Brock Purdy Steals The Show As 49ers Blow Past Bucs

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San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl? The absurd looked like a possibility Sunday.

In fact, if you know the history of Tom Brady, the guy who 49ers rookie Brock Purdy helped slay on Sunday, perhaps 49ers fans can dream a little about some historic finish to this season … even if that dream keeps getting interrupted by injury nightmares.

Purdy, the last pick of the 2022 NFL draft, put on an impressive display for the 49ers in a 35-7 victory over Tampa Bay and quarterback Tom Brady. It was a display good enough to get people thinking that a run to the Super Bowl might not have disappeared with the foot injury to Jimmy Garoppolo last week.

Brock Purdy greets family and friends after the win over Tampa Bay

The problem is that the 49ers’ hopes of winning a title might have been seriously hurt by an injury to wide receiver Deebo Samuel with five minutes remaining in the first half. Samuel hurt his left ankle. After staying down for a couple of minutes, he tried to get up to walk off, couldn’t do it, and then had to be carted off the field.

Brock Purdy should have 49ers fans optimistic

Still, the optimism for the 49ers and their hopes took a boost with the performance of Purdy, the seventh-round pick who took over for Garoppolo last week in a victory over Miami. The win Sunday put the 49ers at 9-4 and only a game behind Minnesota for the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

While Purdy was effective enough against Miami, his performance against Tampa Bay was at a different level against a good Tampa Bay defense. He went 14 for 18 for 185 yards, threw two touchdown passes and ran for another in the first half. The two touchdowns came on throws off his back foot where Purdy either warded off a pass rusher or avoided contact. He had another play where he avoided a sack and then threaded a pass through the Bucs secondary for an 18-yard gain.

On the touchdown run, Purdy alertly avoided a defender in the backfield, took off quickly and then walked into the end zone untouched.

None of that was accomplished with overwhelming athletic ability. Purdy is not particularly gifted in any obvious physical way. In fact, he looks more like one of the thousands of recent college grads who work at the many nearby Silicon Valley startups.

But that’s part of the point. Purdy has a mind that obviously processes very quickly. He either gets the ball out of his hand right away or anticipates how to get out of a problem. He also has some chutzpah, the kind of gall that allows him to overcome the various challenges that opponents throw at him.

Sunday was an example. On the opening play, Tampa Bay blitzed him with safety Keanu Neal coming clean off the right side. Neal put the wood to Purdy with a hard hit and was penalized for a roughing. Neal lowered his helmet at the last second, which was truly unnecessary.

Brock Purdy threw three touchdowns to topple Tampa Bay

While the penalty bailed out the 49ers from a potential negative play, the issue was how Purdy would respond. Instead of backing down and trying to protect his young quarterback, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan came right back with three straight throws, including an important third-down toss to tight end George Kittle.

In the end, it took only six plays for the 49ers to score with Purdy at the helm. It was one of the most impressive drives of the season for the 49ers, who eventually set a season-high for points. It also allowed the 49ers defense to pressure Brady, who threw two interceptions and was left to throw one short pass after another.

But for those with a little memory, what Purdy did wasn’t that far removed from how Brady played back in 2001 after taking over from injured veteran Drew Bledsoe. Long before he became the greatest champion in the history of the NFL and set more passing records anyone, Brady was an unknown quantity much like Purdy.

Brady took over and led one of the most improbably seasons in NFL history in 2001 and then created the most improbable career in league history. While it’s absurd to imagine Purdy having that type of career, the 49ers will be happy if he can pull of just a redux of 2001.

We can’t blame his dad for getting emotional witnessing his son’s brilliant first NFL start.

Written by Jason Cole

Jason Cole has covered or written about pro football since 1992. He is one of 49 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and has served as a selector since 2013. Cole has worked for publications such as Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports, The Miami Herald, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, and started his career with the Peninsula Times-Tribune in Palo Alto. Cole’s five-year investigation of Reggie Bush and the University of Southern California resulted in Bush becoming the only player to ever relinquish his Heisman Trophy and USC losing its 2004 national championship.

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