The highly anticipated NFC Divisional playoff matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers lived up to the hype in some ways, but fell short in others. The 49ers emerged with a 13-10 victory on a last-second field goal in spite of struggles from rookie quarterback Brock Purdy.
Purdy’s Inconsistency in Rainy Conditions
Much of the pregame focus centered around Purdy, who had led San Francisco on an improbable five-game winning streak after injuries to starters Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo. However, the seventh-round pick finally showed his inexperience in rainy and muddy conditions at Lambeau Field.
Purdy completed just 18-of-29 passes for 212 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. His 55.2% completion rate was by far his lowest since taking over the starting role. According to 49ers Web Zone, Purdy clearly struggled with his grip and ball security. He was seen wiping his hands on his uniform throughout the game, even during live plays.
|Brock Purdy 2024 Playoff Stats
|Completion %: 55.2
|Passing Yards: 212
|TD Passes: 1
“The elements seemed to get the best of him for most of the game,” said Bryant McFadden of CBS Sports. “His decision making was questionable and his accuracy was very inconsistent.”
A perfect example came in the second quarter, when Purdy underthrew an open Brandon Aiyuk in the end zone for an interception by Packers safety Adrian Amos.
However, the rookie showed impressive poise to lead a game-winning drive in the final two minutes. He completed three straight passes to set up Robbie Gould’s game-winning 45-yard field goal as time expired.
49ers Rely on Defense and Special Teams
With their quarterback struggling, the 49ers needed big plays from their top-ranked defense and special teams unit. They got them in key moments to remain alive in their quest for a second Super Bowl appearance in four years.
Defensive end Nick Bosa came up with back-to-back drive-ending sacks of Aaron Rodgers on third downs. The first kept points off the board late in the second quarter, while the second forced a three-and-out to open the second half. According to Packers.com, Bosa has 5.5 sacks in four career playoff games.
49ers punter Mitch Wishnowsky was another unsung hero by averaging 47.6 yards on five attempts. His 70-yard bomb in the fourth quarter flipped the field position to set up San Francisco’s only touchdown.
Return specialist Ray-Ray McCloud gave the 49ers their first score by taking a punt back for a touchdown in the first quarter. It was San Francisco’s first punt return score in the playoffs since 2001.
What Needs to Improve for a Super Bowl Run?
If the 49ers hope to win the NFC and reach the Super Bowl for the second time in four seasons, they will clearly need much better play from their quarterback. Purdy displayed incredible poise for a 23-year-old making his first career playoff start. But he cannot turn in similar passing performances against top defenses like the Eagles or Cowboys and expect San Francisco to advance.
“Purdy has to play considerably better for the 49ers to win the Super Bowl,” claims Mike Tanier of The 33rd Team. “The good news is that he faced bad conditions, recovered from mistakes, and still made some positive plays. If he learns from the experience, his decision making, accuracy, and ball security should improve next week.”
Fortunately, Purdy still has plenty of talent around him on both sides of the ball. He can rely on All-Pro offensive weapons like Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle. He is also backed up by the NFL’s #1 scoring defense.
If Purdy takes better care of the football and plays more efficiently against Philadelphia, this 49ers team has all the pieces in place to win it all. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will need to adjust his trademark offense to fit the weather conditions. But San Francisco remains a serious Super Bowl threat thanks to its defensive dominance and impressive skill position talent.
Credit to the Packers Defense
While Purdy deservedly absorbed much of the post game criticism from pundits, credit also deserves to go to Green Bay’s much-maligned defense. After giving up 89 combined points in two regular losses against the 49ers, defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s unit held San Francisco to just 13 points and under 300 total yards of offense.
The Packers consistently pressured Purdy with exotic blitzes. Linebackers Quay Walker and De’Vondre Campbell took turns converging on the rookie quarterback before he could escape the pocket. Green Bay registered four sacks and nine QB hits while limiting the 49ers to 3.9 yards per carry.
San Francisco’s 13 points marked a season-low at Lambeau Field for Green Bay. The inspired defensive performance offers Packers fans hope that Barry can lead an improved unit in 2024. Green Bay invested two first round picks last year in Walker and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt as the foundation of their future defense.
The 49ers now must travel to Philadelphia to face the #1 seed Eagles and quarterback Jalen Hurts, arguably the NFL MVP front-runner. The Eagles boast fierce pass rushers like Haason Reddick and one of the league’s highest-scoring offenses. Purdy will need to raise his game to unprecedented levels for San Francisco to score the road upset.
Meanwhile, Green Bay enters an offseason filled with questions about Aaron Rodgers’ future with the franchise. Re-working Rodgers’ contract will impact how aggressively the Packers can pursue free agent help at receiver and tight end to aid the 39-year-old quarterback. Matt LaFleur’s team still looks a few impact players away from serious contention after two straight playoff losses.
In the end, the 49ers and Packers gave fans a thrilling playoff finish filled with terrible weather, costly turnovers, and unexpected heroes. While it may not have featured the crispest play, back-and-forth drama reigned as these storied franchises met in January for the ninth time. The young Purdy displayed flashes of brilliance mixed with predictable rookie mistakes, while San Francisco’s championship aspirations rely heavily on accelerated development from the improbable star.
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