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49ers Notebook: Ray-Ray McCloud on why Brock Purdy is Josh Allen-esque; Purdy’s milestone-filled Saturday; Why was Drake Jackson inactive? Javon Kinlaw on his return, and why his favorite player isn’t Nick Bosa

Dec 24, 2022 at 9:07 PM--

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The 49ers were a happy bunch after knocking off the Washington Commanders 37-20 at Levi's Stadium on Saturday, and it led to plenty of good material to come out of the locker room following the game.

Players such as George Kittle and Nick Bosa were dressed up in Christmas-themed outfits when they spoke to reporters after the game, while the team in general was thrilled to be heading into Christmas with a win. As a special gift, the players will be able to rest on Christmas before getting back to a normal schedule as they prepare for the Las Vegas Raiders next Sunday.

"Yeah, we're off totally tomorrow, which is awesome," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said Saturday. "It's great for most of the NFL, except for the guys who have to play tomorrow, but to have an eight-day week and for tomorrow to be Christmas is great. Just a day that you don't feel like you're getting behind, it's rare you get to reflect in this league, we got to do it last week with a Thursday night game and we get to do it tomorrow and tonight with our families. Also knowing you're in the playoffs makes it a little bit more fun, but it'll be nice to have a normal week after. Once tomorrow's over, Monday will be a true Monday. We'll bring everyone in. Tuesday will be the player's day off and we'll begin right up there on Wednesday and hopefully we'll find a way to most likely to win these and hopefully find a way to get the two-seed."

Bosa and Kittle were popular topics of discussion after the game, which we've already discussed here and here. But there were a lot more topics that we haven't gotten to yet, including why quarterback Brock Purdy reminds wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud of two elite quarterbacks, why Purdy's day was unique, and much more. Let's get into it in this version of 49ers Notebook.

Shades of two great ones in Brock Purdy

49ers players have been effusive in their praise of Brock Purdy over the last four games, which Purdy deserves after leading the team to four straight wins after stepping in for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo. Wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud gave Purdy some of the biggest praise yet after Saturday's game, saying the rookie reminds him of two of his former teammates -- Bills quarterback Josh Allen and former Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger -- at least in one key respect.

"Since day one, he has big kahunas... He gives me that same vibration (as Allen and Roethlisberger) when you're just around him in the locker room of the alpha male mentality," McCloud said of Purdy. "When he's out there, he takes leadership in the huddle. That's been since preseason since he first got here -- OTAs -- and it's not surprising us on the field."

Purdy (234 yards, two touchdowns, one interception on Saturday) obviously has a long way to go before he can be considered in the same class as either of those quarterbacks, but he hasn't done anything yet to show he doesn't belong right where he is as an NFL starter. Nor has he done anything to dim the optimism surrounding the 49ers as they head towards the postseason.

Three milestones for Purdy

While Purdy may still need a lot of resume building to be considered elite, his accomplishments over the past four games have put his name next to some of the NFL's all-time greats. On Saturday, Purdy accomplished the following:

- Per NFL Research, Purdy became the second quarterback since 1950 to win his first three starts and throw for multiple touchdowns in each game, joining Hall of Famer Kurt Warner

- Per Field Yates of ESPN, Purdy became the second quarterback since 1950 to throw for multiple touchdowns while having a passer rating of over 100 in each of his first three starts, joining Hall of Famer Dan Marino

- Per the San Francisco Chronicle, Purdy became the first rookie quarterback since 1950 to win his first three starts.

So, regardless of what Purdy does from here, his name will have already been etched in stone in the record books thanks to his fantastic month of December.

* Drake Jackson's DNP: The 49ers put on a strong showing up front on defense Saturday, even after deciding to make rookie defensive end Drake Jackson inactive for the game. Why did the 49ers' 2022 second round pick not suit up against the Commanders?

Shanahan said it had to do with how the defense matched up against what they expected the Commanders to do, as well as dressing an extra interior player due to defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw playing in his first game back from knee issues.

"That was truly because of just who we were playing," Shanahan said. "We usually have five edge guys up, four inside guys and we had a feeling they were going to really try to run the ball. They're number one in the league in time of possession that's why they have a real good formula to us. Knowing Kinlaw was and we didn't want to play too many plays. We had to be careful that if someone did go down, we didn't want [DL Arik] Armstead to have to take too much, so I made the decision to go with five inside guys, which we had to pick one of the guys to be less on the outside and Drake lost to Jordan because of special teams."

