What Brock Purdy’s worst night and blunt self-assessment mean for the 49ers


SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Nobody wanted to say that Brock Purdy was due for a night like this, but honestly, he probably was. Nobody in the 49ers organization wanted to watch him throw four interceptions against the Ravens. Nobody in red and gold wanted Purdy to go from MVP frontrunner to the main reason they got crushed on national TV.

Nobody in a 49ers uniform wanted Purdy to hit this bump in the road at full speed and full-tilt splatter.

But yes, everybody knew something like this was destined to happen at some point, and better now than in the playoffs. Subconsciously or not, the 49ers were braced for it. Purdy’s storybook season had been going on and on, but it couldn’t and wouldn’t go on perfectly forever. Nobody can avoid a clunker. Nobody is above this. The 49ers understood it. And in the minutes and hours after the 49ers’ 33-19 loss at Levi’s Stadium on Monday night, it was quite clear that Purdy absolutely understood this, too.

He talked quietly with teammates in the locker room. He walked to the shower room. He got dressed. He nodded at people he knew. He walked to the podium. All the same as he’d done after his best games. No sigh, bite or glower. Just the same. Except, of course, on this day, Purdy had just come off the worst game of his NFL career, by far, and had to try to explain the performance. And most importantly: What happens now?

“For me, it’s like I’ve gotta ask myself, ‘All right, who are you, what do you stand for? Who are you when things are good? Who are you when things don’t go your way?’” Purdy said when asked what was going through his mind as the interceptions piled up. “It’s easy to be riding high and thinking you’re the man when things are going well, winning games and all that kind of stuff. And you don’t really see a whole lot of adversity in some games and whatnot. And this is the reality of the NFL. …

“I have to look myself in the mirror, watch the plays, get better, make some cleaner decisions, help my team put up points and score and protect the ball. And when things don’t go my way, it’s understanding I can’t be acting out. I have to be real with myself and be better. But I want to be the same guy every day, be consistent in what I do, how I do things, whether things are going well or not. I know who I am, and I’m not going to waver in that. I’ve said that before, I’ll continue to hang my hat on that.”

Is that the right answer? There’s no guarantee that Purdy will immediately bounce back from this outing, especially after having to exit a game in the fourth quarter on Monday after suffering from a shoulder stinger for the second consecutive week. There’s no guarantee of anything for an NFL quarterback, going up against defenses that are filled with fast and large people.

Maybe Purdy’s MVP candidacy is toast now, which, I’d guess, probably doesn’t bother him much at all. The conversation, quite frankly, was always overbaked. You want to win games and championships, and the awards come from that. It’s not the other way around, and everybody on the 49ers appreciates that Purdy fully embraces that ethos.

His answers on Monday night, after the demolition, were simply extensions of that mindset.

Brock Purdy’s worst games by QB rating

Date Opponent Week COMP-ATT YDS TD INT Rating Result

12-25-2023

vs. Ravens

16

18-32

255

0

4

42.6

L, 33-19

10-15-2023

at Browns

6

12-27

125

1

1

55.3

L, 19-17

10-23-2023

at Vikings

7

21-30

272

1

2

81.5

L, 22-17

11-23-2023

at Seahawks

12

21-30

209

1

1

86.7

W, 31-13

1-22-2023

vs. Cowboys

DIV

19-29

214

0

0

87.4

W, 19-12

And you can guess that his teammates wanted to hear and see exactly this from Purdy, because it’s the same thing they’ve heard and seen from him before he was anybody, while he was playing brilliantly and, finally, during and after this game on Monday. They didn’t want to see the bad read that led to an interception after a good drive on the 49ers’ opening series. They didn’t want to see the poor decisions and hurried throws that were tipped up for three other picks. They didn’t want to lose this game, which means they need to win their final two regular-season games to ensure winning the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.

