Brock Purdy stats vs. top defenses: Why Chiefs will be among 49ers QB’s toughest tests in Super Bowl 58

The 49ers are preparing to play in a Super Bowl for the first time in four years, facing off in a rematch against the Chiefs, who beat them 31-20 in Super Bowl 54 back in 2020.

While their matchup is the same, the outlook for the 49ers isn’t. They have since upgraded at quarterback over Jimmy Garoppolo.

Seventh-round pick Brock Purdy has emerged as a rock-solid starter in Kyle Shanahan’s system. There has been extensive debate about whether he is merely a game manager or something more, but the fact remains that he guided San Francisco to a 12-5 record and Super Bowl berth.

Add in that Purdy led the NFL in passer rating in 2023 with a mark of 113.0, and it’s easy to understand why many believe the former Mr. Irrelevant pick could end up emerging as the next Tom Brady. 

That said, Purdy is still just 24 and developing as a passer. He has certainly fared well throughout his first two seasons, but he has had some bumps in the road, especially against top defenses. 

That’s part of what will make Purdy’s matchup with the Chiefs so difficult. Kansas City boasts one of the NFL’s top stop units and figures to test Purdy often throughout the Super Bowl.

Here’s what to know about Purdy’s results against the NFL’s top defenses during the 2023 NFL season and what they could tell us about his outlook against the Chiefs.

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What is a ‘top defense’ in the NFL?

Purdy has put together an excellent season, posting consistent numbers at a time when most franchises have a lot of instability at the position.

Of course, that’s not to say that Purdy’s performance was fool-proof, but it’s worth noting that his small collection of bad outings typically came against the NFL’s best defenses.

For those wondering what constitutes a “top defense,” for this exercise, we’ll be using teams that rank top 10 in both of the following categories:

  • Defensive EPA, a stat that measures how many points per play a team’s defense contributes on average to its performance.
  • Defensive DVOA, an advanced metric that “compares a team’s [defensive] performance to a league-average baseline based on situation and opponent.”

These metrics use data from the course of the 2023 NFL season and tend to reward consistent performance. As such, it’s best to use them to evaluate defenses as opposed to simpler metrics like yardage allowed and points allowed.

Brock Purdy stats vs. top defenses

In total, Purdy has played against four teams that rank top 10 in both defensive DVOA and EPA: the Steelers, Cowboys, Browns, and Ravens. The results have been mixed with a lean toward below average.

Overall, across those three contests, Purdy has posted a 2-2 record and has struggled more often than usual with his accuracy, completing just 66-of-112 passes. He also threw five of his 11 interceptions from the season during those four contests.

Below is a look at Purdy’s cumulative numbers in those contests.

Stat Total
Record 2-2
Comp. % 58.9
Passing yards 852
Pass TDs 7
INTs 5
Yards/attempt 7.6
Passer rating 85.1

Of course, it’s fair to note that this is a small sample size and included his four-interception game against the Ravens, which could be considered an outlier.

It’s important to look at Purdy’s performance in each game to assess where the truth lies about his play against top-tier NFL stop units.

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Brock Purdy stats vs. Steelers

Purdy’s first game against a top-10 defense came in Week 1 against the Steelers. He played well on the road at Acrisure Stadium in poor weather, completing 19-of-29 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-7 blowout by the 49ers.

Some will try to minimize Purdy’s success in this matchup by pointing out that T.J. Watt still managed to sack him three times and that Christian McCaffrey did a lot of San Francisco’s damage on offense. However, considering the weather conditions and strength of Pittsburgh’s defense, this was an impressive showing from Purdy.

Brock Purdy stats vs. Cowboys

Purdy’s best performance against a top-10 defense came against the Cowboys in Week 5, another 49ers blowout. In that contest, Purdy completed 17-of-24 passes for 252 yards and a whopping four touchdowns in a 42-10 victory.

Again, some may opine that Dallas’ defense was only ranked so highly because it dominated lower-end competition while enduring issues against winning teams. Even so, Purdy’s dismantling of the unit and ability to absorb just one sack against the Micah Parsons-led pass rush was spectacular. That was reflected in his passer rating for the game, a mark of 144.4 that ranked as his third best in a contest for the season.

