Survive and advance.
In many ways, those three words sum up the gauntlet that is the NFL playoffs. Teams with Super Bowl dreams sometimes just need to find a way to survive for one more week. That was certainly the case for the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night. Despite being the top-seeded team in the NFC, and being favorites heading into their game against the seventh-seeded Green Bay Packers, the 49ers struggled early and found themselves trailing 21-17 with just over six minutes left in the game after Packers kicker Anders Carlson missed a field goal that would have given Green Bay a 24-17 lead.
The San Francisco offense took over at their own 31-yard line, and their offense had a chance to regain the lead. But they would need something more from second-year quarterback Brock Purdy, who up until that point had looked off throughout the game. Purdy had completed just 17 of 32 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown, and while he had not thrown an interception, he had certainly given the Packers more than a few chances at a turnover with some off-target throws.
At that point 49es fans might have been nervous, and perhaps rightfully so. Beyond the numbers Purdy seemed off with his throws, and many wondered if the rainy conditions were a factor. Some probably thought back to a Week 6 loss to the Cleveland Browns, and wondered if history was about to repeat itself. Deebo Samuel was knocked out early in that game with a shoulder injury — as he was on Saturday night — and Purdy struggled in rainy conditions that afternoon in Cleveland.
But when his team needed him most, the second-year quarterback came through.
The drive started with a completion from Purdy to Jauan Jennings, on a throw to the left flat coming off of a run fake to the right, that tasked the quarterback with throwing on his move to the left. Following that gain of seven and a pair of runs, San Francisco had a fresh set of downs. Purdy then connected on his second throw of the drive on a checkdown to Christian McCaffrey after buying some time in the pocket, but an incompletion to George Kittle saw San Francisco facing a 3rd and 5 with just 3:38 left in the game, from their own 47-yard line.
If there was a time for Purdy to make a big-time throw, this was it.
And he delivered:
Purdy hits Brandon Aiyuk on a slant route, and despite near-perfect coverage from Keisean Nixon, the QB puts this throw in the absolute perfect spot, giving Aiyuk a chance to make the catch going to the ground, and the 49ers have a fresh set of downs.
On the very next play Purdy hit on another big throw, this time connecting with Chris Conley on a deep out route to pick up 17 more yards for San Francisco:
Still, the job was not done, and the 49ers needed at least one more big play from Purdy on this night. It came a few snaps later, with San Francisco facing a 2nd and 10 at Green Bay’s 15-yard line. Purdy dropped to throw and looked to his right, in the direction of McCaffrey. But feeling some pressure in the pocket, the second-year QB pulled the ball down, and looked to run:
Purdy’s scramble picks up nine yards, and on the very next snap the 49ers retake the lead, with a touchdown run from McCaffrey. Purdy finished the drive hitting on 6 of his 7 passes for 47 yards.
Then a late interception from Dre Greenlaw sealed the 24-21 win.
Still, it was not a perfect performance from Purdy, and he may face questions going forward about whether a game like that will be enough in the NFC Championship Game, or should San Francisco advance, a Super Bowl. Purdy finished the night having completed 23 of 39 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown, and as noted earlier while he did not turn the football over, he certainly gave the Packers opportunities. While he finished the night with an Expected Points Added per Play of 0.16, that was still below his season average of 0.338, which led qualified passers.
Even Purdy admitted after the game that he will need to be better going forward.
“Obviously it’s four quarters for a reason, you know? So the way I started, it’s like, ‘Man, I’ve got to be better, got to play efficient football,’” Purdy said after the game. “But when it comes down to it, with the season on the line, you’ve got to make it happen for your boys around you.”
Purdy even admitted the conditions played a factor.
“Yeah, there was some times where I was dropping back and the ball’s a little wet from the grass, and yeah, sort of affected some accuracy and stuff,” Purdy said after the win. “But dude, that’s football, so I’ve got to be better in that area.”
For his coach, what Purdy did at the end was what he needed to see.
“Brock, he made some big plays in this game. Missed a couple, but leading us down on our last drive and getting the win, that’s all I can ask for,” Shanahan said following the game.
Purdy will get a chance to be better soon enough, when the 49ers host either the Detroit Lions or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next week with a berth in the Super Bowl on the line. It was not perfect from Purdy, but when his team needed him most, he made the big plays they needed.
Giving San Francisco a chance to survive and advance, which is the name of the game in January.
Source : SBNation