Kawakami: What Brock Birdy's bad night and stark self-assessment mean for 49ers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — No one wants to say that Brock Birdie should be on a night like this, but honestly, he probably is. No one in the 49ers organization wants to see him throw four interceptions against the Ravens. No one in red and gold wanted the MVP lead that was the main reason Birdy was crushed on national television.

Nobody in a 49ers uniform wants to see Purdy hit this bump on the road at full speed and full tilt splash.

But yeah, everyone knows something like this is going to happen at some point, and better now than in the playoffs. Subconsciously or not, the 49ers were ready for it. Birdie's storybook season continues. No one can avoid a traitor. There is none more. 49 people understood it. In the minutes and hours of Monday night's 33-19 loss to the 49ers at Levi's Stadium, it was clear that Purdy totally understood this, too.

He spoke quietly with his teammates in the locker room. He walked to the bathroom. He got dressed. He nodded to those he knew. He walked towards the stage. Just like he did after his best games. No sigh, bite or glare. Likewise. Of course, on this day, Purdy was coming off the worst game of his NFL career and had to try to explain the performance. And most importantly: what is happening now?

“For me, it's like, 'OK, who are you and what do you stand for? Who are you when things are going well? Who are you when things aren't going your way?'” Purdy said when asked what was going through his mind when the interceptions piled up. “When things are going well, winning games. And it's easy to ride high and think you're the man in all that stuff. And in some games you don't really see a lot of suffering. That's the reality of the NFL. …

“I have to look at myself in the mirror, see the plays, get better, make some clean decisions, help my team score points and score and defend the ball. When things don't go my way, I understand that I can't play. I'm honest with myself.” And to be better. But I want to be the same guy every day, to be sure of what I'm doing, how I'm doing it, whether things are going well or not. I know who I am and I'm not going to give up on that. I already said I'll hang up my hat.

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Is that the correct answer? There's no guarantee that Purdy will bounce back from this outing immediately, especially after leaving a game in the fourth quarter on Monday after suffering a shoulder stinger for the second straight week. Nothing is guaranteed for an NFL quarterback going up against defenses loaded with speed and big men.

Maybe Birdy's MVP candidacy is toast now, and I don't think it bothers him too much. The dialogue, quite frankly, was always high. You want to win games and championships, and awards come from that. It wouldn't be the other way around, and everyone under 49 appreciates Purdy's full embrace of that ethos.

His responses Monday night after the demolition were extensions of that sentiment.

Brock Birdie's worst games by QB rating

Date Opponent week COMP-ATT YDS TD INT Assessment As a result

12-25-2023

vs. the Ravens

16

18-32

255

0

4

42.6

L, 33-19

10-15-2023

At the Browns

6

12-27

125

1

1

55.3

L, 19-17

10-23-2023

In Vikings

7

21-30

272

1

2

81.5

L, 22-17

11-23-2023

At the Seahawks

12

21-30

209

1

1

86.7

W, 31-13

1-22-2023

vs. the Cowboys

DIV

19-29

214

0

0

87.4

W, 19-12

You can imagine his teammates want to hear and see exactly this from Purdy, because while he's been playing brilliantly, it's finally what they've heard and seen from him, whoever he is during and after this game. Monday. They don't want to see a bad read that led to an interception after a good run on the 49ers' opening series. They don't want to see the bad decisions and hasty throws that the other three choices are prone to. They don't want to lose this game, which means they need to win their final two regular season games to ensure they clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.

They didn't want to see it, but neither did the 49ers' leaders want to see Purdy demoralized or diminished by it. Didn't like it at all. I don't know if each of the 49ers' leaders checked in with Purdy during or after the attack, but the detail of their responses when I asked them about Purdy indicated that they had.

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They've seen everything there is to see from their QB. This night was exceptional and proves how much they still believe in him.

“I think it's unbelievable how he's played the last two years,” Nick Bosa said of Purdy. “Being a young guy, a rookie last year, he looks like he's immortal out there. But nobody's immortal. He's responded to his lack of great performances before and I think he'll do it again.

Brandon Iuk said: “I think he's going to be fine. It's the first time he's really been on the other side of it. So I'm excited to see how he bounces back. He's going to be fine.”

How did this happen to a guy who threw just seven interceptions in the first 14 games of the season? Purdy was certainly not at his best. But the Ravens have the No. 1 defense in the league and played on Monday. Many of their players also recommended AthleticThey knew Ted Nguyen could keep the 49ers' offense off balance if they slowed down their running game. So they made sure to visit those places.

Is this the kryptonite for the 49ers offense with Purdy? Maybe if you have the Ravens' personnel that no one else has. If Purdy has a bad day, it's completely inconsistent with 90 percent of his NFL career to date. His only poor performance as the 49ers' starter came in an Oct. 15 loss at Cleveland in a game in which Debow Samuel, Trent Williams and Christian McCaffrey were injured, and even then Purdy threw just one interception. .

So Monday's stats, 18 of 32 for 255 yards, four interceptions and zero touchdowns, for a 42.6 passer rating, were easily Birdie's worst. The entire game was his worst. So far.

“He's played this long and I think it's pretty unusual that he hasn't had a game like this,” Kyle Shanahan said. “That's the reality of the NFL. I'm not saying it's necessarily going to happen — I wish we didn't have so many picks today. But … I think one of them really wants to come back, and I think the other three are unfortunate.

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On the first one, Purdy tried to hit Samuels up the middle in the end zone, but safety Kyle Hamilton missed the slide from the other end. The 49ers took the field after holding the Ravens to a game-opening three-and-out. It was first-and-10 at the Ravens' 15-yard line. It was set to immediately put the 49ers stamp on this game.

And then…

“It starts,” Purdy said. “Obviously, we were rolling and we had momentum. We had some big plays in that drive. And then I throw the ball like that to end the momentum we had.

What Birdie has in common is that he tries to walk more. He should take easy throws. That means he should be comfortable throwing and punting, if necessary, rather than risking a turnover.

Midway through the second quarter, a pass was forced across his body for George Kittle when he stepped out of the pocket on third-and-5 and saw flags fly. Marlon was dropped by Humphrey and re-elected by Hamilton.

“I've seen some vines thrown in with scythes and stuff,” Purdy said. “I didn't know exactly what or who it was about, so my mind was, 'Try to make a play.' I need to know. I saw it. So I'm pretty dumb to throw my body back in the middle of the field with a guy on George.

Yes, Purdy is hard on himself. Yes, that's Monday-worthy. Yes, he made a few more plays, but they were all ruined by his mistakes. Yes, Birdie grits her teeth and goes through every millisecond of the tape. Yes, he will be fine. Yes, he probably has some dreams about this game. Yes, it's a sure sign that it's a variant of a late-night freak that's done now.

(Photo of Brock Birdie rustling during Monday's game against the Ravens: Loren Elliott/Getty Images)

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