A little over five months after having surgery on his right elbow, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy made his preseason debut and looked like, well, Brock Purdy.
“It felt really good just to be out there with the guys in a game environment,” Purdy said. “Obviously, just get the nerves out a little bit. Just the buildup to a game and everything, and then being able to get an early completion to Deebo [Samuel] and get things rolling. So, it felt really good to be able to get out there and drive and honestly, just be in a game environment, like I said. So, yeah, I’m excited about it.”
The stats were good – 4-of-5 for 65 yards and a rating of 118.8 plus an eight-yard scramble – as Purdy led a 10-play, 69-yard drive that ended in a 20-yard Jake Moody field goal on the game’s opening drive.
“I wanted to get him out there with the starters, most of them at least,” said 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan. “The goal was to get him one drive. I told him if we went three-and-out wasn’t sure what I would do. But I was glad to get a long one.”
The 49ers had four straight passes to start the game, with Purdy completing three of them. The first was a short pass to Deebo Samuel that Samuel turned into a 25-yard gain – the YAC brothers are coming to a stadium near you this fall. Then it was a 15-yarder to Samuel, an 11-yarder to Jauan Jennings, and a 15-yard dot to Brandon Aiyuk. So, yeah, his arm is fine.
Shanahan said after the game that the starters will play in the 49ers’ final preseason game Friday night.
Trey Lance and the Game-Winning Drive
Trey Lance, who needed a solid outing, got off to a dubious start with his first drive ending in an interception. But then, things got better.
“I feel like every time I step on the field, I learn so much,” Lance said. “I get so much better from every rep, whether it’s practice, games or whatever. Just seeing as many pictures as I can and continuing to get as many reps as I can with these guys.”
Lance finished the night 12-of-18 for 173 yards and a touchdown. He led a game-winning drive that included a 43-yard pass to wide receiver Ronnie Bell that set up Moody’s game-winning, 32-yard field goal. Go Blue.
“Some of the tackles he breaks are real impressive,” Lance said of Bell. “He’s a guy who competes his butt off every single time. He gets the ball in his hands, every single time he touches the field. He comes to work every single day with that mindset.”
Shanahan saw a more comfortable Lance than in last Sunday’s preseason loss to the Raiders.
“I think we got a little bit of better rhythm for him,” Shanahan said of Lance. “It still took a little bit while to get going. Not just him, but the whole group. I thought we were a little sloppy throughout the whole game…[I]t was smoother than last week, but by no means were we pumped about it. I was pumped how we finished, pumped about the win, some good things. But still have a lot to do to cleanup.”
No one was happier to see Lance succeed than Purdy.
“It was awesome seeing him being able to finish and put a game-winning drive together, set up Moody for the game-winning kick,” Purdy said. “We all want to see him succeed and do great. So to be able to go out there and just chip away…and then he put together two great drives at the end, so it was awesome to see, really excited for him.”
On the drive before that, Lance was 6-of-7 for 85 yards, capping it off with a 22-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Cameron Latu.
Sam Darnold also had a tough start to his night, as he and Lance fight for the QB2 title. Darnold came in after the one Purdy drive. His first four drives ended in three punts and one interception. The interception was not on the QB, as it went off Bell’s face mask and into the waiting arms of Broncos’ CB Essang Bassey.
It is the second time in two weeks that Bell has had this issue, so it’s something he’s going to have to clean up.
“I’ve just got to catch the ball,” Bell said. “I mean I don’t even know really what exactly it is. I got to figure out what it is though, for sure. That’s two in a row. And last week I felt like I let myself relax. And then this week I couldn’t tell you what I did, so I just got to fix it.”
Shanahan agrees, even with all the positive things Bell is doing. Bell has seven receptions for 114 yards on Saturday.
“It starts by being able to make plays,” Shanahan said. “And lots of guys you expect guys to catch it, when they’re in a good spot. And he’s missed two of those which were very similar, both of them that’ve led to picks. But, I think all you guys saw the plays he has made. Just with the ball in his hand breaking tackles, I think that’s a lot for a guy to do that in his first two games as a punt returner and as a receiver. Shows that he can hang with our group and hopefully he can clean this stuff up…”
On his final drive, Darnold was 5-of-6 for 60 yards, including an 11-yard TD pass to rookie FB Jack Colletto. Overall, Darnold completed 11-of-14 passes for 109 yards.
After last week’s two missed field goals, rookie kicker Jake Moody fared better on Saturday, for the most part. He made all three of his field goals but missed an extra point. It was a 33-yard PAT attempt that went wide right. The game-winner had the look of a kick that was going wide right, but it didn’t.
“I’d like it to go really high and right down the middle every time and I didn’t see that today,” Shanahan said. “But that’s what he is working through. He’s had two NFL games to get through it. It was better this week than last week. I can say that it’s been extremely consistent in practice, which is why I don’t worry too much…
“But there’s pressure in those situations. And that’s really what he’s got to go through is those pressure moments. And it was cool to generate some of those for him today and a step forward from last week. But, we’ve just got to keep him getting consistent and be the same on gamedays, as he is in practice.”
None of the above is lost on Moody.
“Me and [special teams coordinator Brian Schneider], we’ve been talking,” Moody said. “He said that doesn’t really look like me, what I’ve been seeing in practice. It’s just different stuff we’re experimenting with. We’re just trying to make me as comfortable as possible. Just do what I’ve been doing in practice. It’s a process. There’s a learning process, how to deal with the misses. You bounce back, kick the next one.”
Though Moody made a game-winning 35-yard field goal, while at the University of Michigan against Illinois with 13 seconds left on November 19, 2022 – not that this reporter remembers or anything – Saturday’s was his first “walk-off.”
“That was the first walk-off game-winner I’ve had had, so that was pretty cool,” Moody said.
Wide receiver Danny Gray left the game with what may be a broken collarbone.