SANTA CLARA — Brock Purdy took the postgame podium on Christmas Eve, as he has 14 other times this season. No signs of outward emotion, whether euphoria or despair.
But a 33-19 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at Levi’s Stadium was unlike any other Purdy had experienced in the brief whirlwind that was his career with the 49ers.
The same guy who had split four teams with winning records into one-sided victories, compiling a 141.2 passer rating with 13 touchdown passes and zero interceptions, bottomed out with a 42.6 passer rating without touchdown and four turnovers.
The burgeoning Most Valuable Player candidacy was over, although it never seemed to matter much to Purdy, who himself was rooting for teammate Christian McCaffrey. He finished 18 of 32 for 255 yards, but it was a showcase for the worst night of his professional career. The worst by far – and it happened before the eyes of the whole country.
We’ll learn a lot about how the 49ers bounce back over the next two weeks in hopes of maintaining the No. 1 seed and home field advantage in the NFC, but we’ll learn even more about Purdy. And what we learned after the Baltimore loss is that he’s not shirking responsibility.
“I have to ask myself: Who are you?,” Purdy said. “What do you advocate? Who are you when things are going well? Who are you when things don’t go your way? It’s easy to get complacent and think you’re the guy who wins matches and you really don’t have a lot of adversity in some matches.
“I have to look in the mirror. . . make clearer decisions, score points and protect the ball. I want to be consistent in the way I do things, whether things go well or not. I know who I am and I’m not going to hesitate and I’m going to hang my hat on it.
Of the four interceptions, the worst one was the first in coach Kyle Shanahan’s eyes. The 49ers had started much like they had in some other Marquis games against tough opposition. The defense recorded a three-and-out against the Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson. Purdy led the 49ers to the Baltimore 15 with passes of 58 and 13 yards to George Kittle.
The leading 49ers were on the verge of their 10th touchdown on their first possession this season. And then . . .
Purdy got greedy and paid the price. He thought he saw Deebo Samuel get open, abandon his advance and never saw Kyle Hamilton hiding near the goal line. Hamilton intercepted the gift.
– Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 26, 2023
“I misread the coverage, I didn’t expect anyone to be there and I made the wrong decision,” Shanahan said.
Purdy said, “Obviously we were rolling, we had some momentum, we made some really big plays on that drive, and then I threw the ball like that. For me, it really hurt. I would have liked to have it back. I wish I had checked it out and kept the reader alive. . . clear as day to me.
Of the four interceptions, the first and third were on Purdy. At No. 2, Marlon Humphrey got a deflected pass on a ball hit in the air by Brandon Stephens. On the fourth pick, Purdy read the coverage correctly, was going to short McCaffrey and was hit on the sideline.
Purdy’s third interception of the half came when he came out of the pocket and hoped to locate George Kittle for a first down. Except during the play McCaffrey was called for a hash block, flags were flying and it was obvious the 49ers weren’t going to get the first down even though the ball was complete. Purdy saw the flags and threw the ball anyway. It bounced off Kittle and Hamilton.
Tune in to ESPN/ABC!!! pic.twitter.com/v1C25a6s7A
– Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 26, 2023
“I can’t make a bad play worse,” Purdy said. “I have to know that it’s our responsibility in terms of the flag, just by the body language on our offensive line, throwing on my body in the middle of the field with a guy on George, it’s very stupid. I have to throw the ball and being ready to kick. This is something I’m learning the hard way.
The 49ers didn’t seem too concerned that what happened with Purdy was a new trend and that the thoughtful decision-maker suddenly became a disaster after being the first 49er to throw four interceptions since Colin Kaepernick in 2015.
“It’s the first time he really understands the other side,” wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk said. “We’ll see him bounce back.”
Shanahan didn’t say Purdy was due for that kind of game, but said, “I just think the fact that he played that long and never had a game like that was quite unusual. This is the reality of the NFL.
McCaffrey, who gained 65 of 67 rushing and passing yards on the 49ers’ second-quarter touchdown drive, bristled at the idea of giving Purdy a pep talk.
“I don’t think Brock ever needs an encouraging word,” McCaffrey said. “He’s a pro. He’s one of the best players in this entire league and it’s not all about him. Turnover figures come from different ways. We have to open up, we have to protect him and give him a good chance.
Kittle, who manages to find humor in any situation, cracked: “I think the writers did a great job tonight. I’ve never seen Brock Purdy throw interceptions before.
No one else either. In 48 college games at Iowa State, Purdy threw three interceptions in a game four times, but never four.
“Our team was ready to play, and for me to make decisions like that, it hurts,” Purdy said. “It’s not fair to these guys. I have to realize that and understand that and I have to be better for my team.
The 49ers are counting on that.
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