49ers QB Brock Purdy faces 'biggest challenge yet' in Eagles' defense
Eagles defenders hungry to hand Purdy toughest task yet originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
As just the second rookie to make it to the NFC Championship Game and fifth to fight for a conference title in NFL history, it's safe to say 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy has exceeded expectations since he became the team's starter.
And the Philadelphia Eagles, who the 49ers will face in Sunday's title game at Lincoln Financial Field, have plenty of respect for the 23-year-old -- but they hope to disrupt the rookie's poise that has gotten him this far come game time.
"You definitely want to try to confuse him, as far as the disguises with the safeties and whatnot," Eagles cornerback James Bradberry told reporters Wednesday. "I think after that, you've just got to attack him with the pass rush, get after him, make sure you get hands on him at all times."
Purdy has excelled since coming in for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 13 by getting the ball out quickly to top playmakers like Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey and Brandon Aiyuk. And when those would-be moments have fallen apart in games, the rookie's ability to scramble and create off-schedule plays all while taking care of the ball has made him a force to be reckoned with, despite his status as Mr. Irrelevant.
And Philadelphia is assessing its young opponent with a wary, but confident, gaze. The team holds a home-field advantage Sunday it hopes can stifle San Francisco's explosive offense, with the Linc owning quite a reputation for rowdy crowd noise.
"I mean watching film, I think [the 49ers] execute the way they want [Purdy] to execute," defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said Wednesday, before addressing how he thinks Purdy will handle the Linc's hostile environment.
"That's up to him ... At the end of the day, he's got to handle it the way he wants to handle it, but we're definitely going to make it tough."
Eagles defenders this week have made that much clear -- Purdy possesses a skill set that makes his success so far understandable (Suh added that the Eagles have their work cut out for them against the rookie), but they believe he hasn't faced anything like what Philadelphia will bring to the field Sunday.
"To be a rookie, to play in these big games and not really mess it up, it's pretty good, man. Real good," defensive tackle Linval Joseph said. "... We'll see, man. I know [Sunday is] going to be fun. I know it's going to be loud, I know it's going to be his biggest challenge yet, so I can't wait to see what happens."
Purdy started only five games during the regular season but did enough to be named a finalist for the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award, with the announcement coming Wednesday after the quarterback already had secured his first two career playoff victories over the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys. Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat said Wednesday he hasn't seen too much of Purdy's play this year, but from what he has seen, he knows Philadelphia can't underestimate the rookie.
"I watched a little bit today, and he's making it happen," Sweat said of Purdy. "He's making the plays that he needs to. And I mean, we can't look at him as a rookie. We've got to look at him as a playmaker, the guy that's getting it done for them. He's helping them out a lot, so you can't look at him like a rookie."
As the last pick of the 2022 NFL Draft at No. 262, Purdy's rise to stardom has been unprecedented. If there's anyone who knows about being underrated and overlooked, it's Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards, who Philadelphia signed as an undrafted free agent in 2019.
"I know about people pegging people as certain things in terms of draft and all that, so [Purdy has] shown really well that he's capable of winning big-time games," Edwards said Thursday. "He extends plays while he's making the right decisions. He's got a great offense with him to manage that as well, so he's done all the right decisions so far."
RELATED: Shanahan's anecdote on Purdy sums up 49ers' rookie philosophy
Purdy faced deafening crowd noise once this season, on the road against the Seahawks in Week 15 at Lumen Field, and walked away with a 21-13 win. And last weekend against the Cowboys, he got his first taste of an elite pass rush with Micah Parsons in his face just in time to face the Eagles in the next playoff round.
But the Philadelphia defense certainly is correct in stating Sunday at the Linc will be Purdy's toughest challenge yet -- though that seems to be the case every week for the rookie, who has passed each test thrown at him with flying colors.
And with a Super Bowl appearance on the line against the NFC's No. 1 seed, Purdy will need ice in his veins now more than ever.
Download and follow the 49ers Talk Podcast