Mr. Irrelevant Leads 49ers to Victory!


There were many storylines surrounding today’s matchup with the Dolphins.  The main one was the fact that the student was coming to the master’s home to show what he has learned.  Coach Mike McDaniel has coached with Coach Shanahan for 14 years.  Jeff Wilson Jr., Raheem Mostert, River Cracraft and Trent Sherfield were all returning to Santa Clara as well.  But the storyline out of the game has little to do with what everyone focused on this week.  First play of the game and Trent Sherfield takes a 9-yard pass 66 yards to the house for a 75-yard touchdown play.  Then Tua Tagovailoa mysteriously started throwing off target.  At one point in the first quarter, he was merely one for six passing.  After Tua’s one shot explosive for a touchdown, the Niners drove to field goal range.  The Niners drive ended on a Jalen Phillips sack, breaking Jimmy Garoppolo’s foot causing him to miss the rest of the game and now the season.  In comes Mr. Irrelevant; Brock Purdy.


His Name is Brock Purdy

When Trey Lance was ruled out for the season, the 49ers made no move to sign a veteran quarterback.  They put their faith and trust in Mr. Irrelevant.  There couldn’t be a worse moniker for Brock Purdy.  If you understand his background, you know that Purdy thrives off being counted out.  Purdy was the focal point for Coach Matt Campbell’s rebuild at Iowa State.  Purdy’s excellent and gutsy play is what earned Campbell a contract extension and many suiters attempting to lure him away to bigger programs.  Purdy plays smart.  He is unflappable.  He leads by example.  His preparedness and mindset helped him lead the offense to victory today.

Miami went three and out after Tua miss fired twice.  In trots Brock Purdy. Today was his first meaningful snaps in the NFL.  During the short-lived drive, he connected on a six-yard slant to Brandon Aiyuk.  Unfortunately, Christian Wilkins blew up the 3rd and 2 run play, tackling Christian McCaffrey for a three-yard loss.  Wilkins remained a fixture in the middle of the Dolphins defense all day, collecting a team high 12 tackles for the game.


Purdy’s first NFL Touchdown!

The 49ers forced a Miami three and out and Purdy went back to work.  Coach Shanahan did a great job of strategically mixing in the run and pass to maximize the young Purdy’s strengths.  Thankfully on a failed 3rd and ten, the Dolphins committed a pass interference penalty giving the Niners a breath of fresh air on the Miami 15-yard line.  Brock Purdy’s first touchdown throw was to none other than Kyle Juszczyk.


Bosa is in the House!

Miami’s next drive was time consuming, eating up over six minutes of clock, biting deep into the 2nd quarter.  Tua connected with Durham Smythe on a 19-yard play.  He also hit Tyreek Hill for 18 yards and 17 yards while the run game managed 12 yards on three carries.  On a 3rd and 1, Nick Bosa sacked Tua for an eight-yard loss, forcing a field goal.  The Niners and Phins were now tied at ten points apiece.


Purdy’s Mistake

The 49ers and Dolphins traded multiple subsequent three and outs.  Tua was having a difficult time with his accuracy as the pass rush was consistently creeping towards him.  He routinely overthrew or under threw passes.  Purdy failed to convert on a third and five.  On Purdy’s next possession the Niners started moving the ball.  Jordan Mason was grinding up the yards, netting 19 yards on one carry and seven yards on his next.  But the Dolphins showed that they have significant pass rush as well.  On a 2nd and three, Purdy was sacked for a seven-yard loss.  He made up for some of that by connecting with Aiyuk for six yards on 3rd and ten.  Then on fourth and four, Purdy became a bit impatient.  Instead of waiting for McCaffrey to uncover from his linebacker, Purdy attempted a pass to Aiyuk who was one on one with Xavian Howard down the sideline.  Howard won that battle picking off Purdy and ending the drive.


Bosa Strikes Again!

Though Tua connected a pass to River Cracraft for 18 yards, he misfired badly on a seam route to Tyreek Hill.  On 3rd and eight, Nick Bosa sacked Tua for a ten-yard loss forcing another Miami punt.  With 2:48 on the clock the Niners had 76 yards to go.

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) celebrates after sacking Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with teammates Samson Ebukam (56) and Fred Warner (54) during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Two Minute Drill

Purdy started the drive off with a seven-yard pass to Deebo Samuel.  Then he managed a first down connecting with McCaffrey for 9 yards down the sideline.  A few plays later on a 2nd and ten, Purdy gets hit by three Dolphin defenders at once.  He picked himself up and dusted himself off and got ready for 3rd and ten.  The Dolphins were sending the house and playing zero coverage.  On third and ten, Bradly Chubb broke away clean from his assignment and was bearing down on Purdy.  Purdy had barely taken the snap, but as he did so he identified Chubb coming from Purdy’s right and he saw George Kittle about to break open in the middle of the field, so Purdy whipped the ball down the field.  Chubb hit Purdy as his arm was coming down from the follow thru of the throw.  It’s a game of inches.  Kittle snagged the ball for a 19-yard gain.

