Kyle Shanahan’s trust in 49ers QB Brock Purdy was underscored by one play


Brock Purdy got a road win on Thursday and a good follow-up with the 49ers team trainers on Friday.

Kyle Shanahan said that Purdy, who is battling a sore oblique muscle and rib injury, didn’t do any further damage in the 21-13 win in Seattle.

“He’s feeling better today, actually, than he was early in the week,” Shanahan said. “He got out healthy and he’ll be a lot better for the next week.”

Due to the Christmas holiday, the next game is on a Saturday, which means another oddball week of practice for the 49ers. Shanahan said he and his staff will meet with players via Zoom on Sunday to go over the Seahawks game. Then they’ll have Monday off before the first practice of the week on Tuesday.

Both the 49ers and the Seahawks ran 64 plays. But because of their superior run game — 170 yards to 70 for Seattle — the 49ers held the ball for nearly seven minutes more than their opponent. Here’s how the individual snaps broke down:

Quarterback: Purdy 64

The quarterback’s most impressive drive may have been a short-lived one that began with the 49ers pressed against their own 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter.

That’s the loudest part of the Seahawks’ stadium, the crowd was at full throat and the circumstances seemed ripe for a very Seattle-like sequence, one in which the opposing offense gets rattled, makes a mistake and the defense (or special teams) pounces and steals the momentum.

On first down, everyone thought the 49ers would go with a draw play or a quarterback sneak, something conservative that would give them 20 or so precious inches. Instead, Shanahan called for Purdy to pass the ball. It turned into an incompletion when the Seahawks defensive end deflected the throw, but it was an otherwise nicely delivered pass to Jauan Jennings that would have gained at least 6 yards.



Kyle Shanahan and Brock Purdy’s division-winning synchronicity

Shanahan said he was hesitant to call a sneak for Purdy because of the quarterback’s injury issue. Still, the play call underscored Shanahan’s trust in Purdy, who was making his first-ever road start in the league’s most inhospitable venue.

On third down, Purdy went back to Jennings on an 11-yard throw that picked up a first down. The drive sputtered from there and the 49ers had to punt. But the rookie quarterback was calm and didn’t make any catastrophic mistakes, which is something the Seahawks and their home crowd have reliably produced from opponents over the last decade.

“It just doesn’t look too big for him on any level,” broadcaster Al Michaels said at the end of the game.

Running back: Christian McCaffrey 57, Kyle Juszczyk (fullback) 33, Jordan Mason 7

To say this was a McCaffrey-centric game plan would be an understatement. He played 89 percent of the offensive snaps, his highest percentage since joining the 49ers and his highest since playing 91 percent in Week 2 for the Panthers. Of San Francisco’s first 11 plays, six were runs to McCaffrey and three were throws to McCaffrey.

It was no coincidence that on the 12th play Purdy faked a pass to both Ray-Ray McCloud III and then to McCaffrey and the Seahawks fell for it hook, line and sinker. Those fakes left George Kittle alone in the middle of the field and he ran in for a 28-yard score.

McCaffrey entered the game needing 43 yards to surpass Jeff Wilson Jr. as the 49ers’ leading rusher this season. He hit that number early in the second quarter and finished with 108 yards on the ground. That virtually guarantees the 49ers will have a different leading rushing every season Shanahan has been head coach. Backup quarterback Josh Johnson and tailback Tyrion Davis-Price were the only 49ers who didn’t get into Thursday’s game.

2017: Carlos Hyde 938
2018: Matt Breida 814
2019: Raheem Mostert 772
2020: Wilson 600
2021: Elijah Mitchell 963
2022: McCaffrey 534

Wide receiver: Brandon Aiyuk 62, Jennings 54, McCloud 27, Willie Snead IV 3, Danny Gray 2

Jennings led the way for the 49ers’ wideouts. Purdy targeted him five times — three on third down — and connected on three throws for 31 yards. McCloud, meanwhile, lined up in the slot on some plays and in the backfield on others and did a lot of the things injured Deebo Samuel normally does. He had a big catch-and-run that picked up a first down in the third quarter. Actually, he had two additional receptions for first downs but they were called back on penalties.

Gray suffered an ankle injury and is day-to-day.

Tight end: Kittle 54, Tyler Kroft 14, Charlie Woerner 6, Ross Dwelley 1

Purdy missed Kroft on a deep opportunity during the quarterback’s debut against the Dolphins earlier this month. He didn’t miss him on Thursday, throwing a 28-yard pass to the tight end — the 49ers’ fourth-longest play of the game — midway through the fourth quarter.

At that point in the game, everyone — including the Seahawks defense — was expecting the 49ers to run the ball and try to grind down the clock. That allowed Kroft to sneak out of the formation and get down the field. And, of course, it was another example of Shanahan treating Purdy like a 10-year veteran, not a rookie.

Kittle has scored touchdowns of 85, 82 and 61 yards over his career, but his 54-yarder in the third quarter Thursday was the longest score for any tight end this season.

George Kittle’s 54-yard touchdown Thursday was the longest by an NFL tight end this season. (Joe Nicholson / USA Today)

Offensive line: Trent Williams 64, Aaron Banks 64, Jake Brendel 64, Mike McGlinchey 64, Daniel Brunskill 36, Spencer Burford 28

The Seahawks began the game without their biggest interior defender, Al Woods (Achilles), then lost another defensive tackle, Bryan Mone, to an ACL tear in the first quarter. That led to a lot of between-the-tackles running by McCaffrey and the 49ers.

