Brock Purdy has gotten much of the spotlight in recent weeks, and deservedly so, as Mr. Irrelevant has shocked the football world with his level of play. But, credit is due all around as the 49ers offense is clicking on all cylinders heading into their divisional playoff matchup with the Cowboys on Sunday night.
Here's a scary thought. The 49ers finished with the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense and No. 1 total defense this year for the first time in franchise history. Yet, since Purdy's first start in Week 14, their offense is actually the better unit. Over that span, San Francisco's offense leads the NFL in EPA per play, points per game, yards per play, yards per pass and yards per rush, among other categories. The 49ers' 34.8 points per game in the last six weeks is their best in a six-game span since 1995.
49ers offense since Week 14 including playoffs
1st in NFL
EPA per play
1st in NFL
Yards per play
1st in NFL
Yards per rush
1st in NFL
Yards per pass
1st in NFL
They capped it off with a historic outburst in a playoff win against the Seahawks.
It ranked 16th-best in yards per play (7.9) among 1,106 playoff games in the Super Bowl era (since 1966)
It ranked 18th-best performance in EPA per play (0.35) among 504 playoff games since EPA was first tracked in 2000.
Purdy delivered the 10th-best yards per completion (18.4) among 774 QB playoff performances with at least 15 completions in the Super Bowl era. It's better than any of these QBs ever posted in a postseason game. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, Steve Young, Joe Montana, to name a few.
It was the fourth-best YAC average (10.3) among 372 playoff games since YAC was first tracked in 2006.
That's 96th percentile or better in the above four categories. It was one of the most efficient offensive showcases in NFL playoff history, albeit against the Seahawks struggling defense.
Here are five reasons why this is the most dangerous offense in the NFL right now, one that could lead the 49ers to their first Super Bowl title since 1994.
1. Kyle Shanahan's creativity
It all starts with the mind of Kyle Shanahan, who puts his players in motion at or before the snap to create space and confusion better than any coach in the league. Since he landed in San Francisco in 2017, the 49ers have used motion at the highest rate in the league (66%). Since Purdy's first start in Week 14, San Francisco has dialed up motion on 72% of its plays, up from 65% in the first 13 weeks of the season. They used motion on a staggering 83% of their plays in Saturday's win, the highest rate by any team in any playoff game since 2017. The impact is staggering. With Purdy, the 49ers average 2.3 more yards per play when they use motion, compared with when they don't. And 2.3 yards is bigger than the gap between the best and worst offense in the NFL this year. So yeah, I'd say his play design is a big deal.
2. Playmakers galore
The 49ers offensive skill players around Purdy are just an embarrassment of riches, especially combined with Shanahan's play-calling and everyone healthy at the same time. The 49ers averaged 15.4 yards per play on Saturday with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk all on the field: 17 plays. 261 yards. Absolutely absurd. With Samuel's return to the lineup this is by far the most extensively they've used this combo all year.
ESPN's NFL Live crew did a great job pointing out how the 49ers "death lineup," specifically the use of 21 personnel (2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WR), is destroying the rest of the league.
It's worth nerding out more on this. They've used BY FAR the most 21 personnel since Purdy took over, and their 7.8 yards per play in those groupings is significantly better than the league average (5.7) since Week 14.
3. YAC bros
The most valuable collective skill among the 49ers playmakers is yards after the catch. With McCaffrey, Samuel and Kittle you have perhaps the best running back, wide receiver and tight end in terms of YAC in the entire league. All rank top three at their position since coming into the league in YAC. The 49ers have led the NFL in YAC average for five straight seasons and they were at their best against the Seahawks as I referenced above. Deebo Samuel was a nightmare to tackle as usual on Saturday. Most of his 74-yard touchdown came after the catch and it looked like Tariq Woolen wanted no part of tackling him on this big third-down conversion.
4) Positional versatility
The 49ers also play positionless football with their core which makes them even more dangerous. McCaffrey gets split out wide. Juszczyk too. The term "wide back" was coined for Deebo, who lines up in the backfield. Kittle also lines up in the slot and out wide on occasion. As you can see with the chart below, they were used all over the field on Saturday.
|49ers Skill Players by Pre-Snap Position on Saturday vs Seahawks||RB||WR||TE|
This is not normal. Only one team played more "positionless" football this season. The 49ers RBs and WRs had the second-most snaps out-of-position (556) in the league behind the Ravens (665). McCaffrey, Samuel and Juszczyk all ranked among the leaders at their position in out-of-position snaps.
This is one of my favorite plays of the game which sums it all up. Kittle split out wide. Juszczyk at tight end. McCaffrey in motion from wide receiver and Deebo getting a play fake in the backfield. Kittle ended up wide open for a 23-yard grab.
5) Brock Purdy
Purdy is the last ingredient that makes the 49ers offense cook. In a lot of ways he's been similar to Garoppolo. He gets the ball in the hands of his playmakers, especially on intermediate throws over the middle of the field with regularity. He also has a lot of open throws. But his impact boils down to more than just "executing," or "doing his job."
Purdy has a 121.4 passer rating in six career starts. That's the best of any QB in any six-game span all season. It's the best by any 49ers' signal caller in any six-game span since Steve Young in 1994, a stretch capped off by his six-touchdown performance in Super Bowl XXIX against the Chargers. I don't care how good the coach, scheme and playmakers are, you don't just show up off the street and put up those numbers. If it was so easy, other QBs under Shanahan would have done the same.
Purdy's mobility and decision making are elevating this offense. He has just two turnovers and four turnover-worthy plays in six starts. Garoppolo had six turnovers and nine turnover-worthy plays in 10 starts. Purdy also shows some craftiness in the pocket to elude the rush and extend plays that's added another element to San Francisco's offense. I found it surprising that he leads the NFL in touchdown passes with three-plus seconds to throw (10) since his first start in Week 14. This throw to Aiyuk, which should have been his fourth touchdown of the game, was Mahomes-esque. If the pass is completed, it's one of the best passes in playoff history and it's breaking the internet.
Purdy's mobility was so good on Saturday that Pete Carroll compared him to Fran Tarkenton (via 49ers.com): "Brock Purdy did a really good job staying alive. I don't know how we couldn't sack the guy, we chased him all over the place. And he's not known for being the greatest scrambler but he looked like (Hall of Fame quarterback) Fran Tarkenton out there today."
Add it all up and the 49ers have one of the best offenses AND defenses in the NFL, if not the best. That's plenty good enough to win their first Super Bowl in 28 years.