SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Asked to rate rookie caller performance Brock Purdy after leading the San Francisco 49ers to a victory Sunday, defensive end Nick Bosa offered a generally succinct response.
“We have a quarterback,” Bosa said.
Purdy is, in fact, the Niners’ third starting quarterback this season, but in the first half of Sunday’s 35-7 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he looked just like a grizzled veteran. Behind Purdy’s effective performance, San Francisco improved to 9-4 with its sixth straight win and can clinch the NFC West crown as early as Thursday night if it can beat the Seattle Seahawks on “Thursday Night Football.”
Purdy staged one of the best first halves in his NFL history debut, but the win didn’t come for free, as a receiver. Deebo Samuel injured his left ankle in the second quarter and did not return.
After the game, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said the team didn’t know the extent of Samuel’s injury, but said it was “most likely” a sprain. ankle. Shanahan and the Niners were encouraged that Samuel didn’t have a broken ankle.
High ankle sprains usually take about a month to heal, so if that’s what Samuel has, he could theoretically be back in time for the first week of the NFL playoffs. Wide Brandon Aïyuk said he saw Samuel at halftime and had the opportunity to offer a few words of encouragement.
When asked how Samuel felt, Aiyuk said it was hard to say.
“It’s Deebo,” Aiyuk said. “He’s not going to give you too much.”
Even without Samuel, who was heading for a big day with four catches for 43 yards and four carries for 21 yards and a touchdown at the time of his injury, Purdy and the offense remained unfazed.
Purdy, who was the 262nd and final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, became the first “Mr. Irrelevant” to start and win an NFL game at quarterback. He also became the first quarterback to beat Tom Brady on his first departure. Brady was 7-0 against the new starters heading into Sunday.
Purdy’s first-half efficiency was so good — 14 of 18 for 185 yards with two touchdowns for a 146.5 rating — that he only threw three times in the second half as San Francisco salted the game.
“He did a terrific job,” Shanahan said. “I think you all saw that. He made a ton of plays. He made the plays that were there. He made a lot of plays that weren’t there. He did a great job in the pocket. … It’s really impressive how he played.”
Purdy’s first start got off to a rocky start when he recorded the wrong play and took a sack from Bucs safety Keanu Neal on the opening game. But Neal hit Purdy helmet to helmet, drawing a penalty and allowing Purdy to set up.
From there, Purdy rarely missed as he went 16 of 21 for 185 yards with two touchdowns for a 134 passer rating, adding a 2-yard rushing touchdown. Purdy joined Don Strock as the only quarterbacks since 1950 to throw at least two touchdowns and run for at least one score in the first half of their first start.
“My emotions and everything, just my hotel room to study, all that kind of stuff, it was relatively the same,” Purdy said. “And then when we found out we were getting the ball to start the game, that’s when I was like, ‘OK, this is getting real, let’s go. That’s why I say kind of getting hit on the first play of the game, I liked that, but other than that it was another game of football.”
Shanahan said Purdy did not come out unscathed from the match. He suffers from an oblique injury, although Shanahan and Purdy said he was taken out for Josh Johnson because of the lopsided scoreline and could have ended the match if necessary.
Shanahan said Purdy’s status for Thursday in Seattle isn’t a sure thing based on how he feels on Monday, although Purdy is optimistic.
“We’ll see how it goes this week,” Purdy said. “It was just a little tight at the end just because of a few hits, but honestly if I needed to play the rest of the game I would have. So I’m going to get treatment and be ready to roll.”
Samuel’s injury was more concerning. It happened with about five minutes left in the second quarter on Tampa’s second and 9 at 43. He took a transfer from Purdy and ran down the middle as two Bucs defenders converged.
Samuel attempted to spin and appeared to twist his left foot and ankle in an awkward direction. Samuel lost the ball as Tampa recovered but was down for a few minutes in obvious pain.
Most of the Niners’ roster quickly ran onto the field to get closer to Samuel as medical personnel watched him and San Francisco fans chanted, “Dee-bo, Dee-bo.” Samuel briefly got to his feet and looked ready to hobble down the touchline with the help of the medical staff, but dropped to the ground and shouted an expletive that was picked up by the officials’ microphone.
A trolley came out shortly after, taking a despondent Samuel to the locker room. Samuel had his hands on his left knee and his head bowed as the cart disappeared into the Niners’ tunnel.
“He’s tough as hell and he tried to walk away,” Bosa said. “I just hope for the best.”