SANTA CLARA, Calif. — When Brock Purdy took the field for his first career NFL start last season for the San Francisco 49ers against Tampa Bay, there were many questions about whether he could be a viable NFL quarterback.
Purdy overcame a botched audible on his first snap and a heavy dose of blitzing to pick apart the Buccaneers defense in a sign he might be far better than his seventh-round draft pedigree.
"To be under duress like that and his first time really with us in a full game and the way he played and I think it was pretty good foreshadowing on how he’s handled everything for the next 16 games,” coach Kyle Shanahan said this week, recalling that start.
Purdy now gets to face the Bucs (4-5) again Sunday as the firmly established starter for San Francisco (6-3) and one of the NFL's most efficient passers.
Purdy fared well the first time when he went 16 for 21 for 185 yards and two TDs in 35-7 win.
“I hope the results are different,” Tampa Bay coach Todd Bowles said. “Obviously, they beat us pretty (bad) last year. There are some things we’ve got to change and we learned from. Hopefully that change is for the better. He’s a good quarterback, he’s a good football player, he’s a smart football player. ... He takes care of the ball, he knows where to go with the football and he can use his feet when he needs to.”
He has proven that game was no fluke.
Purdy has made 17 starts in the regular season and playoffs, posting a 112.5 passer rating with 29 TDs and seven INTs.
After a three-game slump before the bye week when he threw five interceptions, Purdy came back last week with perhaps his best game statistically as he went 19 for 26 for 293 yards and three TDs for a career-high 148.9 passer rating against Jacksonville.
“I just feel you’re always getting better or worse," Shanahan said. "So I’d like him to just continue to get better. I thought what he showed last year in the time he played, he showed he was capable of being our starting quarterback and I don’t think anything’s been different this year so far.”
Baker Mayfield’s ability to protect the football has been one of the keys to Tampa Bay remaining in contention for a third consecutive NFC South title. The No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 draft has thrown for 2,143 yards, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions.
The sixth-year pro has had a passer rating above 90 in six of nine games, tied for the fourth-most in the league. He has thrown nine touchdown passes vs. one interception in leading the Bucs to a 2-2 record on the road.
BAKER VS. BOSA
Niners defensive end Nick Bosa said there's no ill will between him and Mayfield despite a memorable celebration back in 2019.
Mayfield planted an Oklahoma flag at midfield at Ohio State following a win in college in 2017. Bosa got a bit of payback in his rookie season when he mimicked a flag planting during a big 49ers win over Cleveland.
“It was fun," Bosa said. "My celebrations as a rookie were pretty good.”
Bosa got to meet Mayfield at a golf tournament in February and said that's all in the past.
“He’s nice,” Bosa said. “I’ve never had anything against him. Just a joke as a rookie.”
Tampa Bay’s defense is coming off limiting Tennessee to a pair of field goals and 209 yards total offense, including 42 rushing, in a 20-6 victory last Sunday. In addition to four sacks and an interception, the Bucs finished with 13 quarterback hits after yielding a season-high 39 points the previous week to C.J. Stroud and Houston.
Stroud threw for five touchdowns and an NFL rookie-record 470 yards, capping the performance with a winning 75-yard drive in the final minute.
“Everybody has got a lot of pride. You don’t want to just have a bad game and not come back from it. ... You either attack it head on or you go back in the tank,” Bowles said of the turnaround against the Titans.
“Those guys have a lot of pride. We’ve played a lot of good football in the past,” Bowles added. “Everybody got down, put their nose down to the grindstone and got back to work as a group. We understand what we’re capable of and they came out and played the game.”
POTENT PASS RUSH
The Niners' pass rush looked rejuvenated last week thanks in part to the addition of Chase Young.
With Young and Bosa on the outside and Javon Hargrave providing a push on the inside, San Francisco had five sacks last week against the Jaguars. The Bucs have allowed only 16 this season — tied for the fourth fewest in the NFL.
AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall in Tampa, Florida, contributed.