49ers Film Review: Brock Purdy’s explosive performance against Dallas

Reports of Brock Purdy struggling against the Cowboys on Sunday have been greatly exaggerated.

Purdy completed 19 of 29 passing attempts for 215 yards against Dallas, making him the first rookie since at least 1970 to throw for more than 200 yards in consecutive postseason games.

An explosive pass play is one in which the offense gained at least 15 yards. The San Francisco offense had a total of nine possessions Sunday and Purdy recorded a completion of at least 16 yards on seven of them.

Here is each of those explosive plays:

First Quarter: First and ten, 49ers 30.

Out of shotgun, Purdy fakes a handoff to Christian McCaffrey then quickly turns and fires a strike down the seam to George Kittle for a gain of 30.

This is a high-level NFL throw from Purdy. If you watch closely, you will notice this throw is all arm as he doesn’t step into it. He spins on his left foot and gets it out fast.

First Quarter: Third and fifteen, Cowboys 27


The 49ers start their third possession in great field possession after an interception by Deommodore Lenoir. Following a sack and run by Christian McCaffrey they find themselves facing third and long.

Kyle Shanahan dials up a play to put Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in conflict. With Brandon Aiyuk running a deep curl and McCaffrey running a flat, Vander Esch needs to choose who to cover. If the linebacker drops the throw goes to the flat and if he goes to the flat it opens up the curl.

Seeing Vander Esch chase McCaffrey, Purdy sets his feet and hits Aiyuk for a 17 yard completion to move the chains.

Another element to this play is the route run by Ray-Ray McCloud. Lined up as the number two receiver, second from the sideline, McCloud takes an inside path before breaking to the out. By doing this he takes the Dallas defender with him and creates a wide-open throwing lane for the quarterback.

Second Quarter: Second and 19, Cowboys 46

This play shows the attention the Dallas defense was giving to George Kittle.

Kittle runs a bend seam up the right side drawing the coverage of both linebackers, opening the middle of the field.

Deebo Samuel runs a short return route into void created by Kittle and Purdy hits him for a gain of 17 to put the 49ers in position for a game tying field goal.

Second Quarter: Second and ten, 49ers 47.

San Francisco gets the ball late in the first half when Fred Warner picks off Dak Prescott, the second interception of the game for the Dallas quarterback.

After a couple running plays and a completion to Deebo Samuel, Kyle Shanahan lets the clock run down. The intention here is to make sure Dallas does not get the ball back before half and the 49ers go in with the lead.

To help give Purdy time to throw Shanahan has McCaffrey chip Micah Parsons while the quarterback does a slight roll to his left. Brandon Aiyuk takes the cornerback deep, leaving a void that is filled by Jauan Jennings who is running a deep over route.

After missing this throw earlier in the quarter Purdy gets this one to Jennings for a gain of 21. Robbie Gould comes on a few plays later to give San Francisco a 9-6 lead at the half with a 50-yard field goal.

Third Quarter: First and ten, 49ers 21.

Off play action Purdy rolls out to his left. With his primary receivers covered he finds George Kittle down middle of the field and the tight end makes a bobbling catch for a 31 yard gain.

What makes this play even more incredible is Kittle wasn’t supposed to be an option.

“It was a bootleg. Me and Kyle Juszczyk are on the backside selling the outside zone away to get the defensive man across our face. Juice is the hot guy. We’re trying to get the ball to either, Brandon Aiyuk or Deebo Samuel, I’m literally not even in the read,” said Kittle after the game. “I just saw kind of a space and he hadn’t thrown it yet, so I was just going up the field and he gave me a catchable ball.”

This is an example of two players making a great football play.

Fourth Quarter: First and ten, 49ers 25.


Holding onto a four point lead after a Dallas field goal, Purdy opens the 49ers possession with a dart down the middle to George Kittle for a gain of 17.

This is the same play the 49ers used in the second quarter to get into position to tie the game at six. The difference this time is they catch Dallas in their five-man front.

Purdy sees that the safety tasked with covering Kittle is playing outside leverage and gets the ball out quickly to the tight end.

Fourth Quarter: First and ten, 49ers 26

Holding a seven-point lead with just 2:05 left to play every fan in Levi’s Stadium is expecting a run. So was the Cowboys coaching staff as they again go with a five-man front leaving only one linebacker in the middle of the field.

Instead of going with a run, Kyle Shanahan dials up a pass. George Kittle again beats the Cowboys safety to the inside and Purdy hits him for a gain of 16.

That’s what you call having trust in your rookie quarterback.

