Brock Purdy Super Bowl Preview: 49ers Star Is No System QB

Brock Purdy Super Bowl Preview: 49ers Star Is No System QB article feature image

Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images. Pictured: Brock Purdy.

According to The Athletic, one NFL team’s scouting report for Brock Purdy in the pre-draft evaluation process said “no interest.” Purdy “did not test well” and was a “limited athlete that [had] a maxed out body.” He was also criticized for having a “limited arm, both in strength and throw repertoire.”

NFL Draft analyst Lance Zierlein called Purdy a “burly pocket quarterback” who “shies away from tight-window throws” and “lacks timing to beat NFL corners outside the numbers.” Purdy’s experience was a positive, though, since he had 48 college starts under his belt at Iowa State, but nobody was projecting him as an NFL starter.

And yet, here we are. Mr. Irrelevant has led the 49ers back to the Super Bowl. On Sunday, he can become the second-youngest starting quarterback ever to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

The discourse around Purdy is fascinating. The clichés have been beaten to death – he’s been called a system quarterback, game manager and anything of the like. There’s also real vitriol from media personalities, especially former players (cough Cam Newton cough) who have taken issue with Purdy.

With Purdy being the most efficient quarterback in the NFL this season, according to several key metrics, critics are quick to point out that his responsibility is less in San Francisco than it would be with other teams. However, you don’t lead the NFL in adjusted EPA/play, success rate, yards per attempt and passer rating – among other things – by accident.

In this year’s playoffs, Purdy has found himself in uncharted waters with the 49ers trailing at home against the Packers and Lions in need of a second-half comeback. Purdy handled both situations with aplomb, and he deserves a tremendous amount of credit.

Let’s disprove some of the biggest myths about Purdy and dive into some of the plays that highlight how he has delivered all season when the lights are brightest.

Purdy Under Pressure

You’ll hear about a common narrative leading up to the Super Bowl, how all you need to do to beat Purdy is put pressure on him. However, that’s not true according to several advanced metrics:

Purdy with a clean pocket

• 125.4 passer rating (first)
• 10.4 yards per attempt (first)
• 76.7% completion rate (second)

Purdy under pressure

• 90.2 passer rating (fifth)
• 8.2 yards per attempt (third)
• 55.8% completion rate (second)

There’s certainly some drop-off when he’s under pressure, as is true for any quarterback, but those numbers are still elite. In fact, his 8.2 yards per attempt under pressure would rank third out of 39 qualified quarterbacks this season.

Even when isolating Purdy’s production under pressure, you’re still left with the profile of one of the best passers in the league.

Purdy has played extremely well this season, and you can back him with our PrizePicks promo code.

Let’s take a look at a couple of plays that highlight some of Purdy’s brilliance when under duress.

First, from the 49ers’ Divisional Round win over the Packers. It’s 3rd-and-10 with 11:20 left in the fourth quarter and San Francisco trailing by four. The 49ers are in desperate need of a big play to keep the drive moving, and Purdy delivers:

The 49ers are lined up with three receivers to the right side of the line. Brandon Aiyuk runs a go route while Jauan Jennings and Ray-Ray McCloud III are sent on in-breaking routes over the middle. Christian McCaffrey stays in to chip Rashan Gary before leaking out as Gary had been giving right tackle Colton McKivitz fits all day.

However, the play collapses on the other side of the line as Preston Smith beats George Kittle and then Trent Williams. Smith’s pressure forces Purdy to get rid of the ball before his receiver is truly open. When he releases the pass, four white jerseys over the middle of the field could make a play on the ball.

Purdy did what he does best, though: He anticipates. The pass is threaded perfectly between two defenders. Too high or too low, and this is an interception that gives Green Bay the ball around midfield. Instead, he puts the ball where only Jennings can get it, and it’s a huge third-down conversion for San Francisco.

Purdy’s Deep Ball

One of the most common refrains that you’ll hear about Purdy is that he’s a check-down merchant who relies on his receivers producing yards after the catch (YAC) to generate big plays. In some ways, this is true since he does lead the NFL with 6.7 YAC per completion. Deebo Samuel headlines a group of elite playmakers after the catch that Purdy relies on.

