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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


49ers Notebook: Brock Purdy makes a difference with his legs; Christian McCaffrey talks about his shoulder; No fourth down regrets for Dan Campbell

Jan 28, 2024 at 11:49 PM--


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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy doesn't always need to make plays with his legs, but Sunday's NFC Championship game served as a reminder that he's not only capable of doing so but can make a major difference with his running ability if opponents aren't able to wrap him up.

Purdy had five carries for 48 yards in the 49ers' 34-31 win over the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship game, with three of those runs leading to clutch scores in the second half. Purdy had a 21-yard run that set up a 1st-and-Goal on the possession where the 49ers tied the game at 24 on a one-yard run by Christian McCaffrey, then followed that up on the next 49ers' drive with a 10-yard run that helped set up a field goal to open up a 27-24 lead. Then, on the final scoring drive of the game for the 49ers, Purdy ran for 21 yards on a 3rd-and-4, which was followed by a 25-yard run by McCaffrey that led to a three-yard run by Elijah Mitchell for a 34-24 lead.


Those watching the game who were not regular viewers of the 49ers may have been surprised at Purdy's playmaking ability with the run, but the 49ers were not. This time around, Purdy's legs are part of the reason the 49ers will be playing the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on February 11.

"I thought it was the difference between winning and losing," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "He made some big plays with his legs getting out of the pocket, moving the chains in some first downs, getting some explosives. He competed his ass off today and it wasn't easy for any of us, but he kept grinding and was unbelievable there in the second half."

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel said after the win that Purdy would have added a touchdown to his running totals had the two not collided during one of his runs.

"It's just amazing because I don't think too many people know how fast and elusive Brock is until he gets to running," wide receiver Deebo Samuel said after the win. "I think I kind of messed up one of his touchdowns trying to get a lead block and he ran right into me and bounced off. But I feel like if I would have made that block he probably would have scored."

Purdy has 61 carries for 157 yards and three touchdowns over his first two NFL seasons, but he was a bit more of a runner in college at Iowa State, where he rushed for 1,117 yards and 19 touchdowns on 365 carries. He hasn't needed to run much with all the weapons he has in San Francisco, but he certainly delivered when the situation called for him to do so in the NFC Championship game.

"Obviously my job is to distribute the ball to guys that are open, and then if something's not there, especially in this kind of game, it's like you got to find a way," Purdy said Sunday. "So I feel like throughout my life, I've scrambled and stuff here and there, but since I've been here, I feel like I haven't done a whole lot. But obviously tonight, if something wasn't there, I was just trying to keep the chains moving, keep the ball moving forward, and then obviously give our team some momentum and some juice. I had to do it, so I did it."

Will we see more of Purdy scrambling in the Super Bowl? Tight end George Kittle would be a proponent of that, although he'd also prefer that Purdy tries to draw some penalties as well.

"Do it more. What are we doing? Just don't get hit," Kittle said. "Like scramble. Maybe tuck the ball a little bit faster. But he scampers. I think that's the best way to describe it. He's scampers. You ever seen one of those little water dragons run across the water? That's what I envision every time he's running with the football. And I just thought of that, too. That was not pre-planned. Pretty proud of myself for that.

"But it's just like, he does a really good job of avoiding contact. He dives into areas. He could slide once in a while, probably get a 15 yard penalty. But he's a tough kid, a lot of grit to him, and he understands that when he's playing at a high level, when he needs to play at a high level, everyone around him is better."

Purdy's scrambling highlights lead off the NFC Championship edition of 49ers Notebook, where we'll also discuss Dan Campbell's pivotal fourth down calls, Christian McCaffrey's shoulder, and more.

Know when to fold 'em


Lions head coach Dan Campbell did some gambling in an attempt to get his team to Vegas Sunday night with two crucial decisions to go for a first down on 4th-and-short instead of attempting field goals. The house wound up winning those bets, with both attempted conversions resulting in turnover-on-downs that led to 49ers points.

Naturally there was plenty of discussion after the game about whether or not Campbell made the right decision with those calls. Field goals could have stopped the 49ers' momentum and might have made a difference in the end, but Campbell, who is known for making such decisions, wasn't about to second-guess doing so this time around.

"I just felt really good about us converting and getting our momentum and not letting them play long ball," Campbell said. "They were bleeding the clock out; that's what they do. I wanted to get the upper hand back. It's easy hindsight, and I get it. I get that. But I don't regret those decisions. And it's hard. It's hard because we didn't come through. It wasn't able to work out. But I don't. I don't."

