Brock Purdy: San Francisco 49ers' unflappable rookie quarterback looking to make Super Bowl history
The NFL playoffs continue on Sky Sports this Sunday, with the Conference Championship games to decide who goes through to Super Bowl LVII in Arizona; watch the San Francisco 49ers at the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, live on Sky Sports NFL from 8pm
Last Updated: 29/01/23 5:18pm
Sporting immortality awaits for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy.
Purdy, taken with the very last pick of the 2022 NFL Draft to see him earn the back-handed crown of 'Mr. Irrelevant', has been anything but irrelevant - as the cliché goes - this season and now stands just two wins away from becoming the first rookie QB to ever win the Super Bowl.
Purdy's ascent to this position has been nothing short of remarkable. The third-string quarterback to start the season in San Francisco, the unflappable 23-year-old came in during the first half of their Week 13 game with the Miami Dolphins after injury to Jimmy Garoppolo - who, himself, had subbed in for Trey Lance when he went down in Week Two - and with the team trailing 7-3 against a Dolphins outfit who had entered the contest off the back of five-straight wins.
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Purdy immediately led the Niners on a 54-yard scoring drive, capped with a touchdown pass to Kyle Juszczyk, and then added another 76-yard touchdown drive just before the half - this one ended with a scoring strike to Christian McCaffrey - to give San Francisco a lead they would not relinquish.
The former Iowa State college QB has not looked back since, leading the team on a remarkable, unbeaten 6-0 run as the starter in San Francisco, belying his draft report which labelled him as having just 'average arm strength', a 'laboured release' and 'confidence and consistency issues'.
Spanning his win streak, Purdy owns the highest passer rating in the NFL (116.0) this season, his 16 passing touchdowns to just four interceptions is also the league's best TD-INT ratio, while his average of 8.7 yards per attempt is second only to Miami QB Tua Tagovailoa (8.9).
But playoff football hits differently. Making Purdy's performances in back-to-back wins in his first career postseason starts all the more remarkable - especially given his jittery opening to the Super Wild Card clash against the Seattle Seahawks.
Rattled. Edgy. Nervous. These are not words that could be levelled at the rookie QB sensation this season - that is, until the first half of his playoff debut against the Seahawks.
Former NFL quarterback Chris Simms said on Pro Football Talk after the game: "Early on in the game, Brock Purdy missed some throws, to where you worried about him a little.
"He missed his very first throw, and he had a potential touchdown to Brandon Aiyuk where he was definitely late with the football. It wasn't sharp early on - he left some plays on the field."
Purdy's misfires contributed to the 49ers finding themselves in a 17-16 hole at half-time.
Purdy had shown flashes but hadn't really consistently pieced things together, at times looking a little frenetic in leading the offense - like you'd expect from a rookie seventh-round draft pick, in truth, let alone one making their playoff debut.
Purdy was 9-of-19 for 147 yards in the first half, with one routine TD toss to a wide-open McCaffrey to run in from the flat. But he exploded into life in the second half, truly announcing himself on the world stage, going 9-of-11 for 185 yards, with two further scoring strikes and a rushing TD as San Francisco romped to a massive 41-23 victory in the end.
Against the Dallas Cowboys in last Sunday's divisional-round clash, Purdy was more restrained, playing a little more within himself, completing 19 of 29 passes for a modest 214 yards and zero touchdowns.
But his mature performance was arguably even more impressive, with Dallas' defensive front repeatedly getting after him and proving to be the toughest test yet of his fledgling NFL career.
In a tight, cagey 19-12 game, turnovers were always going to be key, and ultimately it was Cowboys veteran QB Dak Prescott who coughed up two costly interceptions. Purdy played clean and picked up yet another win, passing yet another important milestone on his remarkable journey towards the Super Bowl.
It doesn't get any easier, however. The Philadelphia Eagles now await on Sunday - live on Sky Sports NFL, 8pm - as the 49ers head to Lincoln Financial Field to face the No 1 seed in the NFC… as well as the team's infamous, ferocious fan base.
"The Eagles are in a whole different world on the defensive side of the ball," Simms said this week. "Brock Purdy has been really good, we know that, but this is a great defense, a creative defense and one that is not really getting enough attention for how good it has played.
"Where I think this matchup is different to last week against the Cowboys, I got the sense in the game that it was a conservative game plan from the 49ers.
"They felt like they were better than the Cowboys and, as long as Micah Parsons or DeMarcus Lawrence didn't get a strip-sack fumble of Purdy, they knew they could win the game.
"They can't do that this week. Even if San Francisco's defense plays great, the Eagles are still going to score at least 20 points on offense."
There will be no greater test to this rookie quarterback's credentials. That said, Purdy has given us no reason to doubt that he can once again rise to such a challenge.
And if any team is capable of fighting fire with fire in Philadelphia against this Eagles juggernaut, it's Kyle Shanahan's squad.
The Niners ended the regular season as the NFL's No 1 ranked total defense, in terms of yards per game allowed (300.6), and in scoring, coughing up just 16.3 points per game on average.
They also boast a plethora of weapons on offense, with Purdy able to pick and choose from the likes of McCaffrey at running back - a mid-season steal via trade with the Carolina Panthers - as well as dual-threat receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle, the heartbeat of the team. All unquestionable superstars at their respective positions. It also doesn't hurt to have Trent Williams blocking for you at left tackle.
Not only that, but Shanahan - widely considered the current game's greatest offensive mind - is all the while scheming up new plays for those blue-chip players, his premier chess pieces… and, in Purdy, he seems to have finally found the ideal fit at QB to consistently and effectively deliver them the football.
Lance was supposed to be the guy, the Niners giving up a princely ransom of two first-round draft picks, and a third, for the right to select him at No 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Garoppolo, who had taken the team all the way to the Super Bowl in 2019, was seen to be too conservative, too limited as a playmaker.
Lance has been hugely unfortunate. Having sat his rookie season, he was named the starter heading into 2022 only to be sat down for the year with a devastating ankle injury in the second week of the season.
He might now never earn his spot back, with the fearless Purdy becoming the first rookie quarterback to win a playoff game since Russell Wilson with the Seahawks in 2012 - let alone two of them.
And all of this from a seventh-round draft pick, remember. Since the draft moved to seven rounds in 1994, no quarterback selected in the final round had ever so much as started a playoff game as a rookie, let alone win a pair of them - and play so impressively doing so.
Yet more NFL history is in his sights too. Purdy is just two wins away from becoming the first rookie quarterback to win the Super Bowl, one win from being the first to even appear in one. Rookie QBs currently own an 0-4 record in Conference Championship games when trying to secure a Super Bowl spot.
Sporting immortality indeed awaits for 'Mr. Irrelevant'.
The NFL playoffs continue this weekend with Championship Sunday. Watch both games live on Sky Sports NFL on Sunday night, with San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles kicking off from 8pm