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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Confident Brock Purdy shines in first extended action at QB for 49ers

Dec 4, 2022 at 6:53 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers could have gone in the wrong direction on Sunday after losing starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the remainder of the season due to a foot injury, but thanks to a clutch performance by rookie Brock Purdy, their offense didn't miss a beat in a 33-17 win over the Miami Dolphins.

The situation was a challenging one for Purdy, who before Sunday had just one NFL regular season appearance under his belt (4-of-9, 66 yards, one interception in a late game role during an October 23 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs) after the 49ers made him the final selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. Garoppolo sustained the injury during a sack by Dolphins linebackers Jerome Baker and Jaelan Phillips on the final offensive play of the 49ers' opening drive of the game, which forced the 49ers to hand the offense over to Purdy from the team's second possession onward. But Purdy shook off any nerves, fought through the waves of pressure sent his way by the Dolphins defense, and led the 49ers on five scoring drives in a game that would become the team's fifth straight win. Purdy wasn't rattled by anything he faced against the Dolphins and finished with 210 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 25-of-37 passing.

"I feel like there was a little, just like the whole butterfly feeling of 'Alright man, we're going in. Let's do this,'" Purdy said after the game. "It wasn't like I was out there shaking and like, 'Oh shoot, what do I do? What's my read?' None of that. Every single week I act like I'm the starter. I've got to prepare like I'm the starter. My name was called. [Quarterbacks coach Brian Griese] said let's roll."

The Dolphins, as mentioned, were intent on trying to make things as difficult as possible on Purdy by putting defenders in his face early and often after he entered the game. But Purdy stayed poised, took command of the offense and made a number of key plays, setting the tone for what turned out to be a memorable performance.

"That was the first big adjustment that we had to make, and he's the one who had to do it," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the win.

One key moment came on Purdy's second scoring drive when he faced a 3rd-and-10 late in the second quarter with the game tied 10-10. The Dolphins nearly got Purdy for a sack on the play, but he was able to beat the rush by firing off a pass to tight end George Kittle, which turned into a first down on what would eventually become a touchdown drive to end the half.

The play was a momentum builder for the Purdy and the 49ers after the previous three drives ended in two punts and an interception following the first touchdown. Shanahan tipped his cap to Purdy for the play ("He did a hell of a job recognizing the blitz, getting that and getting into what we were trying to do on the play," Shanahan said), while Purdy gave credit to his teammates for helping him to deliver in that moment and throughout the rest of the game.

"I feel like when we went off to the sideline and talked it over, we had a plan of what we were going to try to do and how we were going to attack that," Purdy said. "And so, honestly, I have a lot of playmakers around me. I just had to buy myself some time, get the ball out with whatever we had drawn up. There's times I feel like I did fail a little bit, not getting the ball out on time or getting the right check, but overall I had a lot of help around me. So all the guys around me helped me settle in and play my game."

Overall, Purdy's performance got a big thumbs-up from Shanahan, who was dejected over losing Garoppolo for the season but encouraged by what his rookie backup delivered on Sunday.

"Brock came in and made some big plays," Shanahan said. "He's got some balls out there -- forgive me for saying it that way. We've got to clean some stuff up obviously, but just throwing him in there in the heat of battle like that, how much zero that team did too... putting a lot of pressure on him in that way, I thought he did a hell of a job doing it. He protected the ball well, didn't have any turnovers and made some big plays too that I thought weren't there always."

The most successful player to be selected with the final pick in the NFL Draft (a.k.a. "Mr. Irrelevant") is kicker Ryan Succop, who has enjoyed a long NFL career with the Chiefs, Titans and Buccaneers. A few of the other players to be picked last overall have left a mark in the NFL, but before Sunday, no other quarterback picked last had the type of success Purdy displayed against the Dolphins. But while most players who fell to the final pick in the draft didn't see much if any time in the NFL, Purdy, who threw for over 12,000 yards as collegiate starter at Iowa State, was always confident he'd buck that trend and someday get his chance to shine in the pros. That chance came on Sunday, and he made the most of it.

"It's a thing. That's just where I fell in the draft," Purdy said. "I'm very thankful that I got drafted, but I've always had confidence and belief in myself that I could play at this level, especially through the preseason games and the times I've gotten into the game. It's football. And I played four years as a starter in college. So in terms of 11-on-11 and speed and all that kind of stuff and seeing the game, I've had that kind of experience. But to get in and play and now starting next week and what not, it's something I've always looked forward to and I've honestly told myself it's going to happen. So, here we are."

With Purdy likely to be the 49ers' starter for the remainder of the season, Sunday's win over the Dolphins will be the first of several opportunities he'll get over the next few weeks. Those opportunities could expand into the postseason if he and the 49ers are able to continue to get the job done. Whatever comes his way in December and January, don't expect him to be rattled when he sees it.

"Just like throwing fear out the window man and just go and play," Purdy said. "I don't know if I would have ever had an opportunity again to play in the NFL depending on how it goes. You go out there, you prepare the best you can, you get better every single day at practice. Once you get your opportunity, what are you going to do with it? For me, I believe in the Lord, and I trust in him and I just go out there and just play."

And expect Purdy to stay grounded and look for ways to improve, even if he winds up flying higher than he did on Sunday.

"I'm excited that we won, first and foremost, but I expect a lot out of myself," Purdy said. "You can say it's my first time going in in a meaningful time in a game and trying to win and everything, but for me, I'm a perfectionist in a sense. But that's how the game is -- you're not going to be perfect and I have to know that and continue to enjoy the good parts and learn from the tough times. But I'm definitely a guy that wants to do right all the time. Just because we won doesn't mean I'm on Cloud 9 and this and that. I want to get better, and I have to for this team moving forward."

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