SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Either Brock Purdy played another one of the wobbliest good quarterbacking games in recent NFL history Thursday or he once again played one of the most efficient bad ones.
Your call! Maybe that’s just how it’s going to go for Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers, perpetually tangled up in a QB Rorschach test for millions of NFL fans every week. What’s a good QB supposed to look like? What’s the definition of a shaky one? What happens if everybody argues about it every single throw?
We’re finding out with every new and continuously over-analyzed 49ers victory. Man oh man, are we finding out.
“That seems to be the case with this team for the last seven years,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said after the 49ers’ slow-start/fast-finish 30-12 victory over the New York Giants at Levi’s Stadium. “It doesn’t really matter how much we win by, how far we make it in the playoffs, our quarterback gets heat, for whatever reason.
“I don’t think Brock deserves that, but it comes with the territory, I guess.”
Juszczyk, of course, is referring to the constant back and forth about Jimmy Garoppolo’s level of play in past seasons — the 49ers were often quite successful in this period, but that never slowed down the torrent of QB criticism and often the winning only seemed to inflame the debate.
And now, while the QB play is better and more consistent, the discourse is actually worse. But as Juszczyk wearily stated, it’s not likely to stop even though the 49ers are now 3-0, have outscored their opponents by 48 points and now have a few extra days to rest up for the next part of the season.
To be fair, Purdy helps contort the picture because he doesn’t beat his chest even after his biggest games. After middling games, like this one, he can be almost glum. But not glum in a bad way.
After the game Thursday, Purdy immediately noted that he didn’t handle the Giants’ constant blitzing very well early on and pointed out that he missed some throws that could’ve broken open this game in the first quarter. The context, though, is that Purdy settled down after a few series and had an excellent statistical game, completing 25 of his 37 attempts for 310 yards and two touchdowns (with no interceptions), averaging 8.4 yards per attempt and racking up a 111.3 passer rating.
In the face of all that blitzing, which generated a couple of sacks of Purdy and several extremely hurried throws, Purdy wasn’t bad at all. Yes, he had one wild throw to George Kittle on the game’s opening series that would’ve been intercepted if Kittle hadn’t knocked it away himself, and a few other misfires. Yes, Purdy forced the ball into coverage over the middle much more than he usually does. Yes, the 49ers weren’t great in the red zone all game.
But this was the highest yardage total of his regular-season career. He didn’t turn the ball over. He beat the blitz with a few beautiful passes, including both of his TD passes. And another slightly important thing:
“We won,” Trent Williams summarized when asked what he thought of Purdy’s game.
Purdy dime to Deebo! 🎯
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) September 22, 2023
Dating back to his emergence late last season, the 49ers are now 11-0 in games when Purdy plays the majority of snaps. And he still hasn’t had a full game with a passer rating lower than his 87.4 posting against the Cowboys in the NFC divisional round in January. Which was a victory. It’s been an amazing run, which continued Thursday against a defense that was full-tilt committed to trying to put him on the ground as often as possible.
“I thought it was just a huge challenge, one of the biggest Brock’s been in,” Kyle Shanahan said.
“I don’t really get wrapped up in the stats and stuff,” Purdy said. “I feel like there were some throws out there that I missed that could’ve obviously helped us get the lead earlier, quicker and faster. Those are the things that are sort of in my mouth that I have a bad taste from that. I want to be better at (that).”
Coincidentally or not, this sort of focus is exactly what Nick Bosa said he likes best about Purdy. Well, that and the winning.
“I’m extremely confident in him,” Bosa said. “And I know when I see him after games, he’s never too high, never too low. So even when there are plays out there that he misses, he’s very keen on trying to make those improvements. But he still had an amazing game.”
After the 49ers’ victory over the Rams last weekend, the QB talk was all about the three deep passes Purdy missed. But he still had a very solid game with a 93.1 passer rating. And counting Thursday’s performance, Purdy still hasn’t thrown an interception this season.
Plus, the 49ers have now scored exactly 30 points in each of their games this season, after averaging 33.5 points in the final six regular-season games with Purdy last season.
“He hasn’t made many mistakes and he puts the ball in our guys’ hands,” Shanahan said. “And reads the coverages right, too. When the stuff isn’t there, he makes a lot of plays to keep us on the field. He’s done a helluva job.”
Could a lot of QBs flourish tossing short passes to Deebo Samuel (six catches for 129 yards and a TD) and watching him blow through the defense or handing it off to Christian McCaffrey (85 yards on 18 carries and a TD in his 12th consecutive game with the 49ers, including last season’s playoffs)? Certainly. Are there plenty of guys with much stronger arms and more impressive physiques? Definitely.
But the whole point is to put points on the board and to win. What Purdy is doing with this 49ers offense isn’t imaginary. It’s not speculative. It’s just happening. Every week. Even if doesn’t always look beautiful, especially against a team that blitzed more than 80 percent of the time. Even after the early struggles, the 49ers led this game 17-6 at halftime. Overall, they outgained the Giants 441-150. They dominated, in the end, exactly how they should dominate a banged-up and under-talented team like the Giants.
The 49ers did not need Purdy to be perfect Thursday. With their defensive and offensive superstars, they rarely need that. But they need him to hold up when a defense is desperately trying to rattle him and, if he gets off to a slow start, they need him to sort it out and go back to putting points on the board. And if you’ve watched Purdy do all of this week after week and you still believe he isn’t good enough, that’s up to you. Though I’m not really sure what else you need to see.
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(Photo: Jed Jacobsohn / Associated Press)