Giants learn blitzing Brock Purdy isn’t the answer in loss to 49ers

Giants learn blitzing Brock Purdy isn’t the answer in loss to 49ers

SANTA CLARA — Shorthanded as they were going in without the left side of their offensive line and running back Saquon Barkley, the New York Giants figured a full assault on 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy was their best chance Thursday night.

Rattle the kid with pressure from every angle. Get a few sacks, some turnovers and who knows? An overmatched 10 1/2 point underdog might actually have a chance.

Apparently blitzing Brock isn’t the answer either. The Giants sent enough blitzers to make Purdy look off his game early on, but by the time a 30-12 win at Levi’s Stadium was secured, the 49ers quarterback did what he’s done every time he’s gone wire to wire.

Win the game.

“I thought it was a huge challenge, one of the biggest Brock’s been in,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s a short week of practice, they have six guys on the line of scrimmage, half the time they’re coming, half the time they’re not. He settled down throughout it and it ended up good enough for the win.”

Purdy’s bottom line — 25 of 37 for 310 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 111.3 passer rating — didn’t reflect how he actually looked, particularly early in the game. He was fortunate to have no interceptions, with George Kittle essentially making like a safety to break up one headed to Adoree Jackson on the opening drive, with another deflection landing into the hands of Ronnie Bell for a gain.

Jauan Jennings caught a pass thrown behind him for a first down on a third-and-8, and Purdy wasn’t looking like the smooth operator he’s been since taking over last season as the 49ers starting quarterback. Five of his first nine passes were incomplete.

As for Purdy’s big statistical day, which included being sacked just twice, he wasn’t all that interested celebrating it.

“I don’t get wrapped up in the stats and stuff,” Purdy said. “There’s some throws out there that I missed that could’ve helped us get the lead earlier, quicker and faster. Those are things that are in my mouth that I have a bad taste from that I want to get better at.”

The way the Giants came at Purdy was no surprise. Their defensive coordinator, Don “Wink” Martindale, has made a career out of gambling with overloads and “zero” coverages with no deep safety.

Depending on which statistical service you believe, the Giants came at Purdy anywhere from 73 percent to 86 percent of the time with extra rushers.

“I played in Baltimore when Wink was there,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “I know his style. They’re going to send the house all the time and really test your rules. Sometimes they’ll even break the rules. He’ll roll the dice and we saw that tonight.”

Spencer Burford, the 49ers second-year right guard who started all 16 games last season, said he’d never seen anything like it.

“I don’t think we saw the same blitz twice,” Burford said.

One thing about rolling the dice — doing it against the 49ers can result in snake eyes because they’ve got the kind of offensive talent to capitalize when too many players are rushing the passer.

It means Deebo Samuel getting 30 yards on a quick screen left on third-and-15 for a first down. Or Christian McCaffrey on a screen right for 17 yards on third-and-13.

With Brandon Aiyuk out with a shoulder injury, Samuel caught six passes for 129 yards, Kittle seven for 90 yards and Christian McCaffrey five for 34 yards. Most were YAC (yards after catch) yards. Which, by the way, count the same as a ball thrown majestically downfield.

“You’ve got to get rid of the ball fast, but you’ve also got some good looks to run with it,” Shanahan said. “You make one guy miss and there’s no one else left and we’ve got some guys that are pretty good at making people miss and pretty good at breaking tackles.”

Purdy dime to Deebo!

#NYGvsSF on @NFLonPrime
NFL+ // https://t.co/KTh0i4oaLh pic.twitter.com/Rrkjh8enGL

— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) September 22, 2023

NFL Films has video of former Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells telling his quarterbacks in training camp that once they figure it out, they’re going to love it when teams blitz because of the opportunities for big plays.

Purdy, who saw pressure while coming off the bench in his first game against Miami last season but nothing like he saw Thursday, seems to be catching on.

“That’s the risk that the defense is taking when they’re blitzing,” Purdy said. “We can capitalize on offense with some big plays and we had some stuff dialed up for what they were doing when they did blitz. But if you’re not on point, they’re going to get to you. There were a couple of times when they got us, but we were able to get a couple of plays here and there on their blitz and take advantage.”

Colton McKivitz, the 49ers starting right tackle, credited center Jake Brendel with communicating to the rest of the line where the pressure was going to come and Purdy for getting rid of the ball even while under duress.

“We’re seeing a lot of six down linemen, that’s the biggest thing,” McKivitz said. “If guys are going to press him, we’ve got  guy who can get after ‘em. He’s going to stay in there and take a hit to to get the ball out.”

Purdy is now 8-0 as a regular season starter, plus two playoff wins. His only loss came after being knocked out early against Philadelphia in the NFC Championship Game.

The early struggles Thursday night only seemed to inflame doubters on social media who can’t comprehend how the last pick in the draft can lived such a charmed life — as if Purdy himself was no more than a bystander being carried by his supporting cast.

“That seems to be the case with this team for the last seven years,” Juszczyk said. “It doesn’t really matter how much we win by, how far we make it in the playoffs, our quarterback gets heat. I don’t think Brock deserves that, but it comes with the territory I guess.”

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Purdy did finish his day with an exclamation point — especially after getting some mild criticism for missing three relatively deep shots in the previous win over the Los Angeles Rams.

Against a zero blitz, Purdy lofted a perfect 27-yard strike to Samuel on a back shoulder fade to the right against Jackson for the touchdown that put the game away.

“He missed a couple of throws but also made a couple that I didn’t think were there,” Shanahan said. “I was definitely happy with him.”

At least until he loses a game. Some day, it will happen, although Purdy served notice blitzing isn’t necessarily the way to do it.