Kawakami: Brock Purdy’s playoff debut is a sign of big things to come for 49ers

Santa Clara, Calif. – Kyle Shanahan speaks clearest and most in-depth with his play calls and game plans. The aggressive heart, soul and conscience of the 49ers are all right there, every weekend, visible through their headsets and on the field. There’s no hiding from him, and Shanahan doesn’t want to hide from him.

And what happened to the apparent run-stopping against the Seattle defense in the 49ers’ playoff opener on Saturday? A lot happened. Everything matters if you want to understand what’s going on with this team as it charges toward next weekend’s divisional round and beyond.

Shanahan called on rookie Brock Purdy to throw a pass on the first play (wild incompletion with wet ball), second play (19-yard completion) and fourth play (incompletion), calling on Purdy to throw a long lateral on the fifth. Throw a pass on the sixth play (incompletion) on the way to the 49ers field goal for the game (7-yard gain) and first points of the game. Shanahan then continued to call the pass plays – scoring 19 in the first half compared to only nine.

It was not immediately effective, but this 41–23 wild-card-round victory at Levi’s Stadium set the tone. The proof was inescapable. It’s the way for the 49ers right now, into this postseason and probably for much longer than that. They will face either the Vikings (if they win on Sunday) or the winner of Monday night’s Tampa Bay-Dallas game (if the Vikings lose). And whatever happens, the team playing the 49ers will know how to beat Brock Purdy.

Not that Shanahan would ever give up rushing, and in fact, things balanced out pretty quickly in the second half (the 49ers finished with 33 runs and 30 passes). But now the 49th can go full-tilt airstrikes if it wants to. And they want to.

In Purdy’s first playoff game and his sixth NFL start (and it became the first playoff win for a rookie QB since Russell Wilson in 2012), Shanahan put the game in his hands and stayed with him for a long time. Was quite happy. Because it worked, especially against a Seahawks defense that was stacking the line of scrimmage.

“I think they were trying to get a run, but we came out firing,” said fullback Kyle Juszczyk. “And definitely has some meat left on the bone, but still plays explosively all day. I understand what their plan is, we have a rookie quarterback and we have a run game. I’m sure they’ll find him Trying to throw the ball I am sure it is everyone’s plan.

“But I think he’s proved that right. We can make some big plays in the pass game.”

That’s the way it is now for the 49ers because Shanahan has so much faith in Purdy, who missed a few early throws (when it was raining lightly) but kept playing all game, including seven pass plays of over 15 yards. On that day, Purdy was 18-for-30 for 332 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 131.5 passer rating; He rushed four times for 16 yards and a TD.

“It would be easy for (Shanahan) to say, ‘Okay, let’s keep trying to run the ball, let’s get 3 or 4 yards and just manage this thing,'” Juszczyk said. “I think he has confidence in Brock that he can make plays himself.”

Of course, Shanahan only allowed Jimmy Garoppolo to throw eight times in the 49ers’ NFC Championship Game victory over the Packers in January 2020. Prior to this, Garoppolo had thrown it just 19 times in a divisional-round win over the Vikings.

This isn’t a knock on Garoppolo; The 49ers won those games, that’s what matters. But the point is that here it is a completely new thing. Purdy has proven he can handle more responsibility than Shanahan has trusted any 49ers QB in six seasons, and it’s only building.

“It felt like from the beginning, once it got into that game versus Miami, when we didn’t have the luxury of sitting there and worrying about stuff,” Shanahan said. “We had to call the plays to try to win the game, and he did that. And he’s done that every time since then. That’s got a lot of confidence in him and gives us more and more confidence every week.

And Purdy keeps doing a little bit more each week. In the six games he has played since coming in after Garoppolo’s injury in that Miami game, he has put in impressively elusive performances. But on Saturday, the performance expanded exponentially β€” Purdy fumbled and fumbled under pressure multiple times, leading to big plays, a few TDs and, most importantly, zero dreadful losses or turnovers.

“Some of those touchdowns, I think it’s something I’ve done my whole life in terms of finding a way, when it’s not there,” Purdy said.

Purdy’s best improvisation actually came on an incompletion in the fourth quarter, when he ran nearly left and then ran the entire width of the field, pummeling a Seahawks defensive lineman and then throwing a pass to Brandon Ayuk in the end zone. , Ayuk couldn’t stop the ball, but it was an exclamation point.

Yes, his comrades have noticed.

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel said, “It’s great to see what he does out there, his little slips from stuff.” β€œIt tires us a little; We also have to run around, try to be open. But it works.

Last week, in a game against the Cardinals, Shanahan saw Purdy run around and make a 17-yard sack that put the 49ers out of field goal range and said he was yelling about it almost immediately. .

Kyle, you just noticed it really works in this game, are Purdy’s extended scrambles okay now?

“No,” Shanahan said, shaking his head.

but …

“He was great at something,” Shanahan said. “That last one was so close, it was unbelievable he threw BA into the corner. I know he just missed. But he has a feel for it. He definitely bothered me on some of it. But he pulled away Did a hell of a job being there. He knows his body… tries to never give up on a play. And he’s been smart enough with the ball so far.”

It was enough to attract the attention of one notable NFL fan.

“Said LeBron?” Purdy said that when he was told about the tweet, he looked genuinely thrilled. “Hey, that’s great.”

Offensive tackle Trent Williams said: “I love the fact that Brock is getting the attention he deserves. He’s a good player, man. And I think anybody who watches football sees that.” I’m not saying he’s the next Aaron Rodgers or Pat Mahomes, but he does everything we need him to do and more. I think we can definitely continue to win with him. Can

All this did not go well. But the 49ers veteran loved everything Purdy did, when things were damp and a little frustrating in the beginning and again when he scored 25 consecutive points to start the second half.

Typically, Purdy primarily blamed himself for the 49ers finding themselves down 17–16 going into halftime despite outscoring the Seahawks 249–176 at that point. This happened because the 49ers had to settle for two short field goals on drives in the red zone, and some defensive breakdowns suddenly gave Seattle a lot of life.

β€œComing into halftime, Kyle was straight up, it was like, ‘Oh man, there are plays, there are opportunities; We just have to keep it simple and make it accessible to people,” Purdy said.

Response: The 49ers went on a 13-play TD drive immediately after receiving the second-half kickoff, culminating in a 1-yard sneak by Purdy himself. Then Charles Omenihu stripped the ball from Seattle QB Geno Smith on the next possession and Nick Bosa recovered. And the route was suddenly operational.

In the middle of that spree, Purdy maneuvered around and found Elijah Mitchell wide out in the right flat for a 7-yard touchdown. Purdy’s first read was Ayuk on his left, but Ayuk was covered. Then Purdy got some pressure, rolled to his left, felt more pressure, so he went back to the middle and flipped Mitchell in the right flat. Easy TD

Then it came:

At that point, it looked like Purdy started throwing Michelle off before she turned to him. which Purdy basically confirmed. Instinct, either way. That is why he said that he was celebrating in such an uproar.

“Just a broken play,” Purdy said. “I was trying to go left to BA and go through my progress from there. It just fell apart. Elijah did his job in terms of being safe, and if he had time he would Could have. That was my last read. Only the front part was broken. When I scrambled, Elijah was where he should have been.

“And so I was excited. I had confidence in him being here, and so was that in himself. A big part of the game, to build momentum, a big game for everybody and a big moment

The moments keep getting bigger for the 49ers. Their rookie QB certainly isn’t shrinking. Either way, he’s getting better. It’s right there on the field. this is happening.

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(Photo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

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