SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Roughly 30 minutes after becoming the first San Francisco 49ers quarterback in history to attempt 20 or more passes and post a perfect 158.3 passer rating in the same game, Brock Purdy had multiple thoughts.
First, Purdy was proud to etch his name in the record book and have it mentioned along with Joe Montana, who is the only other Niners starter to achieve a perfect rating in a game with at least 10 attempts, a feat he accomplished in 1989. Second, Purdy pointed out that just because the passer rating goes no higher doesn’t mean he believes it was a “perfect” game.
Third, Purdy deflected credit to his teammates and coaches for their hand in his performance during San Francisco’s 27-14 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“What an honor,” Purdy said. “But at the same time, I feel like there’s still some plays and stuff that I wish I had back. So, I’m not completely content with just that, but I thought it was a great game with the guys around me, the coaching and the playcalling, all of it. I think that’s a testament to the team, really.”
Five minutes later, Purdy was asked if passer rating is a tool he and his fellow quarterbacks use to judge their play.
“I still don’t even really know what it means,” said Purdy, a grin creeping across his face.
What it meant for the Niners on Sunday was a second consecutive victory that moved them further away from the three-game losing streak that ruined their October and elevated them to 7-3 with a one-game lead in the NFC West division. For Purdy, it might have been his best game yet in a season where that claim has already been made on multiple occasions.
Making his 18th career start nearly a year after making his first NFL start against these same Bucs, Purdy and the offense got off to a slow start on their opening drive. But they rarely missed the rest of the way as Purdy finished 21-of-25 for 333 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions on his way to the pristine 158.3 mark.
His damage came in nearly equal doses between the halves, though in different ways. In the first half, Purdy was 14-of-17 for 164 yards and a score. In the second, he was 7-of-8 for 169 yards and two scores, including a 77-yard strike to receiver Brandon Aiyuk for a touchdown early in the third quarter.
Most of Purdy’s production came against the Bucs’ man coverage as he threw for a career-high 210 yards and had all three touchdowns against that defensive look. Purdy now has 16 passing touchdowns when facing man, the most in the NFL this season.
Despite all those gaudy numbers, teammates have grown accustomed to Purdy’s performances.
“Perfect game? Wow,” defensive end Nick Bosa said. “I’m never surprised anymore with him. He’s as good as it gets.”
Over the past two games, Purdy has looked more like the quarterback who helped the Niners to a 5-0 start than the one who had six turnovers (including all five of his interceptions) in a three-game losing streak against the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals. Purdy truly struggled against only Cleveland in those three games, but the turnovers had some outside skeptics wondering how he would respond.
Between last week against Jacksonville and Sunday against Tampa Bay, Purdy has gone 40-of-51 for an average of 314.5 passing yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions while averaging 12.3 yards per attempt.
“There’s always going to be critics,” running back Christian McCaffrey said. “He knows that. Everybody in here knows that, and I like when he plays a little bit edgy with a chip on his shoulder. I kind of hope the critics just keep coming because it pisses him off and he plays really well.”
For Purdy, there has been no magic cure to whatever was going on during the Niners’ three-game losing streak. Coach Kyle Shanahan said Purdy was playing “unbelievable” during the streak on film and there was no need to panic or make any major adjustments.
But Purdy did believe it was important for him to be hard on himself, play with a chip on his shoulder and remember that the league is always quick to remind that a pat on the back and a kick in the behind aren’t far from one another.
“It’s the NFL, anything can happen on any Sunday and that’s like the chip that I was talking about,” Purdy said. “So, sort of getting back to that and proving myself every drive, every play that I can be the guy for this team and I have to earn it every single week at practice, meetings, wherever it may be. That’s the mindset of what I was talking about and definitely more in tune and being detailed the last couple weeks and finding that chip again.”
Ten games into this season, whatever Purdy has used for motivation seems to be working. Through Sunday’s games, he’s first in the NFL in QBR (76.6), passer rating (109.9), yards per attempt (9.7), third in completion percentage (70.2%), tied for fifth in touchdown passes (18) and sixth in passing yards per game (266.2). His five interceptions are tied for the second fewest among starters.
Purdy’s 9.7 yards per attempt are the second most through 10 games in NFL history among players with a minimum of 250 attempts. He’s keeping company with Boomer Esiason in 1988 (9.8), Dan Marino in 1984 (9.7) and Aaron Rodgers in 2011 (9.6) at that rate. Esiason, Marino and Rodgers all went on to win the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
As Purdy continues to answer any and all questions about him, perhaps the better question might be what can’t he do.
“I don’t know if he can run a 4.3 [second 40-yard dash],” Shanahan said. “But anything we’ve asked him to do, he’s done at a real high level.”