It’s hard to take away a lot of good from the 49ers’ 25-22 overtime loss to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII. However, quarterback Brock Purdy’s performance gives some hope that San Francisco has a signal caller it can win a Super Bowl with.
Purdy finished Sunday’s game 23-of-38 for 255 yards and one touchdown with no turnovers. It was perhaps his cleanest game of the playoffs.
More important than that though was how Purdy and the 49ers offense adjusted throughout the game. He went 10-of-15 for 123 yards in the first half, helping San Francisco build a 10-3 lead.
Then things got sideways in the third quarter as a stingy Chiefs defense tightened the clamps after halftime. In that third quarter Kansas City loaded the box and forced the 49ers into an uncomfortable spot where they couldn’t lean on their run game.
Purdy in that third quarter was just 4-of-10 for 25 yards, with one of his completions accounting for 17 of the yards.
This is ultimately where an improvement from him will come into play. San Francisco can’t be in a spot where a team taking away the run completely stagnates their offense. Purdy making one or two more individually great plays to help loosen up the Chiefs’ defense might have been the difference in a lopsided third quarter that saw the Chiefs go from down 10-3 to up 13-10.
The reason there’s optimism that Purdy can grow into that type of player is how he responded in the fourth quarter and overtime.
After a dismal third quarter, Purdy bounced back by completing 5-of-7 throws in the fourth quarter for 57 yards and a touchdown. His 10-yard TD pass to wide receiver Jauan Jennings put San Francisco ahead 16-13 with 11:22 left. After Kansas City tied it at 16, Purdy led a drive that got the 49ers into field goal range and allowed them to take a 19-16 lead with 1:57 to go.
Then in overtime Purdy completed 4-of-6 tosses for 50 yards while getting the 49ers into field goal range again to take a 22-19 lead that would ultimately not hold up to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
So there are two sides to this coin.
There’s the short-term response that Purdy wasn’t good enough to make the plays to keep up with Mahomes. The 49ers needed touchdowns and they got field goals. They needed to not get shut out in the third quarter and they needed more from their QB to get do that. That’s all true and anyone who wants to lay some blame on Purdy for that is justified in doing so.
But then there’s the long-term view where Purdy, in his first year as a full-time starter and second year as an NFL QB, coming off of major elbow surgery that cost him his entire offseason, went 9-of-13 for 107 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter and overtime of his first Super Bowl. That gives plenty of optimism that there’s more growth ahead for the 49ers’ QB.
Since Purdy was the final pick in the 2022 draft and has defied all logic since he became San Francisco’s starter in Week 13 last season, there’s been some people waiting for the other shoe to drop. There’s been a wait for him to slip up and be exposed as a bad quarterback winning via smoke and mirrors.
That wasn’t the case in the biggest game of his life. He had one rough quarter and figured out a way to move the ball in the game’s highest-pressure moments. He wasn’t perfect. Surely there are plays and throws he wants back. But there were plenty of signs Sunday to suggest that there’s more growth ahead for Purdy and that this Super Bowl trip wasn’t the result of some magic spell that let an inept QB participate on the NFL’s biggest stage.
Perhaps that growth never comes and the 49ers in a couple years find themselves in the hunt for a QB once again. That will all play out in time though. Right now, immediately following Super Bowl LVIII, it appears the 49ers have a long-term answer at quarterback.