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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy beats Dallas Cowboys 42-10 on Sunday night Shortly after the Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott was mentioned in the headlines. There is a purpose behind the provocation.
Purdy threw for four touchdowns against the Cowboys and was a better performer than Prescott by every measure.
The 49ers are 10-0 and have an 18-point winning average with Purdy on the court since last season, which has shifted the conversation from whether Purdy is good to just how good he is and what he could be. What kind of person will he become. As we all know, Purdy is the last player selected in the 2022 draft and could become another Joe Montana or Tom Brady.
The comparison to Prescott isn’t for hype, it’s because the first 10 games of Prescott’s Cowboys career were the closest thing to a fairy tale the NFL has ever seen, with the 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif. 5-0 at home. There are other significantly relevant points of comparison.
Seven years ago, Prescott went 9-1 as the Cowboys’ starter, a number nearly identical to Purdy’s performance in 10 starts.
At the time, analysts refused to give Prescott much credit because the circumstances surrounding him were so favorable. Dallas’ offense features four AP first-team All-Pro selections, including the NFL’s leading rusher. Purdy was also in a too-good-to-be-true situation, the perfect environment for him to succeed, but his achievements were discounted.
Before the analysis is complete, we’ll lay out what defensive coaches say Purdy does so well, what Purdy has yet to prove, and, with some NFL myth busting, why the 49ers can finish sixth this season Lombardi Trophy, even if the unproven part remains a question mark. First, we looked at Purdy’s closest 10 games through 10 starts.
Purdy vs. Prescott: First 10 starts
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The Cowboys selected Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 draft after trying (and failing) to trade in the first round for another quarterback, Paxton Lynch, who had a failed career. .
The 49ers successfully traded for quarterback Trey Lance, who has the third overall pick in the 2021 draft. The move backfired, almost accidentally leading them to Purdy.
While both teams were lucky to find the right fit, both quarterbacks were blessed with favorable circumstances.
Purdy and Prescott’s performances through 10 games were similar down to the last detail. Since 2000, only two-time MVP Patrick Mahomes has averaged more EPA per pass attempt than Purdy and Prescott in 10 starts, according to TruMedia.
Purdy’s evaluation often draws on 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan’s expert play-calling and play-calling, as well as offensive teammates Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle George Kittle and Deebo Samuel. San Francisco’s strong defense gives Purdy an extra edge that Prescott didn’t have early in his career.
Prescott has three All-Pro offensive linemen and the NFL’s leading rusher in Ezekiel Elliott through his first 10 starts, while inviting veteran target receivers. Dez Bryant) and tight end (Jason Witten).
What NFL coaches and executives said about Prescott during his 9-1 start also reflects some of the conversation surrounding Purdy now.
“We all probably underestimated the intangibles,” one executive said of Prescott in October 2016. “But another factor is the team he’s on and the way they play and the people around him — the offensive line, his tight ends and receivers and the way they run the ball. All of that makes this place his. Perfect spot. That doesn’t take away from what he did.”
What is Purdy good at?
Defensive coaches view Purdy as a quarterback who can find open receivers quickly because of his ability to advance quickly. They praised Shanahan for scheming in the open man as much as anyone, providing Purdy with an open target on most plays. They praised Purdy for making good decisions quickly most of the time, handling snaps and switches and reading the defense better than his predecessor, Jimmy Garoppolo.
“Brock knows how to read things and he can make moves quickly,” one opposing coach said. “Against Pittsburgh, Kyle hit a Cover 2 hitter and Bullock saw the safety start and he didn’t even look at the Cover 2 hitter over there. He put it in McCaffrey’s hands Now. That’s why Purdy is a perfect fit for what Kyle wants to do, and with the skill sets they possess, it’s an effective combination. “
Opposing coaches cited examples like these, crediting Purdy with helping expand Shanahan’s playbook, leading to some more aggressive calls. Still, teams tend to run more in neutral situations — early slumps, early in games — with Purdy behind center than when Garoppolo is on the floor. With Matt Schaub (Houston) and Matt Ryan (Atlanta) at quarterback, Shanahan is most inclined to pass the ball.
By NFL standards, Purdy is nothing spectacular from a physical standpoint. He’s proven that knowing how to play the position (46 starts at Iowa State), being able to process information quickly and possessing enough accuracy can allow less physically gifted players to shine in favorable situations. Purdy’s quick decision-making allows him to throw with anticipation, which helps when arm strength is lacking.
Purdy isn’t simply completing short passes to teammates who do most of the work. While the 49ers’ receivers have excelled with the ball in their hands, Purdy ranks 21st among 33 qualifying quarterbacks in yards after the catch as a percentage of passing yards. His air yards per attempt were near average.
Purdy leads the league in EPA per pass attempt and 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He completed 18 of his 26 longest passes (69 percent) with four touchdowns and no interceptions. By Week 5, no one of the other 32 eligible passers had completed more deep passes or at a higher percentage than Purdy. Purdy did most of those (12) without a punt, and the 49ers used the punt at a league-average rate.
