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‘Brock Star’: 49ers rookie QB remains calm in face of playoff pressure

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

It never happened.

If you thought Brock Purdy would wet his pants during his first NFL playoff game, just keep on waiting. Purdy, the first rookie quarterback in San Francisco 49ers history to start a postseason game, played with the poise you’d expect from the legendary Joe Montana in carving up the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC wild-card matchup at soggy Levi’s Stadium.

Don’t just take it from me. Check out the love from LeBron James:

“PURDY GOT GAME!!!!!!!!!!” the NBA megastar tweeted.

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“LeBron said that?” Purdy responded when alerted during his postgame press conference. “That’s sweet. That’s awesome. That’s so cool.”

Purdy, 23, passed for 332 yards and set an NFL record during the 41-23 blowout by becoming the first rookie quarterback to account for four touchdowns – three passing and a sneak – while further advancing his Cinderella journey to stardom.

The playoff win was the 49ers’ sixth in a row since the last player drafted in April was inserted into the starting lineup after Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a foot injury in Week 13.

What nerves? For all of the win-or-go-home pressure and better competition that postseason brings, no one was more composed than the “Brock Star.” He didn’t commit a turnover and posted a 131.5 efficiency rating as the 49ers (14-4) won their 11th consecutive game.

Purdy undoubtedly knew the stakes and felt the emotion building before kickoff.

Then the game came. On his first pass, the wet football slipped out of his hand and sailed away.

That was as bad as it got.

“Once the game started, it was 11-on-11,” Purdy told reporters. “I’ve got to do my job, get it to the guys when they get in space and go from there. We didn’t make it more than it was.

“It wasn’t, ‘Oh, my gosh, we’re in the playoffs. We’ve got to get all tense.’ We just have to play our game and let everything else fall into place.”

Nothing seemed to faze the baby-faced kid who looks like an ID check waiting to happen. He ran Kyle Shanahan’s versatile offense with aplomb, which means getting the football into the hands of Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and others.

When it didn’t go exactly as designed, that’s when Purdy got creative, using his legs and football savvy to spin out of would-be sacks and turn broken plays into highlight clips with his elite scrambling. His 7-yard TD toss to Elijah Mitchell in the fourth quarter was just that as he emerged out of a spin to find Mitchell floating alone in the flat.

Mitchell was the last read for that exact purpose.

Or, as Purdy put it, “Elijah was where he needed to be.”

Shanahan has shown tremendous confidence in his rookie, evidenced by the load he has put on Purdy in the passing game from the moment Jimmy G. went down, weeks after opening-day starter Trey Lance was lost for the season. Purdy threw 30 passes while the 49ers logged 33 rushing attempts. Balance is the ticket, particularly when a prolific offense has so many weapons.

Yet the coach can also get a bit nervous about his rookie when Purdy is forced to go off-script to extend plays.

“He’s got a feel for it,” Shanahan said. “He definitely makes me nervous. He does a good job getting away. He knows his body. He never tries to give up on a play.”

Even better, Shanahan concluded, “He’s been very smart with the ball.”

No, Purdy isn’t perfect. With the Seahawks holding a 17-16 halftime lead, Purdy said that Shanahan gave him a pointed reminder in the locker room that stemmed from the lone sack that the quarterback suffered. He said he looked for Kittle over the middle but held onto the ball rather than reacting quickly.

Shanahan told him, “We just have to keep it simple and get it to our guys.”

After halftime, the 49ers broke the game open by scoring TDs on each of their first three possessions.

Purdy, who started 46 games at Iowa State and was twice named first team All-Big 12, clearly belongs on the NFL stage, even with the spotlight intensifying during the playoffs.

Sure, the tests will get tougher as the 49ers advance. But with Purdy acing every test yet, there’s no reason to question whether the deep, balanced 49ers can still contend for a Super Bowl 57 crown with a rookie at the game’s most important position.

It’s funny now: As the last player drafted, Purdy was dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant,” a distinction that comes complete with an annual parade in Southern California in that player’s honor. On the final day of the draft, no one would have imagined that Purdy would be in this spot of quarterbacking the hottest team in the NFL in the playoffs.

Yet here’s Purdy, plenty relevant with the next stage occurring in the divisional playoffs.

As LeBron reminded his 52 million followers on Twitter, Purdy’s got some serious game.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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