Brock Purdy emerged out of nowhere to become just the third rookie quarterback in NFL history to win his first two postseason starts.
However, a bigger prize looms on the horizon when the San Francisco 49ers play in the NFC Championship Game for the third time in four seasons, visiting the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
Purdy will be striving to lead the second-seeded 49ers to their second Super Bowl appearance in the past four seasons. His rise from the 262nd and last pick in the NFL draft to unbeaten in seven career starts is becoming legendary stuff.
Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens in 2008-09 and Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets in 2009-10 are the other rookies to win their first two playoff starts.
“He doesn’t care if he messes up,” 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel said. “If he does, he’s going to go full speed and we’ll talk about it at the end of the day.
“I have seen him grow throughout the whole year from zero snaps to being the starter of this team.”
Philadelphia’s defense, which ranked second in total defense (301.5 yards per game) in the regular season, will be the best Purdy has faced. Counting the postseason, the Eagles have racked up 75 sacks, third most in NFL history. The only two higher outputs came from the mid-1980s Chicago Bears, who had a record 82 in 1984 and 80 in 1985.
Also part of the equation is the raucous Philadelphia crowd, which will provide noise.
“In these games, it all comes back to communication,” Purdy said. “How can you operate smoothly, get in and out of the huddle, get the play off in the right way and make sure everybody is on the same page. It’s definitely a big emphasis this week.”
The Eagles feature NFL MVP finalist Jalen Hurts at quarterback, an elite runner who has turned into a strong thrower. Hurts passed for 22 touchdowns and rushed for 13 during the regular season.
Hurts threw for two scores and ran for one as Philadelphia routed the New York Giants 38-7 in the NFC divisional round.
The 49ers led the NFL in total defense (300.6 yards per game) and scoring defense (16.3 points per game). San Francisco defensive end Nick Bosa (NFL-high 18.5 sacks) is a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year honors.
“They’re really good across the board,” Hurts said. “It starts out with their front seven and then adding a really good defensive back group. They fly to the ball at every position and they’re well-coached. We have a task in front of us and a really big challenge.”
The Eagles are in the NFC title game for the first time since the 2017-18 season when they went on to win the Super Bowl.
Philadelphia is a 2.5-point favorite at DraftKings and BetMGM, where the line opened at 2.0 but shifted with the Eagles drawing 76 percent of the spread-line bets and 85 percent of the money.
The line had moved to 3.0 points by Saturday at BetRivers, where Philadelphia covering was drawing more than twice as much action (28.3 percent) than any other play among the two conference championship games (Bengals +1.0, 12.4 percent).
This will be only the second game of the season in which San Francisco enters as the underdog. BetRivers reported the 49ers have covered in nine consecutive games against NFC opponents and are 13-6 ATS this season.
Purdy Over 0.5 INTs (-140 at DraftKings): All three sportsbooks are offering the same prop, with the potential payout slightly better at DraftKings as of mid-day Saturday. Purdy hasn’t thrown a pick since Week 17 and has 59 pass attempts through his first two playoff games without committing a turnover. But the Eagles’ defense can bring pressure from any angle, with four players registering double-digit sacks. Purdy is still a rookie, and under pressure he has a tendency to spin out of the pocket and will force the occasional ball downfield – and Philly’s defense rarely lets opportunities slip away.
49ers RB Christian McCaffrey Anytime TD (-120 at BetMGM): This has been the most popular NFC prop at several sportsbooks. McCaffrey missed practice time with a calf injury this week but has vowed to play. When he plays, McCaffrey typically finds the end zone — including at least once in eight consecutive games entering Sunday.
Over 46.5 Total Points (-110 at BetRivers): It’s easy to lean Under given the strength of these two defenses. But that inclination hasn’t played out over the course of the season, with the sportsbook reporting these are two of only six teams to hit the Over in more than half of their games. Good defenses also create short fields, which create scoring opportunities. And both offenses have plenty of offensive firepower to take advantage.
Eagles WR A.J. Brown Over 68.5 Receiving Yards (-115 at BetMGM): The Giants didn’t do much right defensively last week other than hold Brown to 22 yards on a trio of catches. That has been the exception to the rule, with Brown topping 68.5 yards in the six games leading up to the Eagles’ playoff opener. He will draw a difficult matchup with Charvarius Ward likely tracking him most of the game, but Ward proved vulnerable to another big, physical wideout in Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf two weeks ago.
Hurts Anytime TD (+118 at BetRivers): This has been the second most popular NFC prop at the sportsbook, drawing 3.1 percent of the total tickets and the second most money. Hurts has six rushing touchdowns in his past five games, including one last weekend as the Eagles have increasingly relied on his legs with opponents also having to respect Philly’s ground game near the goal line.
49ers: QB Jimmy Garoppolo (foot) was officially ruled out. McCaffrey (knee) and fellow RB Elijah Mitchell (groin) missed multiple practices this week but are expected to play. McCaffrey is expected to play while Mitchell was listed as questionable along with CB Ambry Thomas (ankle). Coach Kyle Shanahan said Charles Omenihu (oblique), who was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic violence earlier this week, would play if healthy.
Eagles: MLB T.J. Edwards (ankle) was the only player listed as limited in Friday’s practice and Philadelphia is expected to have everyone available.
Purdy has been unflappable in winning his first seven career starts, including a pair of playoff games. He also hasn’t faced a defense the likes of the Eagles, who will bring a slew of different looks and pressure from all angles. The 49ers’ defense is equally impressive, but Philly capitalizes on a turnover or two and takes advantage of shorter fields to win a tight contest throughout. –Eagles 26-23
–Field Level Media