SANTA CLARA – Brock Purdy didn’t look astonished when told him he’s the first quarterback in 49ers history to win his first three career starts.

Can that stat be true?

Well, Joe Montana began 0-3. Steve Young, 1-2. John Brodie, win-win-loss. Colin Kaepernick, win-win-loss. Jeff Garcia, win-loss-loss. Alex Smith, 0-3.

Jimmy Garoppolo?! Oh yeah, him. Technically, his first two career starts (wins) were with New England, before he won his first five starts with the 49ers in December 2017. Garoppolo’s last (and perhaps final) 49ers’ start came three weeks ago, when he played one series before leaving with a fractured foot and bequeathing the helm of this NFL warship to Purdy.

Nick Bosa (two sacks) and George Kittle (two touchdowns) deserved the spotlight for Saturday’s 37-20 victory over the Washington Commanders. But both Pro Bowl players hailed Purdy’s ability to keep this ship on course, something not to lose sight of while admiring this wunderkind, rookie quarterback.

“Brock’s confidence that he brings in every day, it makes all of us very confident,” Kittle said “We know he’ll make plays with legs, he’s fantastic about rolling out, keeping his eyes up field and he makes guys miss in the backfield. He’s such an athlete. He’s good with the football. He doesn’t make stupid throws.”

Added Bosa: “I’m super impressed with how he’s matured so quickly. It helped he started four years of college. For a rookie to come in and just have that command, everybody’s got his back, obviously.”

Bosa said so wearing a Santa Claus robe — gifted to him by Kittle, who wore Santa’s red hat to his media podium. ’Tis the season to believe, in the 49ers and in Purdy.

Here are 10 things that caught my eye as the 49ers (11-4) won eight in a row for the first time since the start of the 2019 season, which ended in the Super Bowl:


At Friday night’s team meeting, Shanahan revealed his early script, and it included a call that would result in Ray-Ray McCloud’s 71-yard touchdown and 7-0 lead. It’s a play best designed for Deebo Samuel, but he’s still out with a sprained knee and ankle. Shanahan couldn’t resist “messing around” with Samuel in the meeting.

Said Shanahan: “When I installed it, I said, knowing Deebo was in the back, ‘This run has looked bad all year, but now we have the right guy on it, so I have a feeling this is going to score.’ I was definitely being sarcastic, but it was really fun to look for Deebo when it did hit like that.”

McCloud acknowledged it worked so well because of the blocks. As he crossed the line of scrimmage, Mike McGlinchey was pancake-blocking a defender, Christian McCaffrey was steering his to the sideline, as was Kittle, and then practice-squad stud Willie Snead IV sealed the lane for McCloud to produce the 49ers’ longest run since Raheem Mostert’s 80-yard score in 2020 Week 2 – and the longest rushing touchdown ever by a 49ers wide receiver.


Another win without injuries to report? Well, maybe. Cornerback Charvarius Ward came out because of nausea, and even though doctors cleared him, he spent last week in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

The best health update regarded Javon Kinlaw, who played for the first time in three months and wanted to go beyond his 15-snap limit.

Running back Jordan Mason thought he sustained a knee injury covering the opening kickoff, but that wasn’t the case, Shanahan said. Mason was restricted to special-teams duty because of a tight hamstring in practice, which vaulted Ty Davis-Price into the No. 2 rushing role Saturday.

Speaking of Samuel, he’s moving remarkably well considering he got carted off two weeks ago. Saturday, he walked onto the field in pregame (in civilian clothes) and played catch with fans like usual. He looks on track for a playoff return, unless the 49ers are compelled to use him before then to enhance their shot at a better seed.


The 49ers stayed true to their vow that they wouldn’t ease up just because, by winning their previous game in Seattle, they clinched the NFC West and no worse than the No. 3 seed.

The Minnesota Vikings (12-3) narrowly won again – they’re 11-0 in one-score games – so they still hold the No. 2 seed, but they’d lose the tiebreaker with the 49ers for it if they have matching overall records. The Philadelphia Eagles (13-2) took the first step to improbably losing the No. 1 seed by falling at Dallas, and they’ll still have to lose at home to both the New Orleans Saints (5-9, won their past two) and the New York Giants (8-5-1; lost 48-22 at Philly on Dec. 11).

