SANTA CLARA — All eyes were on Brock Purdy’s surgically repaired elbow, and no eyes were on Nick Bosa. It was two months ago at training camp, and the 49ers were preparing to stage their NFL coup.
Purdy’s elbow was responding remarkably well, albeit with daily interceptions that reporters obsessively tracked. Bosa, meanwhile, was bunkered at home in Florida, waiting to become the NFL’s highest-paid non-quarterback.
How did those two players’ actions pave the way for the 49ers’ scoring spree in their 5-0 start, the latest win coming with Sunday night’s 42-10 rout of the Dallas Cowboys?
“Honestly the best thing about training camp for us was really that Nick Bosa didn’t play, and so we were actually able to have an offense,” tight end George Kittle said. “(Bosa) didn’t have to disrupt every single play if he wasn’t going against Trent Williams. Nothing against our tackles, that’s just how good Nick Bosa is.
“We were actually able to have fun drives,” Kittle said. “(Purdy) was able to look downfield and build chemistry with all our skill players.”
The 49ers have scored 30, 30, 30, 35 and 42 points in their victories. Never before has a 49ers team hit the 30-point threshold in its first five games. It last happened in the NFL with the 2018 Los Angeles Rams (13-3 record; lost in the Super Bowl).
The 49ers’ 33.4-point average is second to the Miami Dolphins (36.2 ppg.). Detroit (29.6 ppg.) and Philadelphia (28.2 ppg.) rank third and fourth.
These 49ers are on what Bosa called “a different level” compared to his rookie year, when the 2019 team put up 29.9 points per game in the regular season, before its Super Bowl heartache. That season is when the 49ers sprang to life under coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, who are reaping the rewards of their most complete roster in Year 7.
“The way John and Kyle have built the team, offensively, they can attack in any way,” Bosa said, rattling off the ways and means of Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey and Kittle.
McCaffrey, by the way, has scored in a franchise-record 14 consecutive games (playoffs included). He can extend that streak Sunday in Cleveland and match the 15-game stretches of O.J. Simpson (Buffalo) and John Riggins (Washington). The record is 17 games record set in 1963 by Baltimore’s Lenny Moore.
“There’s really no weakness,” added Bosa, who reported to the 49ers in Week 1 with a new contract. “And then Brock is playing as one of the best quarterbacks in the league.”
THE LAST ‘PICK’
Indeed, Brock Purdy is the NFL’s leader with a 123.1 passer rating. More impressive, when factoring in last season’s five regular-season starts, his 121.1 rating is the highest ever by an NFL quarterback through 10 starts.
Purdy’s elbow drew not one mention in Sunday’s postgame press conferences. However, you can still count on a fresh-on-the-scene reporter to ask how this quarterback – “a godsend,” in Lynch’s words last week – ended up as the last pick of last year’s draft.
The “last pick” has taken on another meaning in that Purdy has not been intercepted in his last 235 passes. The streak began in a New Year’s Day overtime win in Las Vegas, proceeded through the playoffs and continued through 136 attempts this season.
Purdy could not recall being on a better heater, referencing only “back-to-back-back” stretches at Iowa State, where he won five in a row upon entering at quarterback in 2018, then three straight in 2019, five in a row in 2020, and a three-game run as a senior.
Now Purdy is on pace to join Steve Young and Jeff Garcia as the 49ers’ only 4,000-yard passers; Garcia’s 4,278 yards in 2000 are the franchise record.
“It feels like everyone’s just on a mission,” Purdy said, deflecting credit to his teammates. “The mindset is right where it needs to be. Everyone’s so detailed in what they do. The play calls are great. So, it’s like all I have to do is go out there and just play ball.”
The 49ers’ offense showed this high-scoring capability last season with Purdy. In the first seven games after Purdy replaced the injured Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers averaged 34.5 points per game, rattling off totals of 33-35-21-37-37-38-41.
Their opening drives this season reflect the strength and variety of their attack: Aiyuk touchdown catch at Pittsburgh; McCaffrey touchdown run at Los Angeles; Jake Moody field goal against the New York Giants; McCaffrey touchdown run against Arizona; Kittle touchdown catch (first of three) against. Dallas.
At 33.4, the 49ers are averaging more points per game than the 1994 team that averaged 31.6 and won the Super Bowl.
Guess how many 30-point games the 49ers had in two seasons under Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly. Zero.
Kyle Shanahan knows better than to get comfortable. He joined the 2015 Atlanta Falcons as their offensive coordinator and they scored 32.4 points per game en route to a 5-0 record.
“I mean it’s exciting and all this is fun, but I’ve been in the NFL way too long, been 5-0 and haven’t made the playoffs before,” Shanahan said. “All that stuff really doesn’t matter. … It means nothing until you get to the end.”
The 49ers kept getting the ball Sunday night to score their season-high six touchdowns with the help of their stellar defense. Fred Warner forced a fumble, had one of the team’s four sacks, and accounted for one of three interceptions off Dak Prescott.
Where does Warner rank among linebackers? “Best in the world, and it’s not close,” Bosa said.
The 49ers defense could get even better after Friday’s trade for pass rusher Randy Gregory, who Denver let go for a swap of late-round draft picks.
“We’re not thin but depth always helps, and he fits our scheme perfectly,” Bosa said. “He’s extremely physical. I met him (Friday) and he seems like a really good dude. I mean, he’s an $80 million defensive end who we got for a bargain (at $1 million). It could get even better for us.”
That means it could get worse for opposing teams, none of which have produced a 100-yard rusher against the 49ers since Arizona in 2021, a stretch of 32 games that is four shy of the franchise record (2009-11).