We temporarily interrupt the Brock Purdy fairy tale with a dose of harsh reality, courtesy of the Cleveland Browns.
The 49ers’ second-year quarterback fell to earth with a 12-for-27, 125-yard performance that included a shovel pass touchdown to Christian McCaffrey, his first interception in 248 passes, and a skittery, off-rhythm performance that in no way resembled the previous 12 starts and victories in which he went wire to wire.
Purdy even had the ball slip out of his hand and fall to the turf on one pass attempt. He recovered his own fumble.
Coming off his best game with a 144.4 passer rating and four touchdown passes against Dallas, Purdy bottomed out with a 55.3 rating. He’d never before been below 87.4.
More amazing than the drop-off in performance was that it took so long to happen. Bad games happen to every quarterback who has ever played, including Joe Montana, Kurt Warner or any one of the number of legends to whom Purdy has been compared in recent weeks.
And even more amazing than that is despite playing so poorly, Purdy had the 49ers in position to win the game until Jake Moody pushed a 41-yard field goal attempt slightly to the right in the final seconds.
Think of the storyline that would have ensued if Moody had connected. Purdy would be canonized for putting aside all the ugliness and delivering a win. Not only that, but doing it inside of the final two minutes — something his critics and even defenders have correctly pointed out he has not yet done.
Taking over at the 25-yard line, Purdy misfired on his first two passes before Greg Newsome was called for pass interference and a first down. A 25-yard catch-and-run to Brandon Aiyuk and an 8-yard pass to Aiyuk preceded a 9-yard strike to Jauan Jennings on third-and-2. From there, the 49ers worked the ball to the middle of the field before Moody’s miss.
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— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 15, 2023
“B.A. did a great job of creating separation and making guys miss,” Purdy said. “There was a sense of urgency, we got up to the ball and ran some plays we were all comfortable with to get the ball to the playmakers.”
Outplayed by Cleveland quarterback P.J. Walker, a practice squad promotion, Purdy wasn’t any more animated after the loss than he was after any of the wins.
“There were definitely some throws and opportunities I felt were there for me and I missed on ’em,” Purdy said. “It made us behind the sticks and be on third down, which is tough on the road and something I’ve got to learn from.
“I’ve got to be real about it and we’ve got to look at ourselves in the mirror and see the flaws and get better from it, but it starts with me.”
There was a feeling among some that Purdy was being carried to success on the shoulders of his supporting cast. Whatever truth that exists in that theory also included the inverse against the Browns — Purdy didn’t get a lot of help from his friends and teammates.
“It wasn’t just Brock, it was everybody,” coach Kyle Shanahan said.
Purdy’s interception to Martin Emerson on the first possession of the third quarter came two plays after a leaping Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah nearly had one himself.
“It was a bad ball on my end,” Purdy said. “B.A. did a great job. he had all the separation in the world. That was on me for sure.”
If the 49ers are without McCaffrey (oblique), Deebo Samuel (shoulder) or left tackle Trent Williams (ankle) for any period of time, Purdy will be less of a quarterback, Shanahan will be less of a coach and the 49ers will be less of a team.
“But we’ve got guys to come in and make plays too,” Purdy said. “That’s on me, being able to help out guys like Ray-Ray (McCloud) and (Jennings) and Elijah (Mitchell).
“I’ve got to do a better job in the huddle, giving them expectations as to what’s to come. Even if Deebo and Christian aren’t able to go, we’ve got good players.”
In reality though, Purdy’s job will get harder and the criticism, which has mostly been along the lines of “How the hell is he doing this?” will instead become “See, we told you it was a mirage.”
Rather than blame Moody, Purdy supported him.
“We trust in Jake. He has a great leg. He’s been great all year,” Purdy said. “I think if I had to do it again, we’d trust in Jake again.”
Basic things that Purdy had done well leading up to Sunday were temporarily lost somewhere near Lake Erie and the quarterback acknowledged that when he was asked what was missing.
“The detail, the mindset of coming in and being on point with our operation,” Purdy said. “As for myself, there were plays to be made. There were guys open. I have to be better. We’re all real with each other and we’re going to get better from it.”