Later in the drive Purdy connected with Jauan Jennings, who juked a defender and ran around another to gain 19 yards and a first down.  Two plays later, Purdy connected with McCaffrey on a screen to the left.  McCaffrey weaved his way down to the Miami five-yard line.  A few plays later Purdy found McCaffrey for a three-yard touchdown pass.  The Niners used every second of the 2:48 they started with, and the score was 17 – 10 in favor of the Niners.


Turnovers and Field Goals

The 49ers first possession of the second half didn’t produce points, but they did move the ball.  Miami on the other hand only managed a 19-yard pass play to Hill.  After back-to-back first down line of scrimmage penalties it was 1st and 25.  Tua took the snap, reared back and launched the ball down field.  Jimmy Ward saw the heater coming and dove over a crouching Phin to make the interception.  This time the 49ers went on a seven-minute time consuming drive.  Coach Shanahan once again found a good mix of passing and throwing as his calls navigated the Niners down to the Dolphin 25 yard-line where they had to settle for a field goal.

Tua’s next pass was intercepted by Deommodore Lenoir.  Tua had not thrown a pick in 193 attempts.  Now, in back-to-back passing attempts he is intercepted twice.  The Niners would have liked to have punched this gift in for a touchdown.  However, the Miami defense was stingy and the Niners were forced to settle for another field goal.  The score was now 23 to 10.   The Dolphin’s next drive was much more productive.  It culminated in a 45-yard strike to Tyreek Hill for a touchdown.  That play is instructive because Charvarious Ward was playing Hill with outside leverage, expecting safety help on the inside.  Instead, Talanoa Hufanga broke off to cover the inside end-cut leaving Hill open to run to the middle of the field, make an easy catch and run it into the endzone.


Contrasting 4th down Results

Miami still had life and the Niners knew it.  However, they could not capitalize on their next offensive possession and were forced to punt it back to the Dolphins.  It was up to the Niners defense to hold the Dolphins with 11 minutes to go in the game.  Miami started moving the ball.  A third and one turned into a fourth and one on the Miami’s own 19-yard line.  Coach McDaniels said go for it and Hill caught the 4th down conversion play.  Then Tua started dinking and dunking the ball down the field until it was 4th and 2 on the 49ers 36 yard-line.  McDaniels went for it again.  Initially the refs thought Mike Gesicki caught the 4th down conversion but he actually never gained possession of the ball as he attempted to catch it on the sideline.


Déjà vu

With six minutes left to go in the game, the 49ers were having a bit of deja vu.  Last week the Niners closed out the Saints game running the ball the last six minutes of the game.  This week the 49ers basically did the same thing again.  Purdy mixed in a pass here or there, but the Niners made their way down to the Miami eleven yard-line largely due to a 30 yard gashing run by McCaffrey.  Then Bradley Chubb sacked Purdy for an eight-yard loss.  On 3rd and 19 George Kittle is called for holding.  It was now 3rd and 31 and the chip shot field goal that the 49ers were sitting on had withered away.  Still, Robbie Gould managed to nail a 48 yarder to make the game a two-score affair.


Double Turnovers

With two minutes left to go in the game, Miami had to score quickly and find a way to get the ball back.  Tua took the snap and was sacked by Bosa who also caused a fumble that was picked up and ran in 23 yards by Dre Greenlaw.  On Miami’s next offensive play, Skylar Thompson was picked off down the middle of the field by Fred Warner.  The game was effectively over at that point.


How did they Win?

The Niners won with grit, gumption, and a bit of luck.  Tua did not play his best.  Some of that is on Tua himself.  Some of that can be blamed on the immense amount of pressure he was under from the 49ers defensive line.  Pressure caused two interceptions as well as the forced fumble.  The 49ers forced three turnovers and sacked Tua three times.  Tua connected on some strikes, but he also misfired to several open receivers.

The 49ers never got down.  They lost their signal caller for the game, and they came out and supported Brock Purdy and helped him make plays.  Brock Purdy executed the 49ers offense well.  He connected on 25 of his 37 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns.  Purdy connected with seven different receivers to keep things going.  Not bad for the last pick in the draft.  McCaffrey led the team in rushing and receptions.  However, Deebo, Aiyuk, Jennings, Kittle, Tyler Kroft and Kyle Juszczyk were all involved in the passing attack.  Juice caught three receptions helping to move the chains.    It was a true team effort on offense.


What Next?

As of this writing, it is reported that Jimmy Garoppolo is out for the season and the 49ers have signed Josh Johnson off the Bronco’s practice squad.  The 49ers are now 8-4 and are in the lead for the playoffs in the NFC West.  There may be those that think the 49ers can’t make the playoffs with a 3rd string quarterback let alone a rookie.  However, rookie quarterbacks have led their teams to the playoffs.  Ben Roethlisberger led his team to the AFC championship his rookie year. As a rookie, Roethlisberger was not the focal point of the Steelers offense.  Their run game and defense were.  The 49ers are built similarly so I would not count them out just yet.








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