49ers should not let off the gas now

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) rushes the ball in the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

The San Francisco 49ers head into the final week of the regular season with at least one home playoff game secured.

A win on Sunday against Arizona would guarantee the 49ers the second seed in the NFC, assuring them of a home game if they were to advance out of the Wild Card round.

The 49ers also have an outside shot earning home field advantage and a first-round bye. For this to happen the 49ers must defeat Arizona and the New York Giants must defeat Philadelphia.

With the playoffs looming the question on everyone’s mind is whether San Francisco should rest its players this week.

The correct answer is no, this is not the time to let off the gas.

San Francisco has reached this point by winning nine in a row following a 3-4 start. All year long they have kept their sights focused on taking it one game at a time. This is not the time to start looking forward.

As Kyle Shanahan said last week when asked about this, “It’s really hard just to put people on hold in football and expect you’ll be the same team or definitely expect you’ll be better.”

Brock Purdy is a perfect example of this. The rookie quarterback has played well over the last five weeks, but he needs as many snaps as possible to get ready for the playoffs.

“We’re not going to risk guys who we think are putting a lot of risk to how their bodies are at now,” said Shanahan. “I think it’s a big risk to have guys who have been going and playing football at a high level just to tell them don’t play for three weeks, and then make sure you play at that high level for three and a half hours when everything’s on the line, so we’re just balancing that out and we’ll see how it continues.”

Some players who fall into the risk category are Deebo Samuel, Elijah Mitchell and Christian McCaffrey.

Samuel and Mitchell are working their way back from injuries. If they can go, they should be active and get a few plays to get back into the flow of the game. Having these two would allow the 49ers to sit McCaffrey, if necessary, without debilitating the offense.

On the defensive side of the ball the only question marks are Dre Greenlaw, and Kevin Givens.

Greenlaw is dealing with a back injury suffered on Sunday. He has missed the first two practices this week. It makes sense to keep him off the field. As for Givens, he’s missed a few games but has returned to practice in a limited fashion this week. Just like with Samuel and Mitchell, he should be on the field for a few snaps Sunday to get back into the flow.

Brock Purdy’s wheels: Seeing Brock Purdy escape onrushing defenders has become somewhat common since he took over.

How’s he doing it? One explanation is his quickness.

Although Purdy’s 40-yard dash time at the scouting combine was only 4.84, his 10-yard split was 1.55. For reference, that time is the same as 49ers teammate Christian McCaffrey and faster than either Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen.

Short area quickness is extremely important in football. Think about it, how often do you see players running 40 yards in a straight line?

Injury Report: Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell were full participants for the second day in a row as they return from injury.

Left guard Aaron Banks (ankle, knee), linebacker Dre Greenlaw (back), defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (illness, knee), running back Christian McCaffrey (ankle, knee) missed practice for the second consecutive day while cornerback Ambry Thomas (ankle) was out after being a limited participant on Wednesday.

Defensive tackle Kevin Givens returned to practice on Thursday for the first time since injuring his knee against Tampa Bay on December 11. Givens was a limited participant as was defensive tackle Arik Armstead (foot/ankle).

This article has 16 Comments

  1. Purdy’s splits explain quite a bit. He probably won’t break any long runs a la S. Young or Kaep but he is very good at keeping the chains moving with gains of 15 yards or less. Since the preseason he has reminded me of Montana when it came to his ability to use his legs to pick up first downs. In fact I believe that Montana’s 40 time was also in the 4.8 range. I also think the 9ers have to go all out to win this week but if Minn falls well behind or if the 9ers get a good early lead I hope KS goes liberally to the bench and gets Purdy, CMC, Williams, Bosa and a few others out of the game.

    1. Good call Coach. I see the similarities to Joe’s game as well. Pocket awareness, good feet, quick in small spaces. Also he places the ball very well for YAC. On time, in stride.
      Sit CMC this week, play Deebo, Mitchel and & Mason. Bosa on a snap count.

  2. Normally I would say rest some of them. But no. I know Brock Purdy has been doing great, but he has never until now been in this playoff situation where teams are vying for a playoff spot. Therefore defences will be more dangerous for the inexperiened Brock. He needs all his skill players to take some of the pressure off of him and hope the lousy injury bug doesn’t hit us at the most important critical time. Now is not the time to be sitting players. Keep the foot on the brakes because other teams are doing the same thing. GO, NINERS!!

  3. The 49ers are facing an interesting dilemma. More or less this is a must win game that will determine how difficult the path to the Superbowl will be in the playoffs. Even though the Cardinals have a poor record, they are an NFL team full of NFL players and they can beat the 49ers. To me, you hit this game with everything you’ve got and then hopefully rest guys if the opportunity comes up. I would play Bosa & McCaffery as few plays as possible in this game but you still play to win. The Cardinals also have an interesting dilemma. A win could drop them as low as the 6th pick but a loss and a few other things happen and the Cardinals could have up to the 2nd pick in the draft. Maybe that’s not enough motivation for the Cardinals to tank but it is something to keep an eye on during the game – Are the Cardinals intentionally playing to lose?

    1. Normally I would say seeding is extremely important but this team has shown an innate ability to drown out the noise and play well on the road. So I don’t think seeding is as important to the 49ers as it is to teams like Philly, Minnesota, etc.

      I think more important than anything is how well you’re playing entering the playoffs and we have quite the win streak going. If we lose a game because we didn’t give it our all against a bottom dweller (Arizona) it’s only going to serve as a good wake up call for the team heading into the playoffs.

      That said any experience you can get for Brock Purdy is essential. He’s had so little career playing time heading into the playoffs that any and all looks are important for his development

      1. Totally agree with that Felix. Players must play or injuries happen. But if KK calls dives up the middle on 3rd & 8 then you know whats up. Coaches know which plays work and which plays dont work. On defense, Cards could go 4/4 and blitz the safeties leaving the CBs 1v1 on the edges. Kingsbury could easily tank the game with all of his players putting out max effort on every play.

  4. One thing seems clear: Purdy has won over most if not all, of those close to the team, including media, TX commentators, coaches, and many players if not all. Hard to see him as anything other than the presumed starter heading into 2023. Of course, a solid showing in the playoffs would seal it.

  5. I like the stat on the 10 yard split. I’ve always thought being quick for a QB is better than being fast. Kap was fast once he got into the open field but he was the opposite of being quick in mind and body, as evidenced by his sacks. Purdy just keeps on impressing. One could say that the Niners got lucky getting him at the end of the 7th, but if it’s about luck, they sure have had a lot of luck in the drafts. Maybe they are just better evaluators than the other 31 teams.

  6. I believe that there are 4 players that the 49ers absolutely can not win without in the playoffs. Bosa, Purdy,(unless JG can return fully healthy as his back up) Williams and CMC. There are other players who are extremely important but the team can squeak by without them. The 9ers need to keep those 4 healthy this week and throughout the playoffs. C. Ward might be a 5th name.

    1. You mean seemingly destined to make the SB but falling short? I see us more like the 2019 club, getting there but losing to KC again.

  7. If the question is, should the 9ers play to win week 18?
    Then the answer is simple. Why would the 9ers want to play on the road, where they could be playing in a foot
    or two of snow and 20 – 30 degrees below zero?
    All the playoff games the 9ers can play at Levi, sounds good to me!

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