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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Rapoport: Brock Purdy injury robbed fans of competitive matchup, made 49ers-Eagles an unfair fight

Jan 30, 2023 at 11:35 AM

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The Philadelphia Eagles might have been the better team in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. But were they 31-7 better than the San Francisco 49ers? Probably not. Of course, we are all left wondering what might have happened had rookie quarterback Brock Purdy not been hurt in the first quarter.

The 49ers felt they had prepared a great game plan for their bout with the Eagles. Unfortunately, that quickly got thrown out the window.

"We were really excited for today, and we really wanted an opportunity to play that team," head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game. "They played great, and they did good things, but we wish we had a little bit better opportunity than we did today."

Purdy suffered an elbow injury during a hit by Eagles pass rusher Haason Reddick. Veteran backup Josh Johnson tried to replace Purdy but was eventually ruled out due to a concussion. The rookie re-entered the game but couldn't throw the football, attempting just one pass in the second half. After that, the offense became extremely limited.

"It kind of limits what you can do as an offense," tight end George Kittle said. "It kind of limits our playbook to like 15 plays. You can only do so much. As soon as Purdy came back in, they put six guys on the line of scrimmage; they loaded the box. It's not like we can do any play-actions off it, so we just kind of had to run into it."

It certainly was tough to watch. You knew every play was going to be a run. The game featured arguably the best two rosters in the NFL. Unfortunately, Purdy's injury immediately made the battle very one-sided.

"It was an ugly one, but for me, guys, it's hard to feel bad," NFL insider Ian Rapoport said Monday morning on KNBR. "The 49ers really didn't get beat. I mean, they did get beat, but they really didn't because [of] the injury to Brock Purdy and then, obviously, the injury to Josh Johnson. And then Brock Purdy comes in again. It was almost not even a fair fight. I really wish, just as a football fan, I could have seen what would have happened had the 49ers had a healthy Brock Purdy going toe-to-toe with the Eagles, and we never got that."

It's easy to understand why Rapoport felt robbed of what should have been a more competitive matchup. Might Purdy have become the first rookie quarterback to start a Super Bowl had he stayed healthy? Would Shanahan have gotten his second shot at Super Bowl redemption?

NFL fans won't find out.

"Once Purdy went out, and you could tell—we're all amateur lip readers—you could see the trainer literally standing next to Brock Purdy going, 'Can you grip?'" Rapoport continued. "And then he's like shaking his head, going, 'No.' You could tell he was doing the thing where he's trying to grip the football, and it's like, 'OK, it's not a pain thing.' It's not, Is Brock Purdy tough enough? He just couldn't grip a football. It makes it very tough."

There was some pain from the injury, though, and Purdy admitted that he was still dealing with it after the game.

"It is a little swollen in the forearm area near the elbow," Purdy told reporters during his post-game press conference. "That's all I know. It's still in pain, obviously, but just got to get the MRI tomorrow."

After the game, Rapoport's ESPN counterpart, Adam Schefter, reported that the 49ers believe Purdy injured his ulnar collateral ligament and hope that it did not rupture. The MRI will reveal the severity of the injury.

Rapoport added, "So the 49ers season ends in a very strange way. In a way that almost is not really their fault."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Rapoport below.

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