49ers’ Brock Purdy takes his turn in playoff rivalry with Packers

Cam Inman

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SANTA CLARA — A 49ers playoff game caught Brock Purdy’s eye as he had just finished his senior season at Iowa State and left town to prepare for the NFL Scouting Combine.

Two years later, he can still recall how the 49ers blocked a punt to spark their 13-10 comeback win over the No. 1-seeded Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

“We’ve watched a couple of plays from that game (this week), and just seeing the environment, playoff football, in Lambeau, with the snow, what a crazy game,” Purdy said Wednesday. “Just the history of these two organizations in the playoffs, it’s cool to say I get to play in that now.”

Only now it’ll be the top-seeded 49ers (12-5) hosting the upset-minded Packers (10-8) at Levi’s Stadium — without snow, but possibly in the rain — on Saturday night. The 49ers are seeking a third straight trip to the NFC Championship Game, and their second straight with Purdy.

San Francisco 49er’s Brock Purdy (13) runs during practice at Levi’s Stadium Practice facility in Santa Clara, Calif., on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)

Purdy’s NFL playoff initiation came last year. After just five regular-season starts as the injury replacement to Jimmy Garoppolo (and Trey Lance), Purdy produced wins over the Seattle Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium. Then came his elbow injury early in the NFC title game in Philadelphia to derail the 49ers’ Super Bowl hopes.

All those playoff experiences — from a distant observer in January 2022 to a red-hot rookie last year — have Purdy raring to enter a new realm yet understanding what will come in Saturday’s playoff return.

“Last year I was still trying to find my way in a sense,” Purdy said. “I got thrown in toward the end of the year. Every week I was trying to play good, learn who I was as a quarterback, and get familiar playing within the system. Those were things on my plate, and obviously to win every week and get this team to the end.”

Wins at home over the next two weekends will vault the 49ers into Super Bowl LVII.

“It’s good to watch the games from last year and remember just the feeling and the emotions of playing in a playoff game,” Purdy said. “It’s huge to me as a quarterback to go back to those moments and remember what it feels like. That’s what I’m banking on.”

In Purdy’s self-described “tense” playoff debut, he threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns, plus a rushing touchdown and no turnovers, as the 49ers beat Seattle 41-23 in the wild-card round. In the ensuing 19-12 win over the Dallas Cowboys, Purdy passed for 214 yards, including a 30-yarder to George Kittle that set up Christian McCaffrey’s go-ahead touchdown run.

Watching that playoff action from afar last year was Chase Young, a defensive end who Washington traded this past October to the 49ers.

“Brock’s that dude, man,” Young said Wednesday. “Probably the nicest guy in the locker room. Chillest guy. He just goes out there and throws that ball. He’s a confident guy. I feel most confident guys know how to keep their composure. That just comes naturally for him.”

Left tackle Trent Williams said it feels like yesterday he was putting his arm around Purdy and congratulating him on making the 2022 roster, after being drafted with the 262nd and final pick of that year’s draft.

“He surpassed my expectations then,” Williams said. “Qho would have thought he would have let us to the NFC Championship Game (last year). Who would have thought he’d have led us to the top seed with a chance to do what we all set out to do at the beginning of the year.”

Two weeks ago, as Purdy prepared to sit out the regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Rams, the 49ers arranged a one-on-one interview with him and Steve Young, the last 49ers quarterback to win a Super Bowl, back in the 1994 season, nearly five years before Purdy was born.

“To sit with him, I was very honored, and it was cool he asked some really good questions, not just the generic stuff,” Purdy said. “And afterward, being able to talk to him about ball, and the fact he has my back and supports me, it’s pretty cool, too.”

Everyone in the 49ers’ locker room has his back, too, to wrap up a remarkable year in which he recovered from elbow-ligament repair, set a 49ers’ single-season record with 4,280 passing yards, delivered a second straight NFC West title and the No. 1 seed, then secured the first Pro Bowl berth for a 49ers quarterback in 21 years.

“I’ve just seen someone who’s been the same guy since the day I met him: As competitive as ever, willing to learn all the time, great leader, and, one of the best players in the NFL,” McCaffrey said. “It’s just been cool to see how he’s taken all of the doubts and criticism that have gone his way and proved every single person wrong week in and week out. Lucky he’s on our team.”

JAUAN JENNINGS’ HEALTH

Wide receiver Jauan Jennings is cleared and excited to return, after sustaining a concussion last month on a third-quarter hit against Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker, on a play that resulted in an 18-yard run by McCaffrey to set up a touchdown in their 45-29 win. “It felt like a whiplash at first. I got on the plane and my head started throbbing,” said Jennings, who missed the past three games and went through an extensive workout with Purdy on the 49ers’ practice field before their Jan. 7 game against the Rams.

“It just means everything to me. I love the sport and I’m ready to give my all for the guys, just ready to do what we’ve been doing all year,” Jennings added.

WILLIAMS’ FUTURE GOAL

Williams dropped a big hint of how he won’t be retiring after this postseason. Having been selected to his 11th Pro Bowl, one more selection will break the record for most by an offensive tackle.

“Honestly, upon finding that out, I almost, I’m not an emotional guy, I didn’t cry or nothing so don’t go writing that, but it did take me back a little bit,” Williams said. “I remember just dreaming about making my first Pro Bowl and just thinking, ‘What do I have to do to get in that conversation?’ Now, fast forward, 11 years later, and I’m in my 11th straight Pro Bowl. It’s one of those moments, you’re looking so hard, you’re looking back and, `I accomplished all that.’ I want to break the tie, that’s a big thing for me.

“I definitely dropped to my knees and thanked God, because that’s not promised. You can have an amazing Hall of Fame career and still don’t see 11 Pro Bowls. I’m super proud of that.”

GRAY REMAINS ON IR

With Jennings and Ray-Ray McCloud (ribs) back in the lineup, the 49ers did not have an urgent need to activate Danny Gray, who will remain Injured Reserve and miss what would have been his second NFL season. Gray sustained a shoulder injury returning the opening kickoff of the 49ers’ preseason home opener against Denver.

ON RIGHT GUARD

Spencer Burford and Jon Feliciano could split time at right guard, according to Chris Foerster, the 49ers’ offensive line coach and run-game coordinator. “As for who starts, not sure,” Foerster said. “Could be a hot hand thing. Could be let one guy go for it. We have to have flexibility.” Felicano did not play in the regular-season finale because of a back issue and has been limited in practice.

PRACTICE REPORT



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Cam Inman www.montereyherald.com NFL,San Francisco 49ers,Sports

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2024-01-18 01:07:48 , Monterey Herald

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