.
How will he counter? How will Shanahan? Will Purdy continue to extend plays with his legs and get to the right place with the ball in time? If so, the 49ers will remain Super Bowl favorites, especially if they can grab the No. 2 seed.
We can only evaluate what we see, and Brock has been Purdy, Purdy good through two games.