The NFL playoffs continue on Sky Sports this weekend, with divisional round double-headers on both Saturday and Sunday night; watch the Dallas Cowboys at the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, live on Sky Sports NFL from 11.30pm
Last Updated: 20/01/23 5:56pm
Rattled. Edgy. Nervous. These are not words that have been levelled at San Francisco 49ers rookie quarterback sensation Brock Purdy this season – that is, until the first half of his playoff debut last weekend against the Seattle Seahawks.
Purdy, taken with the very last pick of the 2022 NFL Draft to see him earn the back-handed crown of ‘Mr. Irrelevant’, has been anything but irrelevant – as the cliché goes – during his remarkable, unbeaten 6-0 run as the starter in San Francisco.
The third-string quarterback to start the season came in during the first half of their Week 13 game with the Miami Dolphins after injury to Jimmy Garoppolo – who, himself, had subbed in for Trey Lance when he went down in Week Two – and with the team trailing 7-3 against a Dolphins outfit who had entered the contest off the back of five-straight wins.
Purdy immediately led the Niners on a 54-yard scoring drive, capped with a touchdown pass to Kyle Juszczyk, and then added another 76-yard touchdown drive just before the half – this one ended with a scoring strike to Christian McCaffrey – to give San Francisco a lead they would not relinquish.
The former Iowa State college QB has not looked back since, belying his draft report which labelled him as having just ‘average arm strength’, a ‘laboured release’ and ‘confidence and consistency issues’.
Spanning his win streak, Purdy owns the highest quarterback rating in the NFL (111.0) this season, his 16 passing touchdowns to just four interceptions is also the league’s best TD-INT ratio, while his average of 8.9 yards per attempt is tied for top spot with Miami QB Tua Tagovailoa.
But playoff football hits differently. Making Purdy’s performance in leading the 49ers to a massive 41-23 victory over arch-divisional rivals, the Seahawks, on Super Wild Card Weekend all the more remarkable – especially given his jittery opening.
Former NFL quarterback Chris Simms said on Pro Football Talk this week: “Early on in the game, Brock Purdy missed some throws, to where you worried about him a little.
“He missed his very first throw, and he had a potential touchdown to Brandon Aiyuk where he was definitely late with the football. It wasn’t sharp early on – he left some plays on the field.”
Purdy’s misfires contributed to the 49ers finding themselves in a 17-16 hole at half-time, with their 10-game win streak in danger of being ended at the worst possible time and on the biggest stage.
Purdy had shown flashes but hadn’t really consistently pieced things together, at times looking a little frenetic in leading the offense – like you’d expect from a rookie seventh-round draft pick, in truth, let alone one making their playoff debut.
Purdy was 9-of-19 for 147 yards in the first half, with one routine TD toss to a wide-open McCaffrey to run in from the flat. But he exploded into life in the second half, truly announcing himself on the world stage, going 9-of-11 for 185 yards, with two further scoring strikes and a rushing TD as San Francisco romped to a routine victory in the end.
January 22, 2023, 11:30pm
The win sets up a divisional round date with the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday – live on Sky Sports NFL, 11.30pm – and a nostalgic matchup between two teams who dominated the NFL landscape in the 1990s.
“Cowboys and 49ers, are you kidding me?,” Pro Football Talk presenter Mike Florio said. “I can’t wait to see it.
“It has got that 90s vibe, that old school feel about it – the teams that were inevitably going to square off to get to the Super Bowl every year from 1992 to 1994, they get together again – and there’s something special about that.”
The Cowboys are aiming to reach their first NFC Championship game since the 1995 season when they won the last of their five Super Bowl titles – a then-record which they jointly shared with the 49ers.
San Francisco have also failed to add to their tally since 1994, though they did make it back to the big game in 2012 and, most recently, in 2019, while last season they fell to the eventual Super Bowl winners, the Los Angeles Rams, in the conference title game.
Kyle Shanahan’s squad have come close before, but this team truly are built to win now – anything less this season will be seen as a major disappointment.
This team have the NFL’s No 1 ranked total defense, in terms of yards per game allowed (300.6), and in scoring, coughing up just 16.3 points per game on average.
They also boast a plethora of weapons on offense, with Purdy able to pick and choose from the likes of McCaffrey at running back – a mid-season steal via trade with the Carolina Panthers – as well as dual-threat receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle, the heartbeat of the team. All unquestionable superstars at their respective positions. It also doesn’t hurt to have Trent Williams blocking for you at left tackle.
Not only that, but Shanahan – widely considered the current game’s greatest offensive mind – is all the while scheming up new plays for those blue-chip players, his premier chess pieces… and, in Purdy, he seems to have finally found the ideal fit at QB to consistently and effectively deliver them the football.
Lance was supposed to be the guy, the Niners giving up a princely ransom of two first-round draft picks, and a third, for the right to select him at No 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Garoppolo, who had taken the team all the way to the Super Bowl in 2019, was seen to be too conservative, too limited as a playmaker.
Lance has been hugely unfortunate. Having sat his rookie season, he was named the starter heading into 2022 only to be sat down for the year with a devastating ankle injury in the second week of the season.
He might now never earn his spot back, with the fearless Purdy becoming the first rookie quarterback to win a playoff game since Russell Wilson with the Seahawks in 2012 – and the only rookie QB in NFL history to account for four total TDs in a playoff game, per NFL Research.
Even the adoration of NBA megastar LeBron James couldn’t faze this kid. As Purdy led the 49ers’ victory over the Seahawks, James tweeted: “PURDY GOT GAME!!!!!!”
After the game, Purdy’s response to the post? “LeBron said that?”, he said, unable to hide his grin. “Oh, that’s sweet. That’s awesome. That’s so cool.”
And all of this from a seventh-round draft pick, remember. Since the draft moved to seven rounds in 1994, no quarterback selected in the final round had ever so much as started a playoff game as a rookie, let alone win one – and play so impressively doing so.
Yet more NFL history is in his sights too. Purdy is just three wins away from becoming the first ever rookie quarterback to win the Super Bowl.
Sporting immortality awaits for this unflappable 23-year-old.
The NFL playoffs continue on Sky Sports this weekend, with divisional round double-headers on both Saturday and Sunday night; watch Dallas Cowboys @ San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, live on Sky Sports NFL from 11.30pm