49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy got a win in his first playoff start, and bounced back from a rough first half to finish the game with three touchdown passes and 332 yards through the air. There were a handful of plays in the wild card game against Seattle that won’t likely work against a Cowboys pass rush that Purdy calls one of the 49ers’ biggest challenges of the year. How he adjusts on some of those plays will be crucial for San Francisco’s offense Sunday.
One of Purdy’s biggest strengths in his brief stint as the 49ers’ starting quarterback has been his ability to evade pass rushers, move around in the pocket, and remove some of the negative plays that put San Francisco behind the sticks.
There were multiple instances against the Seahawks where Purdy, when pressured from his blind side, spun out to his left to roll toward that sideline. When he did that he had to flip his feet to get in a throwing position so he could get rid of the ball instead of taking a sack. That’s unlikley to work against a Dallas defense that prides itself on its pass rush.
“Yeah, I feel like they’re just talented across the board, up front,” Purdy told reporters Thursday. “I think they’re well coached, you can tell with their scheme and everything that they do, there’s definitely a plan that they have and they go at it and all five of their guys, four of their guys, whoever’s on the field, they pay attention to detail in the pass rush, which I feel like is a good challenge for us. I feel like we’ve played a handful of teams that, do a good job and are well coached up front, but these guys are probably one of the best at it and it will be one of the best challenges that we’ve seen.”
Purdy’s spin left worked against Seattle’s pass rush, which doesn’t have nearly the talent Dallas’ has. He was able to twist and run away from a 35-year-old veteran like Bruce Irvin. That’s unlikely to be the case against a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Micah Parsons, or Dorance Armstrong, or DeMarcus Lawrence – all of whom had 6.0 or more sacks this season.
While the 49ers’ offensive line can help some, Purdy has to make sure he’s stepping up through the pocket when possible or moving out to his right. Head coach Kyle Shanahan can help with some screens or short throws to get the ball out of Purdy’s hands.
Ultimately it’ll be up to the QB though. He has to move effectively in the pocket and get rid of the ball early when players come open, even if it means foregoing a deeper throw that may open up.
If Purdy can learn from his wild card experience and eliminate some of those plays where he bails out of the pocket to his left, he should put up another strong performance against the best defense he’s faced this year.