This article has 18 Comments

  1. I read earlier today that Purdy was pressured on 48% of his pass attempts Sun. On the 52% of his passes he wasn’t pressured on he completed over 90% of his passes for almost all of his yards. He like most good to very good QBs needs time to be successful. This week his unpressured attempts will drop to around the 20% level if KS doesn’t run the ball successfully over 40 times . If the 9ers win this week Purdy’s performance is going to look like a JG playoff performance with him throwing around 15 passes completing 10 of them.

    1. “I read earlier today that Purdy was pressured on 48% of his pass attempts Sun. On the 52% of his passes he wasn’t pressured on he completed over 90% of his passes for almost all of his yards.” I heard about this and actually thought the guy saying it on tv/radio made a mistake about the 90% completion when not under pressure. Mr. Irrelevant is already better than any qb in our division, even Stafford imo. As Niner fans we have a lot to look forward to.

  2. A writer for the Athletics interviewed a head coach (anonymously) who’s team had rated Purdy “no interest” or something like that. He went on to explain that Purdy was too short, his hands were small, his arms too short, his 40 times too slow, etc, etc. on the positive side he mentioned (after seeing him play for the Niners) that Purdy was more athletic that he expected and he processed well. Sounds a lot like how Baalke evaluated players.

    My thought after reading this article was that this coach probably works for a loosing team. I still maintain that intelligence and personality are the most important factors. There are plenty of examples of guys with all the physical tools who fail because they can’t process what’s going on, on the field, like Zack Wilson. There are also plenty of examples of guys without top athletic traits who became stars like Montana, Brees, etc.

    1. I said this before to you when you posted about players “intelligence” and Kaepernick. For QBs on field information processing the trait you’re looking for isn’t intelligence. You keep using that term but it’s mostly incorrect. As I said before, football isn’t rocket science. It’s not that hard to understand. Pretty much all but some of the dumbest QBs (possibly Ryan Leaf or JaMarcuss Russell being the most prominent exceptions that prove the rule) can draw out a play, diagnose the coverage and go through the progressions on a blackboard and even in practice. The trait you’re looking for is the ability to make the correct read of the coverage, feel /adjust to the pressure in the pocket, go through progressions, coordinate footwork with route timing and maintain throwing mechanics all while a 300 lb man is intent on driving you into the turf. You want a guy with ice in his veins.

      You’re looking for a guy who’s parasympathetic nervous system is working to overcome the sympathetic nervous system’s flight, fight or freeze response. The sympathetic nervous system (the “gas” to the flight, fight or freeze response); it goes from amygdala which sets off the alert, to the hypothalamus (controls the autonomic nervous system which is made up of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems) which sets off the adrenal glands which pumps in epinephrine which starts the blood pumping more to the muscles and heart. Respiration rate goes up too. Now this is all well and good for a QB. You want them to be on their toes, alert and ready to go. But you can’t go overboard with being alert and ready. As the first round of this surge wears off, the hypothalamus activates the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands…or “HPA Axis” as the medical folks call it. It’s basically round two of the stress response and keeps the foot on the gas pedal so to speak. When the threat passes the the parasympathetic nervous system kicks into gear to calm a person down. So it would be interesting to look for players that had a well regulated autonomic nervous system in response to stressors….to be able to test the flight, fight or freeze response.

      Now how do you regulate this kind stress? Some of our response is straight up biological…ie we’re just hard wired to be more of one way than the other. But some of our responses to stressors can be regulated through hippy dippy mood calming techniques, breathing exercises, medication, yoga, gardening…etc….hippy dippy but effective for some. But back to football because we can’t really have QBs tending their garden on the sidelines to calm down. So what gets us less stressed? Practice, practice, practice….and even more so; experience, experience, experience. Bill Parcells had some rules for drafting QBs. A couple of them were: Be a 3-year starter and be a senior in college. The first gives you experience. The second is just an age thing that may indicate more personal maturity….which may indicate a greater chance of being able to manage adversity (like a highly critical coach like Parcells yelling at you for all of your mistakes even when you won the game). In Purdy’s case, he was FOUR YEAR STARTER and 23 when he came out of college (Lance was 20 turning 21 when when he was drafted). Alex Smith was only a 2 year starter and barely 21 when he was drafted. Smith was smart (had graduated and was working on his Masters when drafted) but was thrown to the wolves as an inexperienced rookie. He didn’t really didn’t figure things out for another 5-6 years and really flourished 8 years later under Andy Reid . I’d argue that Smith’s initial experiences hampered his development rate but did eventually build a foundation for being able to manage a game and the stress in a game.

      1. I’m glad I gave you the opportunity to bloviate. It’s a brain function. Does that make you feel better?

        1. as long as I get the chance to teach you something whether it’s football or neuro-anatomy; it’ll make my day.
          Seriously, just remember to use the term “intelligence” more specifically next time.

