July 14, 2024
Brock Purdy came away healthy from Saturday's nine-snap cameo, even though the 49ers' quarterback had a nerve-wracking scramble to cap his night.

SANTA CLARA — Brock Purdy scampered into Levi’s Stadium’s open field, cut back inside, and, with his competitive juices in regular-season mode, sought out the goal line.

He didn’t make it into the end zone.

He emerged unscathed, however, from that 8-yard scramble to the 2-yard line, which capped his nine-snap cameo in Saturday night’s 21-20 preseason win over Denver. It was Purdy’s first game since tearing an elbow ligament in last season’s NFC Championship loss.

“Once he cut back inside, I was just begging for him to get down,” coach Kyle Shanahan said Sunday on a media conference call.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) looks to pass against the Denver Broncos in the first quarter of a NFL preseason game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

That’s because Shanahan has seen too many quarterbacks dash into the red zone — or breach an opponent’s 20-yard line — and sustain disastrous consequences.

In 2018, Jimmy Garoppolo raced along the left sideline in Kansas City, only to sustain a season-ending knee injury.

Last year, Trey Lance ran up the middle to the Seattle Seahawks’ 19-yard line, only to leave with a season-ending ankle fracture.

Wouldn’t it just be the 49ers’ luck to lose Purdy three weeks before the season opener on a running play, just over five months after his elbow was surgically repaired?

Sunday’s health check: Purdy came away healthy, as did his two backups, Sam Darnold and Trey Lance, the latter of whom produced a fourth-quarter comeback that ended on Jake Moody’s walk-off field goal. “All three of them were good. Nothing came up today,” Shanahan said of his quarterbacks.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) makes a throw against the against the Denver Broncos’ Jonathon Cooper (0) in the first quarter of a NFL preseason game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

Purdy completed 4-of-5 passes for 65 yards and looked reminiscent of last season’s rookie stardom. Shanahan, however, wishes Purdy attempted one more pass, on that third-and-goal scramble from the 10-yard line.

One play can’t reflect if Purdy is ready for the Sept. 10 season opener at Pittsburgh — he sure looks ready — but Saturday night’s scramble reminded him how a split-second decision can change his and the 49ers’ fortunes.

Taking a shotgun snap against Denver’s four-man rush, Purdy bailed from the pocket at the 17-yard line, with no defenders between him and the goal line. Only a couple yards into Purdy’s escape, Jauan Jennings bulldozed a defender to break open along the goal line. Purdy kept running, and when Broncos linebacker Alex Singleton cut off his path at the 10-yard line, Purdy opted not to run out of bounds.

“He was good to break the pocket, which I think was smart. They gave him a lane to break and extend it on third-and-goal,” Shanahan said. “I just wish he kept his eyes up a little bit longer, because Jauan flashed open in front of him, and Brock had decided to scramble a little before that. If he would have kept his eyes up, he would have had the off-schedule (throw) to Jauan.”

Instead, Purdy cut back inside, Shanahan prayed, and the starting quarterback safely landed at the 2-yard line, setting up a fourth-and-goal snap that yielded a field goal rather than one more shot at a touchdown.

“Yeah, I mean it was just sort of in the moment, 11-on-11, like it was off-schedule and we’re scrambling,” Purdy said afterward. “I sort of saw a crease backside and it’s probably going to be something I’ll see on film where it’s like, man, give J.J. a shot.

“But yeah, honestly it was a split-second decision and try to run it and set us up for fourth-and-goal and go for it. But it’s preseason, so let’s kick a field goal.”

Purdy’s mobility is deceiving. His ability to elude pass rushers and keep plays alive is what boosted the 49ers’ offense into a scoring juggernaut before his untimely injury at Philadelphia with a Super Bowl berth on the line. He had just 13 yards on 22 carries last season, including a touchdown in his starting debut against Tom Brady and Tampa Bay.

Purdy wasn’t the only quarterback on the move Saturday night. Darnold had 8- and 10-yard scrambles, the latter of which he safely slid from danger. Lance had a 6-yard run, and a holding penalty negated a 10-yard run. Broncos starter Russell Wilson played just 12 snaps, but he ran on three of them, for 25 yards.

San Francisco 49ers’ Alfredo Gutierrez (77) and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) celebrate their 21-20 win against the Denver Broncos in a NFL preseason game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 


Danny Gray, the 49ers’ best deep-threat wide receiver, avoided a broken collarbone but endured a shoulder sprain that figures to sideline him into the regular season, Shanahan said. The 49ers also will enter the season without Ray-Ray McCloud, a fellow wide receiver and their return specialist who is out until October because of wrist surgery.

That means more opportunities for others to join a cast led by Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and Jennings. Shanahan named Chris Conley and Willie Snead IV as reliable, veteran options. Ronnie Bell and Tay Martin lead the younger group, which includes Dazz Newsome and Isaiah Winstead, the latter of whom did not play Saturday night.

“We have a good group of depth to be ready for this opportunity,” Shanahan said. “But, as always, they’re also competing against (options on) other rosters, too.”


Tight end George Kittle (groin), running back Elijah Mitchell (groin), linebacker Dre Greenlaw (hamstring) and defensive linemen Drake Jackson (hamstring) and Kalia Davis (hamstring) are expected to return to practice this week, with sessions held Monday through Wednesday in advance of Friday night’s preseason finale against the Los Angeles Chargers at Levi’s Stadium.

The only other reported injuries besides Gray’s from Saturday’s game: defensive end Kerry Hyder Jr. (stinger; may not play this week) and running back Jeremy McNichols (hamstring; out multiple weeks).


The 49ers’ cornerback crew remains in flux, and Shanahan plans to further test Deommodore Lenoir at nickel back after only about five snaps there Saturday night. Charvarius Ward is entrenched as a starter, and Lenoir proved a “consistent” complement on the outside last year, according to Shanahan, who offered positive reviews of how Ambry Thomas and Sam Womack III played against the Broncos.


Mitch Wishnowsky’s punts covered 31, 35 and 29 yards for a 31.7-yard average, with none pinning the Broncos inside their 20-yard line. That was a big drop from how he fared against the Raiders (49.0-yard gross average, 46.2-yard net). “A couple got away from him, and a couple we tried to knuckle to make it tougher for them to catch for the possibility of a turnover,” Shanahan said.

Wishnowsky’s night began with heroics as a holder, when he fielded Taybor Pepper’s low snap and placed it in time for Moody to make the first of his three field goals.

Related Articles

San Francisco 49ers |

Inman: 10 things to catch my eye in 49ers’ preseason tilt with Broncos

San Francisco 49ers |

49ers’ Jake Moody comes through, but there’s still reason to be concerned

San Francisco 49ers |

Kurtenbach: Brock Purdy picked up where he left off. That makes the 49ers the NFC’s team to beat

San Francisco 49ers |

49ers 21, Broncos 20: Brock Purdy makes cameo; Jake Moody kicks winner

San Francisco 49ers |

49ers’ Jed York comments for first time on insider-trading allegations