Kawakami: Brock Purdy’s playoff debut heralds big success for 49ers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Kyle Shanahan has the clearest and deepest game calls and game plans. Every weekend, the heart, soul and conscience of the 49ers offense is on the court through his headset. There’s nothing to hide about that, and Shanahan doesn’t want to.

What happened when the 49ers’ playoff opener against Seattle on Saturday was clearly about to stop the game? Fate happened. If you’re wondering what’s going on with this team in next weekend’s divisional round and beyond, all the big stuff happened.

Shanahan asked rookie Brock Purdy to pass in Game 1 (wet ball not completed), Game 2 (19 yards completed) and Game 4 (not completed), asked Purdy to pass in Game 5 (7 yard gain ), and passed the ball on the 49ers’ Game 6 (incomplete) for the first point of the game. Then Shanahan kept passing the ball — 19 in the first half alone, compared to just nine.

It didn’t have an immediate advantage, but the tone was set with a 41-23 wild-card win at Levi’s Stadium. Evidence is inevitable. That’s the way the 49ers are now, and likely will be for much longer this postseason. They’ll face either the Vikings (if they win on Sunday) or the winner of Monday night’s Tampa Bay-Dallas game (if the Vikings lose). Whoever it is, teams playing the 49ers will know they have to figure out how to beat Brock Purdy.

Not that Shanahan would give up the run, in fact, things quickly leveled off in the second half (the 49ers finished with 33 runs and 30 passes). But now the 49ers can go all-out if needed. They kind of think about it.

In Purdy’s first postseason game and his sixth NFL start (which became the first postseason win for a rookie QB since Russell Wilson in 2012), Shanahan took the game into his own hands and was happy Can last for a long time. Because it’s effective, especially against a Seahawks defense that’s stacking the line of scrimmage.

“I think they were trying to take away the run, but we fired,” linebacker Kyle Uszczyk said. “Of course there’s still some meat left on the bone, but it’s still just explosive play all day long. I understand what their plan is, we have a rookie quarterback, we have a run game. I’m sure they’re trying to Let him pitch. I’m sure that’s everyone’s plan.

“But I think he’s proven that’s good. We can make some big plays in the passing game.”

That’s the way the 49ers are now, as Shanahan was so confident in Purdy, who missed a few throws early (it was in light rain) but kept hitting the entire game, including seven times over 15 yards the pass. On the day, Purdy went 18-of-30 for 332 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer grade of 131.5; he also ran for 16 yards and a TD four times.

“It’s very easy for (Shanahan) to say, ‘Okay, let’s keep trying to run the ball, let’s run for 3 or 4 yards and manage this,'” Juszczyk said. “I think he has confidence in Bullock that he can play on his own.”

Of course, in the 49ers’ NFC title game win over the Packers in January 2020, Shanahan allowed Jimmy Garoppolo just eight shots. Before that, Garoppolo had thrown just 19 times in a divisional win over the Vikings.

It’s not a knock on Garoppolo; the 49ers won those games, and that’s what matters. But the point is, this is a whole new thing. Purdy has proven he can take on more responsibility than Shanahan has entrusted to any 49ers QB in six seasons, and it’s only building.

“It felt that way from the beginning, once he got into the game against Miami, when we didn’t have the luxury of sitting there worrying about how the game was going to go,” Shanahan said. “We just had to call in to try and win games, and he did a fantastic job. He’s done that every time since. Confidence in him, giving us more and more confidence every week.”

Purdy does a little more each week. Garoppolo has been impressively elusive in the six games since he came on after getting injured in that Miami game. But on Saturday, the performance grew exponentially — Purdy shrugged off the pressure a few times, leading to huge plays, a few touchdowns, and most importantly, zero horrendous losses or turnovers.

“A couple of those touchdowns, I think that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life, is finding a way when it’s not there,” Purdy said.

Purdy’s best riff actually came on an unfinished play in the fourth quarter, when he ran almost to the left sideline, then ran the entire width of the field, pretending to be a Seahawks defensive lineman, and then Throw a laser at Brandon Aiyuk in the end zone. Aiyuk can’t control the ball, but it sure is the exclamation point.

Yes, his teammates have noticed.

“It’s nice to see what he’s doing there, his little slippery way out of the stuff,” wide receiver Deebo Samuel said. “It got us a little bit tired; we also had to run around and try to open up. But it worked.”

Shanahan said he yelled at him for it almost immediately after seeing Purdy run around for a 17-yard sack that put the 49ers out of field goal range against the Cardinals last week. yell.

Kyle, you just saw that it really works in this game, is Purdy’s extended scramble okay now?

“No,” Shanahan shook his head deadpan.


“He’s great in some ways,” Shanahan said. “The last one was very close and he was unbelievable throwing the ball to BA in the corner. I know he just missed. But he got a feel for it. He definitely made me nervous in some ways. But he did it Very good. He knows his body…trying to never give up on the game. So smart with the ball so far.”

That’s enough to get the attention of fairly famous NFL fans.

“LeBron said that?” Purdy said, looking genuinely emotional when he was told about the tweet. “Wow, that’s great.”

Offensive tackle Trent Williams said: “I love the fact that Bullock is getting the attention he deserves. He’s a good player, man. I think anyone who watches football can see that. I’m not Say he’s the next Aaron Rodgers or Pat Mahomes, but he does everything we need him to do and more. Obviously, I think we can keep winning with him.”

Everything is not going well. But the 49ers veterans liked what they saw from Purdy, when things got off to a soggy and slightly disappointing start, and then when they scored 25 straight points to start the second half.

Normally, though the 49ers outscored the Seahawks 249-176, Purdy found himself trailing 17-16 at halftime with much of the blame on himself. This happened because the 49ers had to settle for two short field goals entering the red zone, and a few defensive errors suddenly gave Seattle a lot of life.

“Going into halftime, Kyle straightened up and he said, ‘Hey, man, the game is out there, the opportunity is out there; we’re just going to keep it simple and hand it over to everyone,'” Purdy said.

Response: The 49ers had 13 touchdowns immediately after the kickoff in the second half, with Purdy himself finishing on a 1-yard drive. Then Charles Omenihu snatched the ball from Seattle QB Geno Smith on the next possession and Nick Bosa recovered. The rout started suddenly.

On that frenzy, Purdy turned to find Elijah Mitchell wide open on the right flat for a 7-yard touchdown. Purdy’s first read is Aiyuk to his left, but Aiyuk is covered. Then Purdy gets some pressure, rolls to his left, feels more pressure, so he steps back to the middle and flips it to Mitchell, who is flat on the right. Simple TD.

Then something like this:

At the time, it looked like Purdy started throwing it at Mitchell almost before Mitchell had fully turned on him. Purdy basically confirms this. Instinct, both ways. That’s why he said he was celebrating so loudly.

“Just a bad show,” Purdy said. “I tried to turn left to BA and start my progress from there. It just fell apart. Elijah did his job, defended himself, he could get out if he had time. He was my last read. Front just broke … Elijah was right where he needed to be when I was scrambling.

“That’s why I’m so excited. I have a lot of confidence in him, he has confidence in myself. It’s just a big part of the game, creating momentum, it’s a big game for everyone, it’s a big game for everyone. An important moment.”

The 49ers are having a bigger moment. Their rookie quarterback certainly isn’t holding back. If anything, he’s getting better. It’s on the field. is happening.



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(Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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