Kinlaw speaks about his return, and his favorite 49ers player

Kinlaw spoke to reporters for a few minutes after Saturday's game, and while he kept things fairly brief regarding his knee, he did say he was feeling as good as he's been in a while and came out of the game with no issues.

"I put a lot of time into it," Kinlaw said. "It's been a lot of weeks I've been grinding on it. So yeah, I haven't felt like this in a while."

Kinlaw's most interesting quote on Saturday came after a reporter asked him if he watched Nick Bosa a lot when he wasn't part of game action. Kinlaw said while Bosa surely makes his share of exciting plays, he keeps his eye on defensive lineman Arik Armstead instead.

"I watch Arik a lot," Bosa said. "Arik is my favorite player in the whole NFL. I always watch Arik and what he does."

Kinlaw went into greater detail about what he thought was Armstead's best play on Saturday and why Armstead deserves more attention.

"He beat two people," Kinlaw said. "He got a quarterback hit. That was the best play I saw all day. To beat two people and still get the quarterback is very, very hard -- a very difficult thing to do. I feel like he doesn't get enough credit when it comes to standing people up for plays and just winning his matchups... He wins a lot of reps. He wins a lot of matchups when there's two people on him. Then in the running game, he's the man. He can go anywhere. He can play any position in the run game. So he doesn't get enough credit."

Shanahan offered his thoughts on Kinlaw, who wanted to play more than the 49ers allowed him to on Saturday but showed some good things when he was in the game.

"It seemed like he did well," Shanahan said. "We were trying to play him 10 to 15 plays, I think on that last drive I asked where he was at because he went in there, but he was only at 13 at the time, so I think he got his two more and came out and he came up to me on the sidelines asking if he could play more. He said he feels good and I said, it's not about how you feel today, it's about we want you to play more next week and the following week, so it seemed like a success for his first day back."

Purdy's secret formula?

49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward gave some interesting thoughts Saturday on why Purdy has been successful over the past four games. Ward said Purdy made it a point to work on his timing while running the scout team, which made him prepared when it came time for him to play on Sundays.

"That's one thing that a lot of rookies have got to do," Ward said. "They've got to work on timing. When you're going against a starting NFL defense and you're on a scout team, get that ball out your hands, man. Don't care about throwing a pick. Work on your craft. Work on the timing because once you get your (opportunity) and you go into the game, you're going to get hit. So if you've been cheating yourself in practice and you go into the game, you're going to get hit and you possibly can get hurt."

Ward went on to say Purdy also shows an ability to deal with adversity, which was on display after he threw an interception on Saturday.

"When you're a last pick like Purdy, you don't have that many opportunities," Ward said. "It's a slim chance. Thank God through all my injuries I went (in the first round) so I had a lot of opportunities. The reason why I had so many opportunities is because I was able to change positions. Like I'm pretty sure John (general manager John Lynch) and Kyle (Shanahan) had me on the trade block one of these years, trying to get rid of me. But I was sink or swim. I had to survive. That's what Purdy has. That's what I see in him. Like he threw a pick. Okay. He didn't sweat it. He went to the sideline and then he didn't point fingers or anything... He went to the sideline and made some corrections and came back in and threw some touchdowns."

Lots to work on

Even though the vibe was happy at Levi's Stadium after Saturday's win, Shanahan will have plenty to criticize when he reviews the game with his players in the days ahead.

At the top of the list will be the numerous opportunities the 49ers didn't maximize throughout the game. The 49ers had multiple possessions with a short field against the Commanders only to come away with field goals, while Shanahan felt the team didn't score as much as they should have in the first half.

"I felt bad," Shanahan said. "I was frustrated after the game, but our guys played pretty well too, so I had mixed emotions. I'm a perfectionist as a coach should be, but I was real frustrated in the first half. I thought we came out and played great on defense. I thought we were doing pretty good on offense too. I thought we had some penalties that really hurt us down there in the first half. I thought we had that drop that really hurt us in the first half. Just a couple things where I really believed it should have been 21-0 in the first half coming in. Defense played well and then after we had that turnover that we gave to them, then we made a couple mistakes that allowed them to get seven, so to be in there 7-7 at halftime, I was frustrated.

"We come out, I thought it was great. We had two explosive drives. I think the first two drives to go 21-7, I felt real good after that and once our defense got a couple turnovers, but anytime we had a short field, we didn't score touchdowns and that's why it should have been a lot worse than it was. I'm still real happy with the guys. That's a really good team we played. Proud of how all three phases played, but anytime you get the ball that much in the red zone and I think only have one touchdown to show for it. That was disappointing."

Expect that to be a point of emphasis in the days ahead.

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