Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Overtime win gives valuable playoff preparation to 49ers and QB Brock Purdy

Jan 1, 2023 at 7:42 PM--

The Las Vegas Raiders put up a much tougher fight than expected against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, but the experience the 49ers earned as a result could make them much more prepared once they arrive in the postseason.

And no one should benefit from that experience more than quarterback Brock Purdy, who didn't buckle under pressure during his first come-from-behind situation in the NFL.

Purdy's extensive experience as a four-year starter in college at Iowa State certainly put him in his share of close games. But Sunday's 37-34 overtime win over the Raiders was the first time Purdy needed to respond with his team's back against the wall as an NFL starter, and he delivered. The 49ers trailed 24-14 in the third quarter on Sunday before rallying to tie the game at 24, then they traded blows with the Raiders before coming out on top in overtime. Purdy was far from perfect on the day (22-of-35, 284 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) but he never lost his composure along the way and made plays the 49ers needed to him to make before they were able to seal the deal after an interception from safety Tashaun Gipson set up the game-winning field goal in overtime.

"I think that was great for him," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game. "We had to come from behind, especially there at the end. Also, he made a ton of plays today, but there's a number that he missed too. And that's the coolest part. There were some he'd love to have back. It was never one way too much or the other where he was struggling or doing well, but there were some mixed plays. To keep coming back and keep attacking, he never got gun-shy, made some real good decisions too, and fought it out throughout the whole game and found a way to win."

The win was the fourth in four starts for Purdy, making him just the fourth rookie to start 4-0 since 1950. He's played well in all five of his appearances since coming off the bench for Garoppolo on December 4, but each of his previous games before Sunday were ones where the 49ers were by and large in control from the start. Sunday's win gave Purdy a taste of what things might be like once the playoffs begin, in terms both of intensity and competitiveness.

"We've all talked about it, moving forward with one game left in the regular season and the playoffs starting up," Purdy said. "To come in an environment like this, you feel it. At the end of the game, the crowd's going crazy and you have to go out and perform, do your job. For what's to come, I feel like that was great in terms of prepping our offense, defense, special teams -- just the unit as a whole. It was great just prepping us and getting us right for what's about to come. So we know that. All the older guys have obviously told me and told the younger guys in terms of what to expect. They've done a great job in prepping us, so it was a great experience for all of us to get that."

Along the way, Purdy continued to impress his teammates and prove he is a worthy leader, which is what he has been doing since he took over the starting job for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo in early December.

"He was great," said running back Christian McCaffrey, who caught six of Purdy's passes for 72 yards to go with 19 carries for 121 yards and one touchdown. "Not only was he poised, but he took the throne too and made a couple calls in the huddle and just was very definitive in the way he ran things. Everything was really smooth. There's a couple things here and there -- not with him, but with our team. But once again, it was a good time to have a game like that."

Linebacker Fred Warner said Purdy's performance on Sunday came as no surprise to him or the rest of the team, who have been watching him develop since the 49ers selected him with the final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

"He showed me who he's been all along," Warner said. "He's been exactly what we've needed at that position and has stepped up big time. I can't say enough about Brock and the way that he's played. We're going to need him big time for the rest of the season, and he stepped up big time. The poise, the confidence is incredible for a rookie. Obviously, a lot of people slept on him -- the last pick in the draft -- but he's come in big time and played big-time football."

Purdy, in his typically humble fashion, deflected praise for his latest performance to his teammates and to Shanahan. He credited the talent of the 49ers and the play-calling ability of his head coach with helping to put him at ease, which made it less of a challenge for him to deliver when the pressure was on.

"Kyle calls a great game, so all I have to do is go in and trust that whatever he's calling is going to be there, in terms of going through my progression and hitting the guys that are open," Purdy said. "I've got playmakers all across the field around me, so I know that. I don't have to go in feeling like the weight of the world's on my shoulders or I have to perform or else. I've just got to go do my job. To have that kind of game, it was great to feel like that. In the fourth quarter, the game's on the line, now we've got to go and put up points, it was great for me to go through that and feel it again. Last time I felt like that was in college, in the tight games and stuff like that. So it was good overall."

Still, Sunday was another impressive chapter in Purdy's story, one that showed he has the ability to stay poised and keep his team in the game when they have a dogfight on their hands. The experience will make Purdy better, while also helping the 49ers gain confidence as they approach the postseason.

"You never know when you're going to be in one of those games again," McCaffrey said. "Obviously you want to blow every team out, but that's not realistic in this league. You need to be battle-tested. You need to have your back against the wall so you know how to respond, so you can figure out and find ways and have experience under pressure. I think that's the biggest thing going into the playoffs, and a lot of these guys have a lot of experience in those games. So it was good that we got it."

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