The San Francisco 49ers have been downright dominant on defense this season, finishing with the league’s top-ranked unit on that side of the football. That has helped make defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans a hot commodity as pertains to head coaching vacancies around the league. But lost in the greatness of the defense is an offense that’s persevered and maintained solid play behind two multi-skilled running backs despite losing quarterbacks Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo for the season.
Who Is Brock Purdy?
With third-string rookie Brock Purdy under center, the belief was the offense would struggle, but that’s been anything but the case. Kyle Shanahan’s play-calling within a QB-friendly offense has made young Purdy’s elevation to No. 1 pretty seamless. Purdy, aka “Mr. Irrelevant” (last pick of the 2022 NFL draft), has shined since becoming the starter, going 5-0 with 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
He’s also passed for over 1,300 yards, and while he’s had some of his weaponry at his disposal in running back Christian McCaffrey, aka “White Lightning,” aka “Run CMC,” and star tight end George Kittle, he’s missed the dynamic Deebo Samuel, who returned last week after missing three weeks with an ankle sprain.
Historically, the 49ers' offense has been average in the playoffs under Kyle Shanahan. But this is the best and most talented version he’s had heading into the playoffs. We look at why things will be different this time around. https://t.co/ubokrcLnBa
— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) January 11, 2023
Deebo Samuel, White Lightning Should Help Purdy In Wild Card Round
Blessed with a defense that’s going to keep things in check, Purdy knows he doesn’t have to do much more than manage the game. The rookie from Iowa State should be very comfortable with two of the top five dual-threat running backs in the game healthy and ready to do damage.
— SF 49ers Fans (@49ersSupporters) January 12, 2023
Niners Trade For Christian McCaffrey
When the trade for McCaffrey surprisingly went down in October, Deebo expressed how excited he was with the move. The former South Carolina Gamecocks star told Justin Melo of 49ers Webzone:
“I was like, man, we get another guy that’s really good with the football in his hands. Before we traded for him, we had myself, George Kittle, BA Brandon Aiyuk, Juaun Jennings, and Ray-Ray McCloud III. I can go down the line and name everybody.
“We’re all capable of doing great things with the ball in our hands. We had Jeff Wilson, who was traded to the Dolphins last week. We’re getting Elijah Mitchell back at some point. We added more firepower to this offense.”
To land another dual-threat weapon like McCaffrey is a game-changer for sure. And he hasn’t disappointed one bit since his arrival out West, where he once starred for the Stanford Cardinal. He’s rushed for nearly 800 yards and six touchdowns while averaging nearly 5 yards per carry. He also did his thing as a receiver with 52 receptions for 464 yards and four more touchdowns.
Rebirth of George Kittle
To see Kittle finally stay healthy this season was a welcome sight for 49ers fans. The tight end caught 60 receptions for 765 yards and 11 touchdowns. So, when the backfield isn’t causing havoc, reliable pass-catchers like Kittles can wreck a defensive game plan as well.
Christian McCaffrey really does it all, touchdown pass to Aiyuk, 34 yards!pic.twitter.com/WfdF2ODjjs
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 30, 2022
Third-year wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk has also stepped up this season posting career numbers of 78 receptions for 1,015 yards and eight touchdowns.
Niners Believe It’s Super Bowl Or Bust Even With Purdy
Despite losing starters Lance and Garoppolo, who led the Niners to Super Bowl 54, losing to the Chiefs 31-20, Shanahan believes his group is still a strong contender and anything short of a trip to Super Sunday would be considered a failure. For most teams that would be added pressure, but the Niners at 13-4 are on a 10-game winning streak, and they’ve embraced all challenges this season. Beating the Seahawks for a third straight time is what’s next on the menu.
Kittle told The Ringer, “It just feels like a party out there.”
Talk about having fun.