Lions quarterback Jared Goff stood by his coach's decisions, saying it shows trust in the players to make plays.

"Love it," Goff said. "Keep us out there. Love it. We should convert."

Still, there's no doubt those decisions helped the 49ers storm back from a 17-point halftime deficit to take the win. There were a number of momentum-turning moments for the 49ers as they mounted their comeback in the second half, but the ability to make those defensive stops and follow them up with touchdowns might have been what turned the tide the most.

"It was huge. Both of them," Shanahan said. "To make it a three-score game, for us to be able to hold it to two scores, especially the way the game was going. I felt like we kind of blew it when we started out with the ball and didn't get a touchdown, got three points. For us to hold them there, not to get any points. You stop them on fourth down, really look at that almost the same as a turnover. That was huge by us today. I mean, you live and die with that stuff. It would have been really hard to deal with it if they moved the chains on that fourth and two also, so that's why everything comes down to certain plays. What happens in those plays you got to live with."

The 49ers were ready for Campbell to make those calls too, considering it's become something he's known to do with regularity.

"I think that's how they've done it most of the year," Shanahan said. "I think that's one of the reasons why they were here. I mean, you win a lot of games making some of those decisions. You make some decisions and you lose 'em. I don't think it always comes down to that. There's lots of plays that happen in the game. That's a decision we all have to make. Doesn't surprise me because he's made a lot of those decisions throughout the year that have won a lot of games for them also."

No injury worries for McCaffrey


Anytime Christian McCaffrey is seen nursing some pain on the sidelines it's a nervous moment. But there doesn't seem to be anything to worry about regarding the shoulder problem that momentarily knocked him out of the game in the fourth quarter.

McCaffrey left the game after his 25-yard run, which allowed Elijah Mitchell to score a touchdown to give the 49ers a 34-24 lead. McCaffrey seemed to sustain a bit of a stinger, but it wasn't bothering him after the game.

"I'm not a doctor, but I feel fine now," McCaffrey said.

The decision to leave the game was a case of "better safe than sorry" for McCaffrey, who wasn't upset at all that he didn't get the touchdown after his 25-yard run.

"My shoulder felt a little weird, and I just didn't want to not be able to grip the ball, especially in a crucial time like that," McCaffrey said. "And Mitch is unbelievable, so he goes in there and gets a touchdown. I mean, I was happy and proud of him and our whole team, but I didn't care at all. We scored. That's all I cared about."

Faithful come through as always


Levi's Stadium was loud Sunday night, with fans of both teams making themselves heard. It was so loud that defensive end Nick Bosa wondered if some of the noise was artificial.

"Were they pumping noise in there? I mean, before the game, it felt like the New Orleans Superdome," Bosa said.

Kittle said the noise was all from the fans, who gave the 49ers a boost throughout their second half comeback.

"I think our stadium did a fantastic job," Kittle said. "Like when Nick said yes, for some reason, playoffs and Levi's, it feels like there's crowd noise being pumped in. It's not."

Full circle


The NFC Championship win over the Lions carried some extra meaning for the 49ers after what happened last season when an elbow injury to Purdy sent them to a 31-7 NFC Championship loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in a game they felt they would have otherwise won. While the 49ers were by and large focused on the present and what lies in front of them, there was still a sense of redemption in the air Sunday, especially for Purdy after his long road back from surgery.

"Honestly, this was just like the next game up. You look back a year ago, got hurt, which sucked," Purdy said. "And then you go through the whole rehab process, all of it, it's been a long year. But at the same time it's been pretty quick. And so for me, I've just try to enjoy every single day, enjoy these guys, enjoy the wins, enjoy, honestly, the lows that come with it. You got to learn from that kind of stuff. And obviously to pull a comeback like that in the NFC championship and play, it was special for me."

The final chapter in Purdy's comeback will be written in Super Bowl LVIII, but the win over the Lions will be memorable regardless of what happens in that game.

"We still got one more to go, but to have a performance like that like we did as a team, it was huge," Purdy said. "We're always going to remember that."

Whatever works


Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk had one of the highlights of the NFC Championship game when he caught a pass that bounced off the face mask of Lions cornerback Kindle Vindor for a 51-yard gain. He credited an outside influence for helping him make the play.

"Before the game a ladybug landed on my shoe," Aiyuk told FOX reporter Erin Andrews after the game. "You know what that means."


Ladybugs are believed by some to bring good luck. The 49ers certainly got it on that play and will be hoping the ladybugs visit them again in Las Vegas.

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