SANTA CLARA – It’s no wonder Brock Purdy flashed back to his Iowa State days when it came to coping with a loss, not that he had a ton there.
He just hadn’t experienced defeat as the 49ers’ quarterback — in a regular-season game — until Sunday’s 19-17, down-to-the-wire upset in Cleveland.
“Every game in college is so huge and crucial, and it is in the NFL, but one game can determine your season in college,” Purdy said Friday. “With this, it’s, ‘Alright, we lost, but, man, we have a lot to look forward to, and we have to move on quickly. We have a good team ahead of us.’ “
The 49ers (5-1) look to rebound Monday night when they visit the blitz-heavy Minnesota Vikings (2-4).
It’s been 14 months since Purdy went to Minnesota to prove worthy of a 49ers roster spot, and he obviously acquitted himself quite well in joint practices against the Vikings before their preseason game. Coach Kyle Shanahan came away impressed how the then-rookie quarterback “still did not hesitate” to throw in limited reps.
“I was trying do little things right, make the right decisions, be consistent, and earn coaches’ and my teammates’ trust,” Purdy recalled. ” … Now, a year later, alright, this is the regular season, this is a real football game, not just practicing. They have some good players I remember facing in practice, but this is different.
“I’m at another point obviously in my career being a starter, and not in that camp-mode mindset, so that’s where we’re at and we’re trying to win.”
As Purdy steps into Monday’s prime-time spotlight, he’ll do so amid the home crowd’s cacophony of “Skol” chants and in the crosshairs of another elite sack artist, that being Danielle Hunter, whose eight sacks are tied for the NFL’s lead.
The Vikings defense has blitzed on 60.5-percent of pass plays, according to The Associated Press, but such strategy has not unnerved Purdy in the past. He thrived against such tactics in his first meaningful game last year, against Miami, and, a month ago, he countered the New York Giants’ pressures (blitzes on 33-of-39 dropbacks) by passing for a season-high 310 yards and two touchdowns.
“We gave him a bunch of really weird blitz looks throughout the week of practice (before facing the Giants), and we’re doing that again now,” tight end George Kittle said. “… Brock is dominating that game plan, and as long as he’s confident, we’re very confident in our offense.”
Purdy nearly pulled off a fourth-quarter comeback last Sunday, only for Jake Moody’s potential winning field-goal attempt to sail wide right in the final seconds. In the end, Purdy posted career-worst numbers as a starter (12-of-17, 125 yards) and, despite an opening-drive touchdown pass to Christian McCaffrey, Purdy also threw his first interception in 249 passes.
“Yeah, it (stinks) initially, the first couple of days, especially with an extra day off,” Purdy said of losing. “You could feel the guys in the locker room and at practice were ready to move on.”
Shanahan remains steadfast in support of Purdy, saying: “He has earned as much trust as you could have in a quarterback.”
The Browns’ top-ranked defense flustered him with their consistent pass rush and man-to-man coverage, so much so that Purdy did not resemble the passer who, in two previous games, completed 20-of-21 throws against the Arizona Cardinals and produced a career-high four touchdown passes in a prime-time rout of the Dallas Cowboys.
Purdy, by the way, endured 17 losses at Iowa State but the Cyclones finished with a winning record and a bowl appearance in his four seasons.
Running back Christian McCaffrey showed no hindrance from an oblique injury as he ran on a side field the first 15 minutes of practice, nor were there any visible markings on his body as he walked shirtless into the locker room during media access. McCaffrey, who did not speak with reporters, has requested that Shanahan include him in the game plan, ESPN reported.
McCaffrey, the NFL’s rushing leader, exited in the third quarter of last Sunday’s game, the 49ers’ first loss in 16 games with him in the starting lineup. Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the 49ers brokering his trade from the Carolina Panthers, although that deal formally went through a day later.
General manager John Lynch, rather than project McCaffrey’s status for Monday, did share memories of last year’s trade. “I just remember the elation and getting off (the phone), letting a blood-curdling `Yes!’ from our bedroom, and my family going, `What is going on,’ ” Lynch said on KNBR 680-AM.
Of the 49ers’ backups, Jordan Mason actually has appeared in more career games (22) than Elijah Mitchell (19), that mainly because of Mason’s special-teams use last season and Mitchell’s injury history since leading the 2020 team in rushing as a rookie. Mitchell has 270 career carries for 1,291 yards (4.8-yard average) and seven touchdowns; Mason has scored in each of the past two games but has just 64 career carries for 375 yards and three touchdowns.
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw (hamstring) practiced for the first time since missing (and being missed) in Sunday’s loss, and left guard Aaron Banks (ankle) returned after missing Thursday’s session. Both were limited.
Left tackle Trent Williams (ankle) remained out. If he misses his first game this season (and eighth in four years), Jaylon Moore likely would start in his place; Moore made five starts the previous two seasons combined.
Wide receiver Deebo Samuel (shoulder) did not practice for a second straight day but emerged to do conditioning work on a side field. Cornerback Isaiah Oliver (knee) was limited, and safety George Odum (quadriceps) is fully cleared.
The Vikings practiced only without left guard Ezra Cleveland (foot).
CONFIDENCE IN MOODY
Lynch gave a vote of confidence to Moody, a third-round pick who was perfect on his kicks until Sunday’s two misses, including the potential game-winner. “That (pick) was a decision for the now and for the future, and Jake’s going to be a really good player for us for a long time,” Lynch said. “We’ve got full confidence that he’s going to respond. Now he has to go do that. That’s a tough position, a tough place to kick in Cleveland. But Jake would be the first to tell you, he’s got to finish that game. … He can grow from this experience. Kickers miss from time to time.”