Three Takeaways from the 49ers’ win on Wild Card Weekend
Jan 17, 2023, 8:45 AM
(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
One down, three games to go for the San Francisco 49ers.
The Red & Gold defeated the Seattle Seahawks, 41-23, Wild Card Weekend, going on a 25-6 run in the second half to send their rivals packing. San Francisco will now face the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. A rematch of last season’s Wild Card round, the 49ers came back to beat Dallas, 23-17, at AT&T Stadium on the road.
But before we get there, let’s recap some of the highlights from round 1 of the 2022 postseason. Here are a few takeaways from Saturday’s win over the Seahawks.
Brock Freaking Purdy
We’re running out of adjectives to describe 49ers rookie QB Brock Purdy (positives ones at least)
Purdy’s first playoff game was spectacular, finishing the day with 332 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and one rushing score. He became the first rookie QB to win a playoff game Saturday since Russell Wilson did it in the 2012-13 season as a member of the Seattle Seahawks. Purdy was also close to some franchise history as well, only 25 passing yards away from reaching Joe Montana’s 49ers record in a postseason contest.
Safe to say, Purdy was excellent in his first playoff appearance.
– first rookie QB ever with 4 total TDs in a playoff game
– youngest player in NFL postseason history with 300 yds, 3 TDs passing
– tied NFL rookie record w/ 7 straight games of 2+ TD passes
– first rookie QB to win a playoff start in a decade
– 6-0 as a starter
— Nick King (@NickKingSports) January 15, 2023
Yet, nothing was perfect about Wild Card Weekend however, as the Red & Gold found themselves down, 17-16, heading into halftime. This was partially due to the team’s inability to close out drives, stalling a few times to take the three-point kick instead.
Purdy was a bit off to start the day, missing open receivers left and right. The offense as a whole looked out-of-sync, often times communication on routes didn’t match up with the game plan.
Nonetheless, head coach Kyle Shanahan got through to his rookie at the break, confident as ever that he could bounce back for a big second half.
“There was a couple open guys that he just missed,” Kyle Shanahan explained. “I know when that happens, it sticks out as ‘he’s not playing well’ because there were plays that he should have made. But all the other plays, he did play well. So when he does have a couple of misses, you really don’t want to panic. I mean, Brock’s an accurate thrower. He’s been doing that all year and playing well. He missed a few and I don’t think there’s really much of an explanation for it. Just we had to settle down a little bit and give him a few more opportunities and he got those in the second half and was pretty lethal with them.”
And lethal he was, producing three second-half TDs to put the game out of hand by the fourth quarter. He almost got his fifth score of the day, scrambling in the backfield while dodging Seattle pass rushers. He eventually found wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk in the back corner of the endzone, throwing a bullet that “BA” unfortunately dropped.
Brock Purdy is a MAGICIAN 🤯 pic.twitter.com/yVCmCpL3hT
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) January 15, 2023
Rather than settling for the spoils of the day, Purdy wanted to get one more, to stick it to the team’s long-time rivals.
His competitiveness and perfectionist qualities have carried him through college to the NFL to winning his first playoff game as a rookie. In only seven games, the Iowa State alum has earned the respect of those around him, and then some.
“He’s a special dude,” linebacker Dre Greenlaw said about Purdy. “Just watching him from the sideline, he’s just so poised. It’s unbelievable to have a teammate that’s young like that and can come in when all the odds are stacked against him, Mr. Irrelevant and everything. To come out and still be who you are and play football the way that he plays, it’s just a testament to him and how he was raised and how he’s been brought up. It’s unbelievable, man.”
The 49ers are a second-half team
In Kyle Shanahan’s tenure with the 49ers, his teams have gone 15-34 when trailing at halftime. The 49ers won Wild Card Weekend, bringing his winning percentage to 44.12% in said situations.
This season, the 49ers’ defense has been lights out, outscoring opponents 179-60 since Week 7. Going on an 11-game win streak, San Francisco hasn’t lost since October largely thanks to the defense.
DeMeco Ryans’ unit has been at the top of the NFL metrics in the second half of the season. However, they had been susceptible to shaky starts in games.
Saturday against Seattle got off to one of those rocky starts, giving up a long TD to WR D.K. Metcalf and QB Geno Smith in the first half. Trailing 17-16 at halftime, Shanahan gave props to his opponent but had faith his guys would deliver in the end.
