49ers: Brock Purdy’s near-perfect game vs. Brady, Bucs worthy of hype

SANTA CLARA — It’s OK to believe in 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy.

It’s justifiable to think the lofty dreams of this Niners’ season are still alive, even with the third-string QB at the helm.

And it’s understandable if you want to think way further out than the final games of the 2022 season, too.

Because Purdy wasn’t just good in his first NFL start Sunday. He was spectacular.

It’s Purdy Time in the Bay, and I don’t know when the celebration will stop.

Purdy, the rookie seventh-round pick — the last pick in the 2022 draft — faced a wily Tampa Bay defense that threw every trick it knew at him on Sunday.

He carved the Buccaneers up in a 35-7 win.

And the Niners around Purdy weren’t just good. They were marvelous.

San Francisco’s run game carried a serious wallop and the NFL’s best defense made the greatest quarterback in the history of the game, Tom Brady, look like he just ate a bunch of nightshades.

Purdy and San Francisco led Sunday’s game 35-0 after 31 minutes and eventually won by four touchdowns.

Yet according to oddsmakers, the Niners were only favored to win Sunday’s game by the prescribed 3-point home-field advantage.

Hope you took the Niners.

And if you didn’t, that should be the last time you make that mistake.

Sunday was San Francisco’s best performance of the season. That’s not supposed to happen with the most recent Mr. Irrelevant at quarterback.

Yet it did.

And it has to be noted, performances like Sunday’s don’t happen by accident.

Quarterbacks don’t luck into games like that against Tampa Bay’s defense. And no defense flummoxes Brady like that.

The Niners have been searching for balance and consistency all season. Even in recent weeks, amid a six-game win streak, it has eluded them. The offense and defense can’t seem to both play well in back-to-back games.

But with Purdy at the helm, they did it.

Again, this is no accident.

The truth about the young quarterback will be determined in the aggregate. The story is still being written. But he’s the man for the four more regular-season games and then the playoffs, and the early returns have been phenomenal.

San Francisco has won its last two games — both against playoff teams — by a combined margin of 44 points.

If that keeps up for the rest of the season, the Niners will clinch the NFC West on Thursday night with three games to play. They’ll take the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs after that.

It’s just two games, but Purdy has been so good that it’s impossible for 49ers fans, players, coaches, and media to think this is an aberration.

He might not remain this good, but for him to be bad would be a massive fall from grace.

Purdy ended Sunday’s game 16-of-21 for 185 yards and three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing). The advanced numbers better tell the story, though.

Purdy was good for 0.44 points per play, 11.8 points, in total. He completed 8.5 percent more passes than NFL Next Gen Stats expected.

I’ll translate: Those numbers are not just good — they’re elite.

In all, Purdy posted a QBR — quarterback rating — of 92.8 in the game. (QBR is an ESPN stat that is graded out of 100.)

In 62 career starts over six years for the 49ers, Garoppolo has four games with a better rating.

Even more impressive, Purdy is making plays that Garoppolo wouldn’t dare try and Trey Lance might not be able to make.

Sunday, that jaw-dropping throw came at the beginning of the second quarter.

Purdy feigned a handoff to Christian McCaffrey and rolled to the right. It was a naked bootleg — a staple of Shanahan’s offense — but it, as the name suggested, left Purdy exposed, one-on-one with Bucs defensive end Joe Tryon-Shoyinka in the backfield.

Instead of taking the sack or trying to throw the ball away, Purdy juked right and pulled himself left, leaving Tryon-Shoyinka grabbing at air. He then ran forward and, mid-stride, found Deebo Samuel 20 yards down the field, feathering his pass over the outstretched arms of Bucs defensive back Dee Delaney and in front of safety Keanu Neal.

That’s not a normal throw for anyone, much less a rookie seventh-round pick making his first NFL start.

Who is this guy?

He might just be the quarterback head coach Kyle Shanahan has always wanted.

Think about it: He’s a clean, effective operator on first and second down, reading defenses and checking into the right plays (except on the first play of the day, when he failed to change his protection in an audible and was hit so hard the officials assessed a 15-yard penalty). He’s a system guy who hasn’t needed a limited playbook for his starts — the “on-field offensive coordinator” Shanahan has long craved.

But Purdy also has some third-down magic in him. “I’m gritty and crafty when I play,” he said after being drafted.

He wasn’t kidding.

Purdy’s ability to run changes the paradigm for the Niners on the money down and in the red zone.

His unbridled confidence and improvisational skills turn nothing into something and keep drives alive.

“He’s played a lot of football in college … he reacts and runs around and makes some plays,” Shanahan said. “When you do that, it’s how many good plays can you make without making the bad ones. He’s done that really well so far.”

Purdy isn’t overtly great at anything. He’s not big, he’s not fast, his arm isn’t the strongest, and he doesn’t get the ball out quickly, either.

But it’s never been necessary for the best athlete to play quarterback. There’s still some mystery to the position — a need for the intangibles to be successful.

So far, it looks like Purdy has those intangibles in spades.

Purdy was the star of the 49ers this week. Mr. Irrelevant starting an NFL game for a playoff contender. Everyone wanted a piece of Brock.

He wasn’t knocked off his game.

“He was great throughout the week,” Shanahan said. “I think the week even made you feel better.”

And then he went out and solidly outplayed Tom Brady.

Call it what you will: Purdypalooza, Brocktober, Brocksanity. What started as quirk has turned to hype.

And the hype is justified.

This content was originally published here.

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