Purdy shines, Lance leads comeback as 49ers beat Broncos with Moody FG
Aug 19, 2023, 10:30 PM | Updated: Aug 20, 2023, 7:20 am
Unless your name is Brock Purdy, not a whole lot went right for the 49ers in their second preseason contest Saturday, until the fourth quarter. The San Francisco 49ers came from behind to top the Denver Broncos 21-20, getting their first win of the preseason.
On a night that only mustered 41 points total, the home side did just enough to take home the W, thanks to a last-second Jake Moody field goal.
Let’s start from the beginning though.
The talk of the day centered around Purdy, playing in his first in-game action since tearing his UCL in the NFC Championship game last season. After taking all first-team reps the last few weeks of training camp, coach Kyle Shanahan gave his starter the first series of Saturday’s game.
He did not disappoint.
Five-plus months after undergoing elbow surgery to repair his ulnar collateral ligament, 49ers’ QB Brock Purdy returned to game action: pic.twitter.com/viuJBOVHJH
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 20, 2023
Purdy led the 49ers’ first-team offense down the field on his lone drive of the day. Doing it with both efficiency and precision, San Francisco found themselves inside the 10-yard line on the first series of the game. The QB did it by hitting Deebo Samuel for big gains early, before finding Brandon Aiyuk on a 15-yard slant route.
That’s where the drive stalled out, unfortunately.
Taking a sack on early downs, Purdy & the 49ers failed to covert on third down. The QB scrambled out of the pocket, extending for the extra effort, but was short of the goal line.
The kicking team came out after that, with rookie Jake Moody putting it from 20 yards out and going up 3-0 after the first series.
Brock Purdy finished his night going four for five, 65 yards passing and a 118.8 quarterback rating. While only playing one drive Saturday, the second-year gunslinger felt right at home on the field.
“Yeah, it was 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 to build up to a game and everything, and then being able to get an early completion to Deebo and get things rolling. So, felt really good.”
After Purdy’s feature, the 49ers struggled to get much going offensively, going four straight series with little to show for it. Thankfully, Denver also struggled, managing to make two field goals in the first half.
After 30 minutes, the score read 6-3 in favor of the visitors.
San Francisco next scored with Sam Darnold at the helm, having a solid night all around. His best series of the game was his last, going on a nine-play, 63-yard drive in the third quarter. The veteran capped off the series with a play-action strike to fullback Jack Coletto. After making a man miss, the undrafted rookie strolled in for six points to give the 49ers the lead.
9-6 in the third quarter, after Moody missed the extra point.
Darnold finished his day 11 for 14, 173 yards passing, one TD, and one interception.
The 49ers’ defense and special teams got caught after that, turning the ball over on a muffed punt. With UDFA D’Shawn Jamison fumbling a punt to the Broncos inside the 49ers’ 10-yard line. One play later, running back Mclaughlin ran it in from eight yards away and just like that, 13-9 Red & Gold.
Now it was Trey Lance’s turn to impress.
The third-year gunslinger got off to a slow start Saturday, throwing an interception on his first drive. After getting a couple of first downs, the QB looked to get the ball to RB Jeremy McNichols on a screen pass. Denver defensive lineman Matt Henningsen tipped Lance’s pass at the highpoint, with the ball picked by DL Elijah Garcia.
Luckily, the 49ers’ defense clutched up on the next drive, forcing a turnover on downs. Rookie linebacker Dee Winters was the culprit of the play, stripping the ball out of QB Ben DiNucci’s hands before the line-to-gain.
Lance & the offense rolled back out and had a little more success, taking the ball to Denver’s 25-yard-line on nine plays. Settling for three points, Moody returned to make a 43-yarder to make the score 13-12 Broncos.
Then the visitors scored in rapid fashion.
Thanks to good blocking up front, RB Tony Jones Jr. took the rock downfield, going off for a 43-yard scamper inside the 10-yard line. He capped it off on the next play, scoring from nine yards out.
A two-play, 52-yard drive puts the visitors up, 20-12, late in the fourth quarter.
Then Trey Lance & the offense woke up.
Leading the 49ers on a seven-play, 85-yard drive, the QB was decisive and poised in the pocket, delivering balls to various pass catchers. He notably hit rookies Cameron Latu and Ronnie Bell for big gains, before hitting veteran WR Willie Snead for a 14-yard gain. His best throw of the day came next, hitting Latu up the seam for 22 yards and the score, the first for both players of the 2023 preseason.
Lance to Latu for the score!
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) August 20, 2023
Going for the two-point conversion after an unsportsmanlike penalty, the 49ers weren’t able to tie the game up, leaving the score 20-18.
Reigniting the team, the 49ers defense forced a three & out by Denver in two and a half minutes of game time. Forced to punt it away, the home side had a two-minute drill to win the game.
And Lance delivered.
Stepping up in the pocket confidently, Lance’s biggest play came on a strike to Bell for 43 yards. Running a middle in route, the Michigan alum took the ball in stride, darting past Broncos defenders to the Denver 21-yard-line. On the next play, RB Ty Davis-Price bounced outside for a 15-yard gain, putting the 49ers in prime position.
Giving the rookie kicker the nod, Moody stepped up to seal the game, nailing the kick from 32 yards.
21-20 in favor of the 49ers is your final score.
In a game full of rollercoaster rides, Lance is one of the biggest stories, finishing the day 12 for 18, 173 passing yards, one passing TD and one INT. He also finished with a 93.1 QB rating. His final two drives were the best of his career, going 8 of 10, 142 passing yards, 1 TD, leaving Shanahan pleased with the end results.
“I think we got a little bit better rhythm for him. It still took a little while to get going, not just him but the whole group,” Shanahan stated about Lance. “So, I thought it was smoother than last week… I was pumped how we finished, pumped about the win.”
Another story is Moody, ending up with three made field goals and one missed extra point. Misses were an issue for the rookie last week in Las Vegas, making his game-winner Saturday that much sweeter.
“I thought it was pretty important. The first time down there, I was hoping to get one…I wanted to get him his first kick. So it’s good to get that out of the way after last week,” Shanahan said about the kicker.
Jake Moody said that was actually the first walk-off game-winning kick of his entire football career
— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) August 20, 2023
Some may scratch their heads at the coach’s decision to have Lance take a knee inside the 10-yard line, but it made sense to the QB, wanting to win the game over anything else.
“Nah, not in that situation,” Lance laughed at the notion postgame. “I wanted to win the game.”
While it remains to be seen how the backup competition will play out, Lance’s play Saturday will only increase his confidence going into the third preseason game this Friday.
As for Purdy, he was exceptional in his first appearance in months, commanding the offense at will. But this won’t be his lone appearance of the preseason, with Kyle Shanahan wanting him to build off this in Friday’s finale.
“No, starters will play next week,” the coach said.
The 49ers will look to close out the preseason with another win Friday, playing host to QB Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers Friday at 7 pm PST.