Brock Purdy's 4 TDs lead 49ers to wild-card win over Seahawks

ByNick Wagoner ESPN logo
Sunday, January 15, 2023

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- As San Francisco 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy dropped back to throw his first postseason pass, he had wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel streaking open down the field.

But Purdy's first pass didn't hit either wideout and was nearly intercepted. Perhaps a case of postseason jitters for the lowest-drafted rookie quarterback to start an NFL playoff game?

"Honestly, the ball was a little wet, it was raining at the time and it just got away from me," Purdy said. "But it wasn't anything in terms of, like, the game."

Purdy did later acknowledge he could feel the importance and emotion of Saturday's wild-card matchup against the NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks and perhaps it played a factor in what was an uneven first half for him throwing the ball.

But whatever contributed to Purdy's first-half misses were wiped away at halftime of San Francisco's 41-23 win against the Seahawks. Purdy finished 18-of-30 for 332 yards with three touchdowns and a rushing score in his postseason debut.

In the process, Purdy not only became the lowest-drafted rookie quarterback to start and win a playoff game, but he also etched his name in the record book in other ways.

To wit:

  • Purdy became the first rookie quarterback to win a playoff game since Russell Wilson in 2012.
  • At 23 years and 18 days, Purdy is the youngest player in NFL history with 300-plus passing yards and three-plus touchdown passes in a playoff game, surpassing Dan Marino. Coincidentally, Marino is the reason Purdy wears No. 13.
  • Purdy is the third player in NFL history with 300-plus yards and at least four total touchdowns in his playoff debut, joining Matthew Stafford (2011) and Kurt Warner (1999).
  • With a streak of seven consecutive games with multiple passing touchdowns, Purdy tied Justin Herbert for the longest streak by a rookie in NFL history. It also is tied with Steve Young for the second-longest such streak in 49ers history.
  • Purdy became the first player taken with the final pick of the NFL draft in the common era (since 1967) to record a postseason touchdown of any kind.

Despite all of that, Purdy's teammates and coaches continue to seem wholly unsurprised by the quarterback's consistent production, regardless of the setting.

"You could feel his confidence when he came in the huddle, and that just felt like old Brock," tight end George Kittle said. "I get it. Playoffs, there's a lot going on. A lot more cameras, a lot more media. He did exactly what he needed to do for us to win that game. I think he's just going to continue to do that and play at a high level for us."

For most of the first half, Purdy and the Niners moved the ball but struggled to end drives with touchdowns. In the locker room at halftime, coach Kyle Shanahan delivered a simple message.

"Kyle straight up was like, 'Hey, man, plays were there, the opportunities are there; we've just got to keep it simple and get it to the guys,'" Purdy said. "We knew what our plan was in the second half, and I thought we just executed everything and we finished drives."

The Niners adjusted, in part, by asking Purdy to take fewer deep shots. After averaging 11.7 air yards per attempt in the first half, that number dropped to 8.2 in the second half. The result was a half in which Purdy went 9-of-11 for 185 yards and two scores -- and would have had a third touchdown had Aiyuk not dropped a well-placed throw in the corner of the end zone.

And when Purdy didn't have receivers open or felt pressure from Seattle's defense, he used his legs to extend plays and make something happen. His average time to throw Saturday was 3.63 seconds, the longest in a game this season among players with at least 25 attempts in that game.

"Brock Purdy did a really good job of staying alive," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I don't know why we couldn't sack the guy. We chased him all over the place. He's not noted for being the greatest scrambler, but he looked like Fran Tarkenton out there today."

And though the Niners said they felt confident they would bounce back quickly from their halftime deficit, they got additional motivation from Seahawks safety Johnathan Abram with about 10 minutes left in the third quarter.

After Samuel's 21-yard catch and run, Abram appeared to hang on to one of Samuel's ankles after the play and twist it. Samuel said he stayed down in part because the twist hurt and because he wanted to avoid retaliating.

As tempers flared, the 49ers scored five plays later on Purdy's 1-yard sneak, as they rattled off 25 unanswered points to put the game away.

"I feel like that turned our team up a notch," said Samuel, who finished with 165 scrimmages yards and a score. "And as you can see, we just went out there and made plays."

In the closing moments of San Francisco's win, Purdy got a tweet of affirmation from NBA superstarLeBron James.

Informed after the game that James had tweeted about him, Purdy said it was "awesome." More important, Purdy will have another chance to make a playoff impression next week in the NFC divisional round against either the Minnesota Vikings (if they win) or the winner of the Dallas Cowboys-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game (if Minnesota loses).

"I love the fact that Brock is getting the attention that he deserves," 49ers left tackle Trent Williams said. "He is a good player, and I think anybody who watches football can see that. I'm not saying that he's the next Aaron Rodgers or Pat Mahomes, but he does everything that we need him to do and more. And I think we can continue to win with him."

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