49ers’ Brock Purdy on Cowboys: ‘One of my toughest games’

49ers quarterback played it safe and efficient in 19-12 divisional win over Dallas last season

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — It was above and beyond the call for a rookie seventh-round draft pick when Brock Purdy led the 49ers to a divisional-round playoff win over Dallas in January.

Purdy, despite his outward appearance, is not a seasoned veteran. He’s gone undefeated in 11 games. Purdy, on the other hand, expects more from himself when the 49ers host the Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday night.

“They’re a really good defense and there were times where they did a good job of just getting me offset with some little things and just sort of made me rush some things and I feel like I didn’t get in a good rhythm,” Purdy told reporters on Thursday.

Purdy completed 19-of-29 passes for 214 yards and no touchdowns as the 49ers defeated the Cowboys 19-12. The lone touchdown came on the first play of the fourth quarter, a 2-yard run by Christian McCaffrey.

Otherwise, it was up to place kicker Robbie Gould, who hit field goals of 26, 47, 50, and 28 yards. With Purdy at quarterback, it was one of the few times the 49ers lacked finishing power.

Purdy’s passer rating on that day was 87.4, the lowest of his career in any regular season or postseason game he’s played from start to finish. It was also lower than his 88.8 against Miami, when he came off the bench after Jimmy Garoppolo broke his foot, kicking off Purdy’s rise.

Purdy, who currently leads the NFL in completion percentage at 72.3 (81-for-112) and passer rating (115.1), as well as first-down percentage on passes (48.2 percent), has a dwindling number of detractors who recognize he’s no longer a seventh-round draft pick but a full-fledged, quality NFL quarterback.

Critics who remain believe he is a fortunate game manager, surrounded by a wealth of offensive talent and a system that masks his flaws. Coach Kyle Shanahan is offended by the term “system quarterback.”

“That’s pretty ridiculous,” said Shanahan. “You just have to watch the tape.” Every time he’s been out there, he’s played at a high level. And he’s done it against a variety of different defenses, at home, in playoff games, and when injured. It’s recorded.”

When you watch the Dallas game, you’ll notice that Purdy was more of a game manager than a game changer. That happened to be exactly what the 49ers needed to win that day. That could be more than a coincidence, and some quarterbacks simply understand what it takes to win on any given day.

Purdy’s most important contribution was to keep the ball in play. Purdy did not turn the ball over in the face of a Dallas defense that kept him off balance, while his counterpart Dak Prescott threw two costly interceptions.

Purdy, for whatever reason, wasn’t the smooth operator he’d been leading up to the Dallas game.

“I just remember there was a lot at stake on every single play and you had to be on point, you had to be detailed,” Purdy told reporters. “I think there were some of my progressions where I rushed through some stuff.” In retrospect, it was a case of ‘Man, stick to the progressions, don’t overthink things.’

“I saw those things on film.” There were really good defenses on both sides, so limit turnovers, be smart, and execute and score touchdowns when you get into the red zone.”

However, after Deommodore Lenoir intercepted Prescott, the 49ers advanced to the 8-yard line before settling for Gould’s 26-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.

The 49ers then advanced to the 11-yard line in the fourth quarter with a 16-12 lead thanks to a Purdy 6-yard scramble on third-and-10. That meant Gould had to kick another field goal, this time from 28 yards out.

Purdy isn’t interested in settling for three points unless it’s absolutely necessary and mandated by the head coach.

“Field goals are great and points are great, but to win those kinds of games we’ve got to score touchdowns,” Purdy said in a statement.

The 49ers’ offense got back on track in the second half not by unleashing Purdy, but by making some strides in the running game.

Shanahan flipped the call sheet with a 9-6 lead after a first half in which Purdy was 12-for-19 for 129 yards and the 49ers rushed for 27 yards on 11 carries. The 49ers ran the ball 21 times for 86 yards in the second half, accounting for six of their seven rushing first downs. Elijah Mitchell, who had one carry for two yards in the first half, had 13 carries for 49 yards in the second.

Purdy was 7-for-10 for 85 yards in the second half, playing it safe when he did throw.

“We make so many adjustments it’s hard to remember,” said Purdy. “But I do remember in the second half we were able to get the running game going.”

In addition to seeing Purdy last season, Dallas coach Mike McCarthy has watched four games of film this season and knows what he’s up against.

“You look at him throughout his career, and so much is made about measurables and things coming out in the draft, but he’s played high-quality football his whole life,” he said. “This guy was born to play quarterback.”

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