Brock Purdy stats vs. Browns

While Purdy’s first two games against top 10 defenses were strong, his next two weren’t as good. He completed a season-low 12-of-27 against the Browns for 125 yards, one touchdown, and one interception just a week after crushing Dallas.

It must be noted that Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams, and Christian McCaffrey all were hurt at some point in this game. That left Purdy without his usual force of weapons on a windy day in Cleveland, so that partially explains the struggles.

Still, Purdy was less accurate than usual and took three sacks — tied for his second-most all season — as he struggled to avoid pressure with Williams out. It was one of his least impressive games of the season, and it resulted in a 19-17 loss because of a missed Jake Moody field goal.

While many blamed Moody for missing the kick, the loss showed just how important it is for the 49ers to be at full strength around their young, developing quarterback.

Brock Purdy stats vs. Ravens

Purdy enjoyed a long stretch playing lower-caliber defenses before facing the Ravens in a Week 15 game that many thought would be a Super Bowl preview.

Purdy endured his worst-ever game against Baltimore. He completed 18-of-32 passes for 255 yards, but he tossed a whopping four interceptions in the contest. That was easily the most of his career and accounted for more than a third of his season total.

Granted, Purdy had some balls glances off his receivers’ hands in this contest, but his accuracy wasn’t as sharp as it normally had been. That led San Francisco’s offense to sputter in the 33-19 defeat.

The Ravens’ defense is arguably the best in the NFL, so it’s not a surprise that they were able to limit Purdy and make him throw into some tough windows. However, this serves as another example that if Purdy’s accuracy or ball placement is off just a little, it can have an impact on his ability to succeed against tough defenses.

Brock Purdy

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Brock Purdy stats by level of competition

Outside of his battles with those four defenses, Purdy hasn’t played too many high-end stop units. In fact, he played just one other team that ranked better than 16th in defensive EPA for the 2023 NFL season, and seven of his opponents ranked in the bottom quartile of the metric on that side of the ball.

When comparing Purdy’s performance against each quartile of teams by their rank in EPA, it’s clear that the 49ers quarterback dominated lower-level competition while being tested more by top-tier opponents like the Browns and Ravens.

Quartile Record Comp. % Pass yards Pass TDs INTs Y/A Rating
Top 2-2 58.9 852 7 5 7.6 85.1
Second 1-0 73.1 296 3 0 11.4 148.9
Third 3-1 71.8 1,121 6 2 9.6 111.8
Fourth 6-1 73.5 2,011 15 4 10.6 125.3

Again, those sample sizes are small in each category. One could also make a case that one of the reasons that the 49ers played so many bottom-tier defenses is that they dominated their opponents so thoroughly that they fell to those ranks.

Even so, Purdy’s stats against the NFL’s top-eight teams in defensive EPA are far worse than his stats against the other 24 teams. One needs only to look at his completion percentage, yards per attempt, and passer rating to see that.

While the numbers he has posted in those contests are respectable, they are a sign that the Chiefs — a team that ranks seventh in the league in both defensive EPA and defensive DVOA — could give him trouble in the Super Bowl.

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What to expect from Brock Purdy vs. Chiefs

Purdy is going to face a test against a Chiefs defense that has been great for most of the season and is heating up at the right time. Opponents have just six passing touchdowns in Kansas City’s past six games and are completing 64.7 percent of their passes for 219.3 yards per game with an average passer rating of 88.2.

Those numbers closely align with what Purdy has posted against top-eight NFL defenses this year, as he averages 213 passing yards per game against them with a passer rating of 85.1. Thus, it’s fair to expect that he will probably have a similar stat line with one or two passing touchdowns and perhaps interceptions.

If Purdy can put together that kind of performance, it would certainly be respectable, but would it be enough for the 49ers to outduel Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in the Super Bowl? Probably not.

The Chiefs allowed just 17.3 points per game during the regular season and are allowing 13.7 per game in the postseason. So, barring a stellar effort from either Christian McCaffrey or the 49ers defense to help close the scoring gap between the two teams, Purdy will have to outperform his averages in this tough matchup to take home a Lombardi Trophy for the first time.

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