“It’s pretty crushing. We know what Jimmy’s been through, how hard he’s worked at this,” coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game. “That was a really cool game, just as a team and all the stuff that went on throughout the game and just be able to overcome some things. So it’s such a special win. But definitely mixed emotions hearing about Jimmy.”
The first-place 49ers (8-4) have won five straight games to establish themselves as one of the top contenders in the NFC but now must go the rest of the way with untested rookie Brock Purdy after losing starter Trey Lance to a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2.
This is the third time Garoppolo has had a season derailed by injury since joining the 49ers midway through the 2017 season. He went down with a season-ending knee injury in the third game of the 2018 season and missed eight games with ankle injuries in 2020.
In Garoppolo's two healthy seasons, the Niners went to the Super Bowl in 2019 and the NFC title game in 2021.
But his history led the Niners to trade three first-round picks to draft Lance third overall in 2021. Garoppolo kept his job last year but was supposed to move on this season before offseason shoulder surgery killed his trade market.
He ended up returning to San Francisco on a reduced contract to be the backup to Lance but regained his role as starter when Lance got hurt. He was playing the best football of his career.
“It’s brutal,” running back Christian McCaffrey said. “I haven’t been around a long time here, but I can’t say enough good things about him. I’ve been in that postion before, where you’re playing and you’re excited and it all ends for the year. It hurts.”
Now the Niners will try to go the rest of the way with Purdy, who came into the league as Mr. Irrelevant after being taken with the final draft pick but now has the most important job on one of the league's top teams.
The former Iowa State star had thrown just nine passes in mop-up duty in a Week 7 loss to Kansas City before being told by quarterbacks coach Brian Griese it would be his time in the spotlight Sunday.
"I feel like there was a little just like, the whole butterfly feeling of ‘Man, we’re going in, let’s do this,'” Purdy said. “It wasn’t like I was out there like shaking like, ‘Oh, shoot, what do I do? What’s my read?’ None of that. Every single week I act like I’m the starter. I prepare like I’m the starter. My name was called. Coach Griese said let’s roll.”
Purdy threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Juszczyk on his first drive and another to McCaffrey to cap a well-executed two-minute drill at the end of the half.
He finished 25 for 37 for 210 yards with two TDs and one interception against an aggressive Miami defense that tried to fluster him with blitzes.
“Brock has played a lot of football and you can tell,” Juszczyk said. “Just the way that he plays the position, he has a savviness to him. He has an understanding. He has a confidence to him. I thought he did a really good job today in the huddle, just kind of commanding everyone’s respect and getting the plays in and out and delivering some confident passes out there. I think we can definitely still do some things with Brock.”
Purdy joins a team that features one of the top defenses in the league led by Nick Bosa, who had three sacks on Sunday, and a deep group of playmakers led by McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk.
Purdy passed his first test, but it will only get tougher from here.
“We got to clean some stuff up, obviously, but just throwing him in there in the heat of battle like that, with how much (blitzing) that team did,” Shanahan said. “I thought he did a hell of a job doing it and protected the ball well.”
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Josh Dubow, The Associated Press