They didn’t want to see any of this, but the 49ers’ leaders also didn’t want to see Purdy look demoralized by this or seem diminished. Didn’t want that at all. And I don’t know if every single one of the 49ers’ leaders checked in with Purdy during or after the onslaught, but the detail of their answers when I asked them about Purdy sort of indicated that they had.

That they’ve seen everything they need to see from their QB. And that this night was the exception that proves how much they still believe in him.

“I think it’s unbelievable how he’s played for the past two years,” Nick Bosa said of Purdy. “Just being a young guy, rookie last year, and it seems like he’s immortal out there. But nobody’s immortal. He’s responded from not his best performances before, and I think he’ll do that again.”

Said Brandon Aiyuk: “I think he’ll be good. This is his first time really getting the other side of it. So I’m excited to see how he’ll bounce back. He’ll be good.”

How did this happen to somebody who’d only thrown seven interceptions in the first 14 games of the season? Purdy was definitely not at his best. But also, the Ravens are the No. 1 defense in the league and played like it on Monday. Several of their players also suggested to The Athletic’s Ted Nguyen that they knew they’d keep the 49ers’ offense off-balance if they slowed down their running game and also figured out that Purdy wanted to throw to certain spots on certain routes. So they made sure that they got to those spots.

Is that the kryptonite for the 49ers’ offense with Purdy? Maybe if you’ve got the Ravens’ personnel, which almost nobody has. And maybe if Purdy is having a particularly awful day, which is totally out of character for about 90 percent of his NFL career to date. His only other bad performance as the 49ers’ starter came in the Oct. 15 loss in Cleveland, and that came with the caveat that Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams and Christian McCaffrey were all injured in that game, and even then Purdy only threw one interception.

So Monday’s stats, 18 for 32 for 255 yards, the four interceptions and zero touchdowns, for a 42.6 passer rating, were easily Purdy’s worst. The whole game was his worst. By far.

“I just think the fact that he’s played this long and never had a game like this is pretty unusual,” Kyle Shanahan said. “That’s the reality of the NFL. I’m not saying it was bound to happen — wish we didn’t have as many picks today. But … I think one of them was one he’d really like to have back, the other three were, I think, unfortunate.”

On the first one, Purdy tried to hit Samuel coming across the middle in the end zone but didn’t see safety Kyle Hamilton sliding in from the other side. The 49ers had moved right down the field after holding the Ravens to a game-opening three-and-out. It was first-and-10 at the Ravens’ 15-yard line. It was set up to put the 49ers’ stamp on this game right away.

And then …

“That starts it off,” Purdy said. “Obviously, we were rolling, we had the momentum. We had some really big plays in that drive. And then I throw the ball like that to end the momentum that we had.”

Purdy said the commonality is that he was trying to make too much happen. That he should take the easier throws. That, if need be, he should be comfortable with a throw-away and punt rather than risk a turnover.

That’s exactly what happened on his third interception, in the middle of the second quarter, when he was flushed out of the pocket on third-and-5, saw flags fly and still forced a pass across his body intended for George Kittle that was tipped away by Marlon Humphrey and picked off by Hamilton, again.

“I saw some flags thrown as I was scrambling and stuff,” Purdy said. “Not exactly what or who it was on, so my mind was, ‘Try to make a play.’ Honestly, I can’t make a bad play worse. I have to know that that’s on us, in terms of the flag, just by some body language of our O-line and things like that. I did see that. So for me to throw across my body back in the middle of the field with a guy on George, it’s very dumb of me.”

Yes, Purdy is tough on himself. Yes, it was merited on Monday. Yes, he still made some plays, but they were all wiped away by his mistakes. Yes, Purdy will grit his teeth and go over every millisecond of the tape. Yes, he’ll be better. Yes, he might have some nightmares about this game. And yes, it’s the surest sign that this was an aberration of a fluke of an oddity of a night that was overdue and now done.

(Photo of Brock Purdy scrambling during Monday’s game against the Ravens: Loren Elliott / Getty Images)





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