However, Purdy also ranks second in the NFL in completed air yards per attempt, which measures the number of yards the ball traveled past the line of scrimmage before being completed. He was the NFL’s best deep ball passer, according to Pro Football Focus, with a 99.9 grade and 11 touchdowns to one interception.

The following is a great example of Purdy’s elite deep ball ability. It’s 2nd-and-inches in the third quarter against the Jaguars, who call an aggressive blitz. The pocket collapses, but Purdy never panics. He recognizes that Kittle has a one-on-one opportunity at the top of the screen.

Purdy demonstrates exceptional patience on this play as he initially pump fakes despite feeling pressure in his face. If he threw the ball at that point, it likely would have been incomplete, so he waits an extra beat to make sure Kittle has the step on his defender. The result is a 66-yard touchdown.

Sports betting is coming to the Tar Heel State! Stay up to date on the latest news about BetMGM North Carolina.

One of my favorite Purdy throws of the season came in Week 17 against the Commanders. Washington had a terrible pass defense this season, but rookie cornerback Emmanuel Forbes Jr. actually has excellent coverage on Aiyuk on the boundary on this play. However, Purdy reads the field extremely well and anticipates Aiyuk’s ability to get open.

Washington’s free safety over the top has eyes on Samuel, and by the time Purdy releases the pass, it’s too late for him to make an impact on the play. Purdy hits Aiyuk in stride about 30 yards downfield, and it’s a huge play that leads to a touchdown.

On the Move

One of Purdy’s best attributes is his ability to extend plays with his legs and buy his receivers time to get open down the field. He has great chemistry with his pass-catchers, which has resulted in some incredible improvisational plays throughout the season.

Purdy had several impressive throws in Week 8 against the Bengals, but my favorite was on this 3rd-and-5 play below. The 49ers trailed 24-10 with just under nine minutes left in the game and needed a big play to stay alive. Purdy was flushed out of the pocket by Pro Bowl defensive end Trey Hendrickson, but he didn’t give up on the play.

Kittle was watching Purdy the whole time, trying to make himself available, and Purdy had ultimate trust in his receiver as he made a risky cross-body throw while on the move. Most coaches would agonize over this type of play, but head coach Kyle Shanahan appears to have full trust in his quarterback, who seems to pull off one cross-body throw like this one a week.

Purdy similarly pulled a rabbit out of his hat in the NFC Championship against the Lions.

With 2:01 left in the third quarter, it’s a tie game and 1st-and-10 for the 49ers. Detroit sends a delayed blitz, and McCaffrey whiffs on his blocking assignment of safety Ifeatu Melifonwu. Purdy is dead to rights in the backfield as a result, but he somehow shakes off Melifonwu, evades the pocket and finds Kyle Juszczyk open for the first down.

Shanahan had high praise for Purdy when asked about the play: “I mean, I’m getting my call ready for like 2nd-and-20 because there’s no play there. … The guy just makes plays when they’re not there. He does it more than any quarterback I’ve had.”

Looking for a new sportsbook? Check out our comprehensive list of sportsbook reviews and get started today!

Confidence is arguably the most important trait a quarterback can have. Shanahan has done an excellent job of instilling confidence in Purdy, and it’s on display every time he executes under pressure, hits a receiver in stride deep downfield or improvises with a big-time throw on the move.

In the biggest game of Purdy’s life, that confidence will be put to the test against a Steve Spagnuolo-led Chiefs defense that will blitz him relentlessly and attempt to force him into mistakes.

Purdy has quieted all of the doubters as he’s returned from a UCL tear and evolved into one of the most productive quarterbacks in the NFL. Now, the former Mr. Irrelevant has the opportunity to cement his legacy by leading the 49ers to their first Super Bowl win since 1995.

How would you rate this article?

This site contains commercial content. We may be compensated for the links provided on this page. The content on this page is for informational purposes only. Action Network makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information given or the outcome of any game or event.