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49ers’ Kyle Shanahan hails Brock Purdy’s continuous improvement: QB rarely makes same mistake twice

Marc Adams
Dec 2, 2023 at 8:32 AM--

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As the San Francisco 49ers prepare to take on the Philadelphia Eagles, all eyes will be on Brock Purdy to see how he handles returning to the place where he sustained his biggest injury yet, during the NFC Championship Game. Purdy has bounced back quicker than anyone expected him to. Initially, it was believed he would return sometime in September. But Purdy was ready for training camp.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan recently sat down with Greg Papa, for their weekly discussion on NBC Sports Bay Area's "49ers Game Plan." Papa pointed out that Purdy is averaging 9.4 yards per attempt, not per completion, but per attempt in 2023. That average is easily the best in the NFL currently. So what has been the difference this season?

"I think he reads the defense right," Shanahan said. "He's aggressive, but he doesn't make stupid decisions. And sometimes you've got guys, you'll install a play where you want to go deep, and they'll decide right there on Wednesday what they're going to do on Sunday. And we all want to go deep every play, but guys back up. And that's why we got a lot of good guys underneath to catch that ball and run. And the more you do that, you put them in a bind. So you really don't care what they do. If they want to jump guys underneath, and you get the easier big plays, or if they want to back up, you get the first downs underneath."

It's been widely discussed how Purdy sees the field and reads the defense like someone who has been playing in the NFL for years, not months. Shanahan added that Purdy is just reading the defense and taking the plays they give him. And when you marry his decision-making with his accuracy, you start seeing how special Purdy can be.

"Brock truly plays the game, and he reads with his feet, reads with his eyes, and it's not much different," Shanahan continued. "He just doesn't miss many of them. And if those guys don't back up, he's going to hit them. And if they do back up, he's real consistent at checking it down. When you throw it short and guys are really deep, that's also going to be more than a nine-yard gain. And so that's kind of how it works. I mean, it's that if you got two guys in the middle and they know you'll go deep, well, the one underneath is an explosive also."

So Purdy hasn't simply been "dinking and dunking" as some of his critics have declared. He's throwing the ball all over the field, and he's completed an impressive 70.2% of his passes so far in 2023, which leads the NFL. It's truly astonishing, especially when you consider the UCL tear that, in and of itself, could have derailed the season. Purdy also had no offseason because of his recovery from the injury and the surgery that followed. Missing the first offseason after you've become the starting QB would seem to be a big thing, yet, Purdy appears to be getting better the more he plays, despite not having an offseason.

Asked how Purdy is a better quarterback today than he was going into Philadelphia for the NFC Championship Game, Shanahan answered, "I think just experience. He's got more now. I mean, Brock really things are very natural for him and he thinks about all this stuff and then he reacts. And when he does something bad in a game, whether it's a minor thing that no one notices or a big thing, Brock's as hard on himself as anyone.

"And he doesn't just get down and embarrassed or mad. He actually thinks about it and wants to know, tries to figure out how to fix it so it doesn't happen again. And he's one of the best guys I've been around who rarely makes the same mistake twice."

Papa also asked about Purdy's top weapon, wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who is averaging 19.6 yards per catch. Shanahan talked about Aiyuk's continued improvement who, like his quarterback, is obsessed with football. "Just continuing to get better and better," Shanahan said. "I don't want to act like there's some epiphany because his numbers are changing. I think he was pretty damn good last year.

"I love the offseason he had, and he's continued to get better like most guys do who are good and who work hard and just the more time on tasks they get. And Brock's getting a lot of opportunities, too. I mean, Brandon's running a lot of routes, and anytime it's there and he's in the progression and there's a chance to get it, Brock doesn't hesitate. And I think when Brandon does that, it picks his game up. He realizes how much more he can add to it, and I think that's why he's been enjoying it more and we've been enjoying it, also."

If the 49ers' offensive line can hold up, Purdy and Aiyuk both have a chance to have a big game on Sunday. The Eagles' secondary can be beaten, and Shanahan will likely have something new for them to see.

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