The left side of the offensive line was particularly effective. McCaffrey’s touchdown plunge at the end of the second quarter came with Banks and Williams leading the way. The 49ers’ longest play of the game, Mason’s 55-yard, game-sealing scamper in the fourth quarter, also involved key blocks by the left-side guys.

Burford started the game at right guard like he normally does. Still, it was the first time this season that Brunskill finished with more snaps than the rookie in a game in which both played.

Defensive line: Nick Bosa 51, Arik Armstead 47, Samson Ebukam 37, Charles Omenihu 34, Kerry Hyder Jr. 23, Akeem Spence 20, T.Y. McGill 16, Drake Jackson 15, Jordan Willis 13

Right side or left side? Bosa did a lot more in-game switching than he normally does, lining up 29 times on the right and 22 times on the left. He seemed to be most effective when he was on the right and matched against rookie left tackle Charles Cross.

Bosa’s sack came on that side as did his controversial quarterback hit — he was flagged for roughing the passer — as well as another quarterback hit on which he deflected a Geno Smith pass. Bosa now has 15 1/2 sacks on the season, one more than New England’s Matthew Judon. Bosa and the 49ers have three games remaining; Judon and the Patriots have four.

Bosa led the 49ers with six quarterback pressures. Armstead wasn’t far behind with five. He played 73 percent of the defensive snaps, which means he’s back to his normal usage after being eased back into the mix Sunday against Tampa Bay. Hyder, who was filling in for Javon Kinlaw (knee), Hassan Ridgeway (pec) and Kevin Givens (knee), and who was dealing with an ankle injury, started and finished with three quarterback pressures. He was not part of Shanahan’s Friday injury report.

Before the game, the 49ers placed Ridgeway on injured reserve. The team is allowed to bring two more players off of injured reserve, and as of now those designations are earmarked for Mitchell and Kinlaw, who is on track to return to practice next week.

Linebacker: Fred Warner 64, Dre Greenlaw 64, Azeez Al-Shaair 22

Greenlaw and Warner both finished with eight tackles. With three games remaining, Greenlaw leads the team with 111 tackles, followed by Warner with 98. Greenlaw has the edge in forced fumbles (2 to 1) while Warner has more pass breakups (10 to 6) and hits on the quarterback (6 to 0).

Cornerback: Deommodore Lenoir 64, Charvarius Ward 50, Jimmie Ward 42, Janoris Jenkins 14

Lenoir and Charvarius Ward had strong outings. Ward was targeted seven times and gave up five catches for 44 yards. He had two pass breakups on throws to DK Metcalf and recovered the fumble that set up the 49ers’ second touchdown.

Lenoir, meanwhile, gave up seven catches for 52 yards but nothing deep. He, of course, also had an interception return for a touchdown that was wiped away because of the roughing call against Bosa.

Jenkins filled in for Charvarius Ward in the fourth quarter and, well, looked like someone who hasn’t played in a while. He was flagged for holding on a punt. (The referee announced that the infraction was on No. 21, a number that hasn’t been worn since Frank Gore played in San Francisco. Instead, it was on No. 22, Jenkins). He also missed an opportunity for a pass deflection on a throw to tight end Will Dissly and also failed to make the tackle on Dissly, who gained 13 yards.

Jenkins played on defense because the top backup cornerback, Ambry Thomas, aggravated an ankle injury while playing special teams and because Charvarius Ward was out with a head injury. Ward was cleared to return but was held out anyway because Shanahan and others didn’t think he looked right. Their instincts were correct. Ward arrived Friday with concussion symptoms and is now in the concussion protocol.

He’s the fourth player in the last two seasons — linebacker Marcell Harris and Mitchell last season, and Talanoa Hufanga earlier this year — who’s been checked for a concussion, cleared to play and then later determined to have suffered a concussion. Harris, Mitchell and Hufanga returned to the game after suffering their concussions. Ward did not.

Safety: Hufanga 64, Tashaun Gipson Sr. 64

Hufanga, the 49ers’ leader in takeaways, nearly had two more on Thursday. A second-quarter interception opportunity slipped through his hands. In the first quarter, he executed a perfectly timed blitz that dislodged the ball from Smith but that was recovered by the Seahawks. Per Pro Football Focus, the 49ers blitzed on 14 of 48 dropbacks (29.2 percent). The NFL average this season is 27 percent while the 49ers’ average is 22 percent.

Special teams: Woerner 24, George Odum 24, Oren Burks 24, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles 20, Mason 20, Snead 17, Jenkins 14, Willis 14, McCloud 11, Mitch Wishnowsky 10, Taybor Pepper 10, Juszczyk 10, Thomas 9, Robbie Gould 8, Gray 8, Lenoir 6, Hufanga 5, Banks 4, Brunskill 4, Jaylon Moore 4, Colton McKivitz 4, Burford 4, Warner 4, McGill 3, Hyder 3, Omenihu 3, Jackson 3, Al Shaair 2, Ebukam 2, Charvarius Ward 2, McCaffrey 1, Kittle 1, Greenlaw 1, Gipson 1

The 49ers played most of the game without stalwarts Tarvarius Moore, Samuel Womack III and Thomas. Perhaps that’s why their coverage units were a little looser than normal. The Seahawks averaged 27.7 yards per kickoff return and opened the game from their own 35-yard line.

Gould, meanwhile, had a chance to put the game away in the fourth quarter with a 43-yard field goal. He pushed it wide right, his first miss since Oct. 9.

(Top photo of Brock Purdy: Steph Chambers / Getty Images)


Related posts

Leave a Comment