Brock Purdy was as calm in analyzing a tough 49ers loss as he was talking about big wins
The Cleveland Browns serve up a dose of harsh reality to interrupt the Brock Purdy fairy tale.
The 49ers’ second-year quarterback came crashing down with a 12-for-27, 125-yard performance that included a shovel pass touchdown to Christian McCaffrey, his first interception in 248 passes, and a shaky, off-rhythm performance that bore no resemblance to his previous 12 starts and victories.
On one pass attempt, Purdy’s hand slipped and the ball fell to the ground. He recovered from his own blunder.
Purdy’s passer rating dropped to 55.3 after a 144.4 passer rating and four touchdown passes against Dallas. He’d never been below 87.4 before.
More amazing than the drop in performance was how long it took to occur. Bad games happen to all quarterbacks, including Joe Montana, Kurt Warner, and any of the other legends to whom Purdy has been compared in recent weeks.
Even more amazing, Purdy had the 49ers in position to win the game until Jake Moody pushed a 41-yard field goal attempt slightly to the right in the final seconds, despite playing so poorly.
Consider the storyline that could have developed if Moody had connected. Purdy would be revered for ignoring all the ugliness and delivering a victory. Not only that, but he did it in the final two minutes, which his critics and even supporters have correctly pointed out he has yet to do.
Purdy took over at the 25-yard line and misfired on his first two passes before being called for pass interference and a first down by Greg Newsome. On third-and-2, a 25-yard catch-and-run by Brandon Aiyuk and an 8-yard pass to Aiyuk were followed by a 9-yard strike to Jauan Jennings. Before Moody’s miss, the 49ers worked the ball to the middle of the field.
“B.A. did a great job of creating separation and making guys miss,” Purdy told reporters. “There was a sense of urgency, we got up to the ball and ran some plays we were all comfortable with to get the ball to the playmakers.”
Purdy was as animated after the loss as he was after any of the wins, despite being outplayed by Cleveland quarterback P.J. Walker, a practice-squad promotion.
“There were definitely some throws and opportunities I felt were there for me and I missed on ’em,” Purdy said in an interview. “It forced us to be behind the sticks and on third down, which is difficult on the road and something I need to learn from.”
“I’ve got to be real about it and we’ve got to look at ourselves in the mirror and see the flaws and get better from it, but it starts with me.”
Some felt that Purdy was being carried to success on the shoulders of his supporting cast. Whatever truth there was in that theory, it also included the inverse against the Browns — Purdy didn’t get a lot of help from his teammates and friends.
“It wasn’t just Brock, it was everybody,” said coach Kyle Shanahan.
Purdy’s interception of Martin Emerson on the first play of the third quarter came just two plays after a leaping Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah nearly had one himself.
“It was a bad ball on my end,” said Purdy. “B.A. did an excellent job. He had all the distance in the world. That was definitely my fault.”
Purdy will be less of a quarterback, Shanahan will be less of a coach, and the 49ers will be less of a team if they are without McCaffrey (oblique), Deebo Samuel (shoulder), or left tackle Trent Williams (ankle) for any length of time.
“But we’ve got guys to come in and make plays too,” Purdy went on to say. “It’s on me to be able to assist guys like Ray-Ray (McCloud), (Jennings), and Elijah (Mitchell).”
“I need to do a better job in the huddle, setting expectations for what’s to come.” We have good players even if Deebo and Christian are unable to travel.”
In reality, Purdy’s job will become more difficult, and the criticism will shift from “How the hell is he doing this?” to “See, we told you it was a mirage.”
Rather than blaming Moody, Purdy backed him up.
“We have faith in Jake.” He has a fantastic leg. “He’s been outstanding all year,” Purdy said. “I think if I had to do it again, we’d trust in Jake again.”
Purdy acknowledged that basic things he had done well leading up to Sunday were temporarily lost somewhere near Lake Erie when asked what was missing.
“The detail, the mindset of coming in and being on point with our operation,” he said. “As for myself, I had some plays to make.” There were men available. I need to improve. We’re all being honest with each other, and it’s making us stronger.”