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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

QB Brock Purdy’s legend grows among 49ers after fighting through injury to help clinch NFC West

Dec 15, 2022 at 10:45 PM--

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Brock Purdy has overcome a significant amount of challenges in his short time as the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, but his performance in Thursday night's 21-13 division-clinching win over the Seattle Seahawks might have been his most impressive moment yet.

It certainly went a long way in winning the respect of his teammates and coaches, as if the rookie hadn't done a good enough job of that over his first two games.

After coming off the bench in relief of injured starter Jimmy Garoppolo to lead the 49ers to a 33-17 win over the Miami Dolphins on December 4, Purdy was equally as effective in a 35-7 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on December 11 -- a game in which he became the first rookie to notch a win over legendary quarterback Tom Brady. But Purdy took an injury to his oblique muscle during that game, and with the 49ers set to play the Seahawks on Thursday night, he had just four days to rest his injury before entering into his first road start in a stadium (Lumen Field) that is frequently regarded as one of the NFL's toughest places to play.

As was the case against the Dolphins and Buccaneers, Purdy didn't flinch at any of the obstacles thrown his way Thursday night and wound up completing 17-of-26 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns while guiding the 49ers to their first division title since 2019. Those who watched the game wouldn't have been able to tell he was dealing with an injury, but he was, and it was almost enough to put him on the sidelines in favor of backup Josh Johnson. But after a short week where he avoided practice reps in order to rest the injury, Purdy was able to deliver against the Seahawks while showing the calm and controlled manner he's become known for since joining the 49ers.

"He's definitely the most poised rookie I've ever had," head coach Kyle Shanahan said after Thursday night's win. "He's been like that since he's gotten here. From what I hear about him in college, I think he was very similar, just starting as a freshman (at Iowa State). He's been great. He was poised all week, even him being unsure of whether he'd be able to go or not. I think that was uneasy for him because he didn't know what to expect until he got in the game. Under the circumstances we didn't have many other options or choices. We were going to see how long he could last and we were ready to go with Josh, but he got comfortable and got better as the game went, and it was pretty unbelievable."

Other players tend to notice and appreciate the type of effort Purdy put forth against the Seahawks, and after the game it was obvious the respect level he had among his teammates had grown even greater. Defensive end Nick Bosa told reporters Purdy never let on that he was hurt, even though his injury was one that would have left him in a good amount of pain.

"I couldn't even tell he was hurting," Bosa said. "I've seen other quarterbacks around the league who have had similar things with the ribs, and I've dealt with it before. It's brutal. So for him to not show any pain in his face and just his mannerisms and everything, it says a lot about who he is."

Defensive tackle Arik Armstead got an up-close look at Purdy's condition throughout the week as he worked on his own recovery from an ankle injury that kept him sidelined for several weeks. Even if Purdy didn't show it Thursday night, Armstead said the rookie quarterback was struggling a bit in the days leading up to the game but was able to shake it off to come through in an important situation.

"I was getting some rehab myself," Armstead said. "He was hurting last night and today. To gut it out and have that type of performance shows how tough he is. It shows his character. We definitely needed that in the biggest game of the season. My hat's off to him. As football players we understand how hard it is to play through injuries and play through different stuff. So to see one of your teammates have a gutsy performance like that and play through that injury and play through all that pain, you definitely have a different level of respect for him."

But while Purdy had some issues during the week, he never wavered in his confidence that he would play. Fortunately he was able to fight through any pain and last through the entire game without any major issues.

"In warmups and stuff I sort of had to work through some pain and what not, but once the game started I was ready to roll," Purdy said. "I felt a little something throughout the game and what not on some throws, but for the most part our treatment staff and everyone did great in terms of getting me ready, and I was definitely able to play for four quarters."

Purdy also wasn't fazed by the fact he didn't practice during the week. He was able to get a few throws in during walkthroughs in the hotel before the game, according to Shanahan, but all Purdy needed preparation-wise for this game was what he went through against the Buccaneers to go with a little bit of adrenaline.

"My mindset was even though I haven't thrown a ball, I played four days ago, so I know where guys are supposed to be," Purdy said. "I know what it's like to rip a ball on rhythm and on time. And so I just wanted to make sure my motion was good. At some walkthroughs I wasn't ripping anything. But I knew once the game time had come around, the adrenaline would be pumping and my blood would be flowing and I would be just fine. So I'm glad it turned out well."

With his first road start in the books and a spot in the playoffs all wrapped up, Purdy can now rest for a few days before the 49ers get back together to prepare for their next game, which comes on December 24 at home against the Washington Commanders. His play since taking over for the quarterback spot has inspired a renewed level of confidence in the 49ers and their potential to advance deep into the playoffs. After coming through in the clutch in relief of Garoppolo, knocking off Tom Brady and clinching the division in his first road start while fighting through injury, there's no reason to think Purdy can't deal with whatever else gets thrown his way.

"He's tough as nails, I know that," running back Christian McCaffrey said. "That guy's tough as nails. He keeps surprising me every day with a lot of the stuff he's been doing, so I'm fired up he's on our team."

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