    2. Montana might not have looked like an pro athlete — remember Dwight Clark commenting on “the skinny dude he first saw in the locker room and realized that was the new quarterback” — but recall that Montana was multi-talented in every sport he played: he once pitched a no-hitter in a Little League championship game; he also received an invitation (scholarship?) to play basketball at Noter Dame.

      He was Joe Cool for a reason — the game slowed down for him.

  3. Jack, this is great analysis, as it has been all season. If the magic comes to an end Sunday, as so many on ESPN are constantly telling us — Marcus Spears says the Eagles are a “much better” team — so be it, I say. Who could have asked for a better, more exciting season than this one or a QB as surprising and unexpected as Brock Purdy?

  4. Great stuff Jack. Watched every play. I’ll say the O-line held up very well on most of these plays. If given time, Purdy is very dangerous. If you look at every drop back in the game, I think you’ll see the pass rush is on Purdy very quickly on many plays. On these successful plays, Purdy did have some time.

    On highlight 1, McGlinchey gets absolutely trucked. Pushed right into Purdy’s face. Good on Purdy not to bail too early. And what is Burford even doing on this play? He comes off an easy double team to block no one. Why not stay on that double team and pull off if a rusher comes into his zone?

    On highlight 4, CMC comes up to cut Parsons and then Parsons goes right around McGlinchey and still gets a hit on Purdy. 2 guys on Parsons and he still defeats both blocks. Damn.

    On every highlight, watch Trent Williams play football. He completely shuts out everyone he goes against including Parsons. To have that size combined with that level of agility, quickness, and balance is freakish. Williams really needs to be in the conversation as one of the top 5 OT’s of all time. Insane level of talent.

    1. I think Burford is looking at what the linebackers are doing. It’s a play action pass so he’s looking to see if the backers come down and bite on the play action and come into his hole. The backers don’t bite on the play action so he’s left looking around for someone to block.

      1. I think you are right about what Burford is doing but I think he should remain on that double team to help McGlinchey as long as possible and then move off when/if someone threatens his gap. Help with his right side/arm and leave his left open to move off and protect the A gap. To me it’s just very poor technique. If I’m guessing it seems as though Burford doesn’t trust his own agility so he cheats in order to prevent moving late to his block. Of course, we don’t know how he’s being coached so he may be doing exactly what he’s been told to do. I just really don’t like that blocking scheme if, in fact, Burford is doing the right thing on that play. Defender in the B gap and you’re expecting the RT to slide 3 feet down to pass pro against a really good D Tackle. That’s just flat out bad blocking scheme if that’s how it’s designed.

  5. I think we should put all the praise on KS for his brilliant maneuvering of the draft picks. Kyle has made everyone believe that Lance was THE QB while all the time he was scheming to move up Purdy as the real pick of the decade. They could have signed him as a FA but KS made sure he didn’t get away from the 9ers.
    He designed a play to take Lance out early and put an injury prone Jimmy in with the ultimate goal to get his man(Purdy) in the game. With a rookie Mr Irrelevant, KS had nothing to loose and would only gain sympathy and eventually admiration for his brilliant offense mind. After going through close to 10 QBs, Purdy brings home the QB-whisperer.
    Now that is mind over matter at the highest level!

  6. The 49ers have gotten away with starting slowly as far as their running game is concerned the last few games. I don’t believe they will be able to repeat that this week. They will need to run the ball effectively from the beginning of the game or they will be out of it by half time. I don’t see Bosa getting any more than one sack. I think he has been trying to keep the QB in the pocket while forcing him to step up. His lack of sacks are not because he has been less effective it has been the result of scheme.

  7. Omenihu will play this week while his legal issues play out. Just as it should, and the league agrees.

    If I’m Warner I’m making it a point to tell him:

    “You’re welcome to join us brother, but you better have a monster game to make up for the distraction you created this week.”

  8. I guess that means no Drake Jackson again. I hope an off season in a NFL weight room and a full year under Kocurek will bring out his best. Hopefully he is another Banks. Charles O. may need some serious counseling.

    1. The ineffectiveness of Javon Kinlaw is partially stunting Drake Jackson’s growth. They’re exchanging a guy on the outside for an extra body on the inside. I think this has less to do with Drake Jackson’s performance than it does either the lack of performance or pitch counts on the interior. Note that Armstead is really good on the inside but he also missed significant time this year and they just need bodies to take snaps along those two positions. Kinlaw has been a big miss so far from where we took him in the draft.

      As far as Omenihu or anyone else on the outside displacing Drake Jackson- well these guys in front of him at DE have been really good and have good experience. I don’t think it’s a knock on Jackson. He’s a rookie who is learning but still was highly effective in his limited role this year. I think he’ll do big things next year. Wish we had a more solid interior so we had the luxury to let him take a few snaps in the playoffs.

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