Spoiler alert: They did.
Defensive Pressures, Wild Card, #49ers:
1. Charles Omenihu, 5 (!!)
2. Arik Armstead, 3
3. Kevin Givens, 2
So thrilled for Omenihu, who led the 49ers in pressures and PFF's overall defensive grade. Also had 2 sacks and the game-changing forced fumble. A+ game from Omenihu.
— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) January 16, 2023
“[Seattle Seahawks QB] Geno [Smith] throws a hell of a ball and [CB Charvarius Ward] Mooney didn’t shy away from anything,” Shanahan recalled. “He went up there and competed with them all game just like he did last time. D.K. is going to get some, I thought we got some too, but I think the key in the game was getting those turnovers in the second half and if we don’t come out and get those turnovers and we turn it over on offense, I think it’s a totally different game. And once we came out and got those turnovers, I think we settled down and got back into playing pretty good football.”
Halftime has been the saving grace for San Francisco this season, holding their opponents to a 22-0 run Saturday afternoon. A rout that started from one defensive play by one defensive player: DL Charles Omenihu.
Charles Omenihu’s versatility to kick inside on passing downs has been invaluable to the 49ers this season
Omenihu is a 2i on the overload side of this front, and is going get home on this loop around the RT and get a key forced fumble that was the defining play in this game pic.twitter.com/dvWvOsRXQJ
— Jordan Elliott (@splash_cousin) January 17, 2023
The Texas native had one of his biggest games of the season, producing (). His force fumble of Smith was the momentum-swinging play, getting the ball back into the offense’s hands without allowing any points on the drive.
Oh, it was huge, Shanahan added. “That was our first turnover. Once we got the turnover that’s when I feel like the momentum completely changed for the whole game…so it was a huge play in the game and I think once our defense did that, I think they got their mojo back and played great. It was awesome to be able to protect some of them there that last drive.”
A former Houston Texan, Omenihu was traded to the Bay last season. Despite his lesser pedigree across the league landscape, his play has been vital for the 49ers down the stretch.
“I told the guy yesterday, big time players step up in big time games, Omenihu said postgame. I say that we’re all big time players it doesn’t matter who is going to step up. Thank God I’ve been able to. In the year and a half that I’ve been here, I have been able to step up in those big time games and help my team win.”
The 49ers have an anchor of a defense that will need to keep stepping up if they want to make a deep run this postseason.
Brandon Aiyuk is a complete wide receiver
Remember when WR Brandon Aiyuk was in Shanahan’s doghouse as a rookie? Yeah, I do.
If you don’t, here’s a refresher: BA did not play much in the first two months of his rookie season, simply because he didn’t excel at the other facets of being a wideout.
His skill as a receiver and route runner has always been there, what hasn’t is the blocking. An aspect of his game that has grown into a strength this season.
“I’ve realized you can have a great game without touching the football,” Aiyuk said previously.
Aiyuk finished Wild Card Weekend with three catches for 73 receiving yards. His most important plays though came without the ball in his hands.
First, in the run game in the first half. Fellow WR Deebo Samuel burst through a hole off the left side, picking up a gain of 22 yards. That hole was set up by linemen, tight ends, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and Aiyuk alike. His ability to seal off cornerbacks has been key to his improvement as an NFL receiver.
His biggest block came on Samuel’s TD catch.
With BA running a go route, Purdy found Deebo underneath in acres of space, hitting the gas pedal up the sideline and past Seattle Seahawks to the endzone. Aiyuk was vital again, blocking off rookie CB Tariq Woolen from getting near his teammate down the sideline.
Two years ago, BA doesn’t make that play. But that’s made of the learning curve with Shanahan, finally grasping the concept fully in his third season in the NFL.
Brandon Aiyuk's huge block opened Deebo Samuel up for a touchdown.
"Receivers don't do that." pic.twitter.com/rmjYlCgEDD
— KNBR (@KNBR) January 15, 2023
“Now that I know where he’s coming from with everything, it’s easy to take their coaching, because they want nothing but the best for you and for the team,” Aiyuk said. “It’s easy to take their coaching when they know how to get their points across. And they’re super-persistent on making sure you get with them.”
The Rocklin native has been a spark for the 49ers in every facet of offense, also reaching his first 1,000-yard receiving season in 2022.