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49ers’ Fred Warner on Brock Purdy’s playoff debut: ‘He’s the reason we have a chance at the whole thing’

If it wasn’t already clear, the 49ers’ championship aspirations are in good hands with rookie quarterback Brock Purdy.

With the rainy weather and ample pressure mounting in the first playoff game of the Purdy’s career, those waiting for the No. 262 overall pick to finally falter were left wanting. The QB saved his best statistical game for his most important test yet, overcoming shaky beginnings to go 18-of-30 passing for 332 yards and three TDs, plus another score on the ground in San Francisco’s 41-23 wild-card win over the Seahawks on Saturday.

“As a rookie, you can’t talk enough about the way he’s come in and played,” 49ers linebacker Fred Warner told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche following the game. “I’ve never seen it before in my whole life. I don’t know if anybody’s played like this. Coming in late in the season, he’s the one that people should be talking about. Forget everything else. He’s the guy right now. We just need to take it one at a time like we always do and play team football.”

Purdy, who was thrust into QB1 duties in Week 13 after Jimmy Garoppolo broke his foot and went on to finish the regular season with a rock-solid 1,374 passing yards, 13 TDs and four interceptions, did finally flash nerves during the first half Saturday.

He missed badly on three of his first four attempts, which included an airmailed pass to no one to start San Francisco’s first offensive series and a badly underthrown ball to an open Jauan Jennings in the end zone. His uncharacteristic inaccuracy stalled the drive and led to a field goal rather than a TD.

Cashing in long drives for just three points, mostly due to Purdy’s placement on throws, became a common refrain in a 16-point first half for the Niners that saw three of five possessions end in a field goal.

The 49ers struggled to separate and went into the half trailing, 17-16.

When they received the ball to open the second half, the Purdy who had thrown multiple touchdowns in six consecutive games showed up to rewrite the narrative and retake the lead.

“He’s the reason we have a chance at the whole thing,” Warner said. “The way that he’s come in. The poise, the confidence, his performance week in and week out is amazing. We needed him to play big in the second half. That’s when it counts. It’s gonna be tough all the way through, but (it’s) how are you gonna perform in the tough moments?”

Purdy quarterbacked a 13-play, 75-yard drive with a healthy mix of throws, Christian McCaffrey runs and keeping it himself — which he did on a sneak to cap off the drive from the 1-yard line.

The score began a run of 25 unanswered points to put a once-close game far out of reach. The onslaught was aided by two forced turnovers from the defense and a monster 74-yard TD by Deebo Samuel that included 66 yards after the catch.

It was similar to the type of assistance Garoppolo received during his four-game winning streak before fracturing his foot against Miami in Week 13. But Purdy has added a dash of escapability and daring previously unseen in Garoppolo’s repertoire .

He put that on display during another second-half TD pass to Elijah Mitchell that involved Purdy scrambling to the left before spinning back to the right away from two defenders to find his wide-open RB for a walk-in score. Purdy gave himself 5.04 seconds of time to throw on the play, per Next Gen Stats.

He scrambled for even longer on a third-down play on the 49ers’ final drive and dotted a perfect pass to Brandon Aiyuk in the corner of the end zone, but the receiver couldn’t hang on. The drive ended with another Robbie Gould field goal, only this time Purdy had delivered like he had all half.

“Obviously in that kind of situation I got to be smarter with getting the ball out if the first reads not there instead of doing all that extra stuff,” Purdy said postgame in critique of his near-highlight play. “I felt like it was just one of those situations where, man if we put one more touchdown in, put the nail in the coffin. At the same time a field goal is just as good. So, it’s something I got to be smart with, you know, and just throw it away if it’s not there.”

His head coach, Kyle Shanahan, was more effusive in his review.

“It was unbelievable the throw he made in the corner to B.A.,” Shanahan said. “I know he just missed that but, you know, he’s got a feel for it. He definitely makes me nervous on some of it, but he did a hell of a job getting away. He knows his body. He’s out there. You can see how close he is to those guys. He tries to never give up on a play, and he’s been very smart with the ball so far, so I appreciate he’s doing it.”

In all, Purdy responded both to the pressure of the postseason and to a rocky first half, becoming the first rookie QB in NFL history to account for four TDs in a postseason game.

“Felt that way from the beginning,” Shanahan told reporters about having trust in Purdy. “You know, once he got in that (Week 13) game versus Miami. We didn’t have the luxury to sit there and worry about stuff, the way the game was going. We just had to call plays to try to win the game and he did such a hell of a job and he’s done it every time since, so we have a lot of confidence I him. He gives us more and more confidence each week.”

Purdy and Co. will test that confidence in the looming Divisional Round. The rookie has his Niners three wins away from their first Super Bowl triumph since the 1995 season.

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