SANTA CLARA — Quarterback Brock Purdy had a lot to process in a short period of time starting with calling plays for 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan to quickly get to know Seattle’s defense.
But before he could decide where to throw the ball, he noticed the feet of Seahawks safety Jamal Adams.
Adams was stuck between covering wide receiver Jauan Jennings in front of him and Deebo Samuel who was sliding diagonally across the field behind him.
“He was kind of up and down, and I was like, ‘OK, with Deebo moving, we can go over the top here,’” Purdy said of Adams.
So instead of throwing to Jennings, who was open as the No. 1 leadoff target, Purdy decided to punt the ball deep.
Samuel admitted that he was not running hard because he did not think the ball was going his way. He kicked it into another gear when he saw the ball fly his way.
The result was a 54-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter that gave the 49ers a 14-10 lead in the Week 14 game at Levi’s Stadium.
“For Brock to be able to see that, it’s definitely next level and he’s a really good quarterback,” 49ers backup quarterback Sam Darnold told NBC Sports Bay Area. “But that’s how we’re trained, too.
“How it is talked about in the quarterback meeting has an impact on Brock and what he looks at. Brock’s eyes were in the right place, and he saw the right thing.
This long tumble is just one example of how Purdy has been able to take his game to the next level.
It’s no coincidence that Purdy leads the NFL in many of the most important statistical categories, including passer rating (116.9), completion percentage (70.2) and yards per pass attempt (9.9). Purdy has worked his way into the league’s MVP conversation with four games remaining in the regular season.
Perhaps its best quality is that it makes an incredibly complex look so easy.
“These are things he does very naturally,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I think that’s the talent in Brock that you can’t always judge.
“It’s a big issue how your eyes see things. I think Brock is aware of things and the speed of things, he knows the hole and the defenders and what they have to defend.
Darnold, in his sixth NFL season after entering the NFL as the No. 3 overall pick of the New York Jets, said there were times earlier in the game when Adams and Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs played bottom routes with similar concepts.
“So when we saw it previously, Brock was really good at that — really good at understanding how guys play in games and when those things come up, and being able to take advantage of certain looks,” Darnold said.
“There are certain plays and coverages that put (defensive players) in trouble,” Darnold said. “Brock is a quick processor that way. He can understand what the defense is doing, and he’s obviously connected to our concepts.”
“He’s really good at being able to read defenses and follow his lead very quickly.”
Darnold also pointed to Purdy’s willingness and ability to carry talking points from Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Brian Griese from the quarterback room to game situations. Darnold said the discussion includes how defenses might try to hide coverages. A team can try to trick Purdy into thinking they are playing one defense, then switch to something else when they punt the ball.
Purdy has the ability to recognize those changes and respond accordingly.
Darnold said he knew Purdy was a very good player when he chose to sign with the 49ers as a free agent. Darnold said he was impressed watching Purdy play late last season after opening the season as the 49ers’ No. 3 quarterback.
This season, he said he saw a young player continue to improve in all areas.
“I think the thing with Brock is he continues to get better all season long,” Darnold said. “That’s what matters: continuing to get better and making your move at the right time. As long as he can do that, we’ll be good.”
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