Check off another box for rookie quarterback Brock Purdy.
Maybe at some point Purdy will have a bad game and the San Francisco 49ers will lose, but it wasn’t in his first career playoff start. Purdy passed yet another test by helping guide the 49ers through a more competitive wild-card playoff game than expected against the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks led at halftime but the 49ers blew them out in the second half for a 41-23 win.
The knockout blow, after a fumble by Geno Smith changed the momentum, was Purdy scrambling around and buying time before finding running back Elijah Mitchell wide open for a 7-yard score. The 49ers moved on to the divisional round with a huge second-half performance.
Purdy is the first rookie quarterback to start in a playoff win since Russell Wilson did it 10 years ago. Before Saturday, Wilson, T.J. Yates and Shaun King were the only rookie quarterbacks drafted outside of the first round to start in a playoff win. Purdy became the lowest-drafted quarterback to start a playoff game. Now he’s the lowest-drafted quarterback with a playoff win. He’s also the first rookie quarterback with four total touchdowns in a playoff game, according to Fox.
Purdy wasn’t the biggest reason the 49ers won. Deebo Samuel made several huge plays when it seemed he was hemmed in my the Seahawks defense, including a 74-yard touchdown to put the game away. Christian McCaffrey was excellent, as usual. San Francisco’s defense gave up some plays but also did enough to turn the game around. Purdy just had to do his job and once again, he did it well.
Purdy had 332 yards, three touchdowns (and a fourth was dropped by Brandon Aiyuk on a beautiful throw from Purdy), no interceptions and a 131.5 passer rating. Purdy also had a quarterback sneak for a touchdown. While Purdy got a lot of help from his talented teammates and a great scheme, the 49ers weren’t trying to hide him in his first playoff game.
The 49ers’ rookie quarterback, who was the last pick of the draft and barely won a roster spot as the 49ers’ third quarterback, now finds himself two wins from the Super Bowl. This incredible story isn’t going away.
49ers fall behind at halftime
The 49ers took a quick 10-0 lead. Their first two drives were easy. They got a field goal out of the first one, then a 68-yard run by Christian McCaffrey started the second one. McCaffrey scored on a 3-yard touchdown catch to end that drive.
The Seahawks looked overmatched in the two regular-season meetings against the 49ers and Saturday’s game started the same way. It looked like it could get very ugly for Seattle.
Then the Seahawks started to move the ball. Kenneth Walker III scored on a touchdown run. Geno Smith found DK Metcalf deep downfield for a 50-yard touchdown catch. All of a sudden the Seahawks led.
Seattle gave up a field goal late in the first half, but San Francisco had an inexplicable mistake with one second left in the second quarter. Defensive back Jimmie Ward blasted Smith when the Seahawks’ quarterback was well into his slide, drawing a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. The Seahawks hit a 56-yard field goal on the last play of the half for a 17-16 lead.
The 49ers had been wrecking everyone for weeks. Seattle was included in their carnage. But in the first half, the Seahawks showed they weren’t going to back down. For almost any other team starting a rookie at quarterback, it would have been a daunting moment.
Brock Purdy leads a rally
One play in the second half turned the game around. The 49ers scored to take a 23-17 lead but the Seahawks drove right back downfield afterward and were in the red zone. Then defensive end Charles Omenihu got his hand on the ball as Smith held it too low in the pocket. Smith fumbled and 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa jumped on the loose ball.
The 49ers went on a long drive after that, relying mostly on McCaffrey. Purdy ended the drive by scrambling around and finding Mitchell wide open for a touchdown. Seattle had battled hard but a 31-17 deficit seemed like too much to overcome. It got out of hand when Samuel took a short pass and burst past the Seahawks’ defense for the 74-yard score.
It was the kind of game in which a rookie quarterback could have wilted. The Seahawks looked like they could pull off the upset. The 49ers seemed out of sync in the first half and Purdy missed a few passes. Then the 49ers calmed down and carved up the Seahawks. They looked like a Super Bowl favorite.
A rookie quarterback has never started a Super Bowl. On Saturday, it looked like Purdy and the 49ers might be able to check off that box, too.