49ers mailbag: Purdy’s NFL-leading passing stat, chances at No. 1 seed, Wilks’ big sideline move

The 49ers have key games over the next month that could help them solidify the NFC West lead and chase the No. 1 seed

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Fans celebrating the 49ers’ first victory in a month sent us questions on social media, which we answered in this week’s edition of the 49ers mailbag:

Is Purdy the best downfield-throwing 49ers quarterback since ____? (@j.mata530)

Two things stand out to me: Brock Purdy’s unabashed aggression and his NFL-leading 9.3 yards per attempt average. On that note, that would be the best single-season mark by a 49ers quarterback in team history. Joe Montana’s 9.1-yard average in 1989 is the best among passers who started at least four games and completed at least 100 passes. Jimmy Garoppolo (8.3), Steve Young (8.2), Nick Mullens (7.9), Montana (7.6), and Y.A. Tittle (7.3) have the highest career averages for the 49ers. Purdy has an 8.8 yard per attempt average in 18 career regular-season games.

“I’m aggressive with what I do and how I throw the ball,” Purdy said after the Jaguars’ 34-3 victory on Sunday. “I still have to learn when and how to be smart with the ball in games.” They do an excellent job of not simply handcuffing me. They let me play aggressive quarterback and get the ball to the guys when they’re open.”

Is the No. 1 seed in the NFC still attainable for the 49ers? (@j.mata530)

With eight games remaining, the 49ers (6-3) are just past halfway and in good shape to earn a high seed in the NFC playoffs. The top seed? That is the goal, and it is attainable, but only if they win key games (see: Dec. 3 at Philadelphia) and the Eagles (8-1) and Detroit Lions (7-2) stumble. Following their bye week, the Eagles face a grueling schedule that includes a trip to Kansas City, home games against Buffalo and the 49ers, and road trips to Dallas and Seattle. The Lions have a five-game homestand before facing the Vikings, Cowboys, and Vikings.

Yesterday, the 49ers were not flawless. What are they still working on in preparation for the playoffs? (@david581)

“What I liked is that it wasn’t perfect, but we just stuck with it,” Christian McCaffrey said after the game. We just kept going and going. With a slew of turnovers, the defense came up big. We have a lot of things we can improve on offensively, which is exciting. These last three weeks have taught us a valuable lesson. We just need to play well every week. We must carry out our plans. We must keep errors to a minimum. And then we can go out there and do what we need to do.”

Do you believe Steve Wilks’ presence on the sideline made a significant difference for the defense? (@tyler.webb14)

What was most helpful were the coverage disguises and the best pass rush since Week 1, calls he made on the sideline after moving down from the booth this game. He congratulated the players, but not with maniacal zeal. Although television closeups showed him congratulating players such as Charvarius Ward (end zone pass defense) and Javon Hargrave (1 12 sacks), my binoculars struggled to find him on the sideline interacting with players. Wilks would typically study video on a tablet after each series, then speak with position coaches. Fred Warner praised the improved communication: for the first time this season, Wilks was able to send calls directly into Warner’s helmet, which obviously helped.

Will Wilks remain on the bench? (@DanielUkiah)

By Sideline Steve (as coined by our Instagram friends at @ourSF49ers), Wilks getting out in the Florida air seemed to breathe life and accountability into the 49ers’ defense.

Will Arik be able to play this Sunday? (@brucemahan6)

Defensive tackle Arik Armstead stated that he should be fine, but he was outraged by Brandon Scherff’s “dirty” hit, which could have resulted in a serious leg injury.

“I had a lot of respect for him, but tripping me, kicking me in my knee, I could have got seriously hurt,” Armstead went on to say. “It was just a dirty play.”

Armstead hobbled off the field but returned to play 34 defensive snaps (60 percent of the time).

How do the Niners repair the offensive line in the middle of the season? (@hulkmsaterfunk)

Which line is it? Trent Williams’ return to the offensive line made a significant difference, with Jon Feliciano filling in admirably for left guard Aaron Banks. Chase Young was added to the defensive line, and his 35 snaps were only two fewer than Nick Bosa’s, 11 more than starter Clelin Ferrell’s, and 14 more than Randy Gregory’s. What is the betting line? According to the sportsbooks, the 49ers are considered co-NFC favorites with Philadelphia to reach the Super Bowl, with a nearly equal chance of playing on Feb. 12 as the defending champion Chiefs.

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