“When you watch this kid play now, you can’t deny that he’s playing really well,” said one defensive coach who has played against Purdy this season. “He’s better than you think, probably an upgrade from Garoppolo, and coach Kyle Shanahan does a great job calling plays and keeping him out of bad situations.”
The chart above, created by Arjun Menon of Pro Football Focus, shows that the 49ers’ offense led the league in passing percentage by a wide margin when opposing defenses clearly made coverage mistakes. This likely reflects San Francisco’s superior offensive design, resulting in extended coverage of opponents and open receivers.
“Kyle does a really good job of stretching fourth and quarter-and-a-half coverage so that Purdy can throw the ball on time,” one defensive coach said. “You’ll see Purdy, he Will crow jump, he’ll pass the ball. “It’s not always pretty, but there’s a lot of setup. “
What hasn’t Pudi come yet?
Partly because of how well Purdy played, but also because San Francisco was so good overall, Purdy attempted just five passes all season and the 49ers trailed on the scoreboard. Kirk Cousins, the Minnesota Vikings quarterback Shanahan tried to acquire from Washington years ago, attempted 161 passes while trailing.
The huge disparity — Purdy completed 3.7 percent of his passes when trailed, while Cousins completed 79 percent of his passes — reflects the different levels of difficulty for two players who have been similarly graded by Pro Football Focus this season.
“Garoppolo was great until he had to come from behind,” one defensive coordinator said. “When he has to throw, people can throw to him and mix coverage and the running game isn’t a factor in the way he throws, and then all of a sudden, ‘Oh,'” (On Purdy’s situation in this area ) has yet to be determined. “
Purdy’s limited experience leading two-minute drives in the fourth quarter was another reason some weren’t entirely supportive.
“Purdy can handle all the moves and transitions — that’s what he does,” one defensive coach said. “He only shoots the ball through the window when he has to get it. In last year’s playoffs, Dallas moved him out of position and he couldn’t just shoot the ball through the window. He made Good decisions, throwing the ball away and shooting, that’s how they beat Dallas (19-12). “That’s the closest anyone’s ever played against him. “
Last season, Purdy and the 49ers drove 52 yards in seven plays in the final 1:11 of regulation to tie the score with the Las Vegas Raiders but missed a field goal attempt. Purdy had leading touchdowns at halftime against Miami and Tampa Bay last season and against Arizona this season.
“When he gets into pure two minutes, it’s going to be fun to see him because of the arm strength,” another defensive coach said. “That’s average at best, he has to be able to move upfield to get the ball downfield. See if he can get the ball downfield with defenders holding his ears back and going to stop him.” It’ll be fun because there aren’t a lot of opportunities like this right now.”
Why the 49ers can win it all no matter what
Two years ago, I wrote about the myth of winning games, which noted that teams that trail in regulation have a poor winning percentage regardless of who plays quarterback.
The last 10 Super Bowl champions played a combined 33 playoff games during their respective championship seasons.
In those 33 games, the eventual Super Bowl champions never took over the ball when a touchdown was needed in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter (down 4-8).
In those 33 games, the eventual Super Bowl champions never took over the ball when a field goal was needed in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter (down 3-1).
In those 33 games, only three times did the eventual Super Bowl champion take over the game in the final seven minutes of regulation while needing a touchdown to tie or take the lead.
Only four times in those 33 games did the eventual Super Bowl champions take over possession when tying the score in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter (these teams made two field goals in those four opportunities).
This has happened to teams that lost the Super Bowl. These include Brady’s New England Patriots against Philadelphia in 2017, Garoppolo’s 49ers against Kansas City in 2019, and Joe Burrow’s Cincinnati Bengals against the Rams in 2021. Even for Brady and Burrow, the odds are low.
That history suggests the 49ers may not need Purdy to further prove himself in two-minute situations to clinch their sixth Super Bowl victory in franchise history. San Francisco is more likely to find itself trailing early in games, which will present a challenge that Purdy’s 49ers rarely face, but with less urgency than falling behind late in the game.
If the 49ers make the playoffs under Purdy and lose games, it will likely be because they face a better team. There’s a good chance the team has a better quarterback — Patrick Mahomes comes to mind. No one is saying Purdy belongs with Mahomes and others among the NFL’s top quarterbacks, but he’s shown enough to escape the line between Level 3 and Level 4, according to 50 coaches and evaluators Put him in a position this season that most people believe simply won’t have enough evidence to make any evaluation.
“Yeah, in most situations, he’s probably a Tier 3 player, but now, in this situation, he’s acting like a Tier 2 player,” one defensive coordinator said. “If you play like the 2nd tier, you’re the 2nd tier. Will Jalen hurt the 1.5 tier without AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert? “Probably not. “
(Photo: Mark Owens/Getty Images)
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