A fiery defense, multiple offensive players who can create explosive plays, and a young rookie quarterback who stands out as the finest story in the NFL this season. All the ingredients for the 49ers to make a lot of noise in the playoffs are in place, and their message was tough in a stunning 41-23 win over the Seahawks.
• Also read: Historic comeback for the Jaguars
If there was any pre-game fear of a possible rift within the Niners, it was 23-year-old Brock Purdy, who was selected in the seventh round and played his first career playoff game.
By then, the quarterbacks were tied 12-35 in their first playoff start since 2000.
Purdy took it upon himself to take those stats and throw them out of the ballpark in style. He finished the game with 332 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a rushing touchdown.
The very last pick of the recent draft was the first rookie center of the Super Bowl era to throw at least one touchdown pass and run for another touchdown in his first playoff start of his career. He also became the youngest quarterback in history to throw at least two touchdown passes in the playoffs.
Honestly, Purdy is impressive. Not only does he make rational decisions, but he is also able to lengthen plays by moving very well. It’s all the difference with the static side of his predecessor as a starter, Jimmy Garoppolo.
Purdy, who has thrown good passes for touchdowns to Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell, now boasts 16 touchdown passes in seven games this season with just four interceptions.
What seemed impossible now becomes a valid question: Should the 49ers give him up next season and forget all other plans? Is young first-round pick Trey Lance even waiting? Purdy far exceeds expectations and displays an unsettling calm.
A complete team
Of course, Purdy doesn’t do it all alone, and head coach Kyle Shanahan has a knack for mapping plays that leave receivers very open. Purdy is also surrounded by players capable of making big plays. The evidence is that the offense recorded 11 juveniles of 18 yards or more. The running game joined the party with 181 yards.
Deebo Samuel once again proved he was from a mutant tribe with a short catch that he turned into a 74-yard touchdown. He finished the game with six receptions for 133 yards in addition to three carries for 32 yards.
Speaking of rushing, Christian McCaffrey went for 68 yards early in the game before scoring a touchdown on a reception. He finished his day’s work with a total of 136 yards. What an acquisition for the 49ers before the close!
The best part about this trade for McCaffrey is that when the 49ers picked him, they had three wins and four losses. Far from being embarrassed, they moved because they believed in their alignment.
This complete trust in the players did not go unnoticed in the dressing room either. The top of the pyramid fed its base. This is done in a high-quality and proactive organization.
The defense adds
By the middle of the third quarter, forces still seemed to be opposing the fight. At halftime, the Seahawks even caused quite an upset by retiring to the dressing room in Santa Clara with a 17-16 lead.
After the break things slowly but surely escalated. In the second half, the 49ers defense, arguably the best in the league, took matters into their own hands. She only gave crumbs at the end of the game when there was no more betting.
Previously, she had caused two reversals. Charles Omenihu, author of two of his three sacks, dropped the ball to quarterback Geno Smith, a ball recovered by great Nick Bosa.
Smith later attempted a pass which Deommodore Lenoir intercepted. Those two turnovers resulted in 10 points for the 49ers.
In short, when this team gets going, attacking and defending, it’s hard to find a better football machine.
Kudos to the Seahawks
For their part, the Seahawks need not be ashamed of their performance. They held out as long as possible against a clearly superior team.
Geno Smith has had an exceptional revival this season, despite two turnovers, and is expected to return next fall (he’s a free agent). There are several great young plays and the Seahawks hold the fifth overall pick in the upcoming draft, courtesy of the Broncos in trade Russell Wilson.
In three games this season, including the playoff duel, the 49ers beat the Seahawks 89-43.
The end result is disappointing, but the process is far from it. There is still a long way to go to compete with the 49ers, but the accelerated transformation is well underway.
The stars of the day
All has been said about his performance against the Seahawks and this season in general, but do you know that he became the first rookie quarterback to win a playoff game since Russell Wilson in 2012.
The defensive end doesn’t have high stats. However, aside from his five tackles, including one for losing ground, he often made Geno Smith uncomfortable.
His presence completely changes the 49ers’ offense. He can strike from anywhere and no player can keep the opposing defense on his heels. When safety Johnatan Abram twisted his leg on a questionable tackle, the Niners were whipped and went 25 straight. A turning point…