Defensive back Jimmie Ward advised the 49ers not to lean into their No. 1 ranking defensively, saying: “That’s like fool’s gold. We haven’t won anything yet. We have two more games in this regular season and we still have the playoffs. There’s a lot of football left and you can’t get too hyped up on that stuff.”


Jordan Willis’ special-teams prowess might not be the only reason he suited up over Drake Jackson as the 49ers’ fourth edge rusher (with Bosa, Samson Ebukam and Charles Omenihu).

“I feel like December is usually his time of year. December, January,” Shanahan said.

Last January, Willis blocked a Green Bay Packers punt that Talanoa Hufanga recovered for a touchdown to trigger the 49ers’ comeback win in the divisional playoffs at snowy Lambeau. Willis used his 33 ½-inch arms Saturday to reach up and snatch a ball, the fumble Nick Bosa forced on a fourth-quarter sack. “I noticed him a bunch even there at the end,” Shanahan said. “Jordan, you’re not going to hear him talk very much. He’s our silent assassin.”


A funny thing happened on the way to Purdy’s first touchdown pass. Kittle “intercepted” it from McCloud, as Shanahan aptly described, before explaining that McCloud was the intended target on a post route. Kittle was supposed to cross the field to keep open McCloud’s path.

“I Grinched it,” Kittle said, in the holiday spirit. “No, I’ve had five touchdowns taken away by penalty, so I’ll get them whenever they’re available.” Kittle said wide open space, and rather than run toward defenders, he headed for pay dirt.

“It’s funny, we ran that route Wednesday, (Shanahan) coached it on Thursday morning, and goes: ‘Even if there’s space, you’ve got to run across the field so the post is wide open.’ I was like, eh, touchdown.”

Not so funny was the sight of a figure closing in as Kittle grabbed Purdy’s 34-yard pass. “When (McCloud) got over my shoulder, I thought it was a safety trying to get ball out, and it actually scared me,” Kittle said. “Then he was in my ear saying, ‘You stole my touchdown.’ I was like, ‘My bad.’ Not really.”


Opponents dig the deep ball. When Terry McLaurin hauled in a 51-yard catch at the 6-yard line, reserve cornerback Sam Womack and safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. were in the vicinity. Washington quickly converted that play into a touchdown and pulled within 21-14. The deep ball is perhaps the only way opponents can get through this 49ers’ defense, which is stopping the run so well (33 carries, 79 yards for the Commanders).

The 49ers aren’t taking lightly those coverage mishaps or communication breakdowns. They must rectify this before the playoffs. The Commanders converted a few third-and-long situations, and that’s a few too many.


Fred Warner’s memo to the NFL: “You want to try us on fourth down? Go ahead.” Warner’s season-high 13 tackles included short-yardage stops on fourth-and-goal from the 1 and on a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak.

Warner just made his second Pro Bowl. He’s the captain who fires everyone up with speeches. He’s been outshined at times by fellow linebacker Dre Greenlaw, but a game like Saturday’s should remind everyone of Warner’s hard-hitting ability and impressive range.

“Some of the things that they do up front with their line movement, stuff like that is pretty good. But their linebackers’ ability to run, it allows their defensive front to take more chances to work back door a couple of times,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said. “Their guys could run and make up for anything. They’re defensive-minded. That’s a very fast group in terms of the three linebackers and the safety that adds into the eight-man front.”


Take away McCloud’s 71-yarder and the 49ers tallied 82 yards on 26 carries. That’s not terrible, but there weren’t many impressive runs. Purdy continues to offset that with some timely and explosive pass plays.

Christian McCaffrey had 15 carries for 46 yards, finishing with a 1-yard touchdown run. It was his third straight game with a rushing touchdown. He didn’t have a run longer than 9 yards. But he still had one of the NFL’s fastest runs this weekend, reaching 19.51 mph before getting pushed out of bounds at the Washington 11 — for no gain.

This was only the third game in Davis-Price’s rookie season in which he got to carry the ball, and it’s been two months since his last turn. The results: nine carries, 30 yards. He had a 6-yard, third-and-1 conversion run. Those are all necessary reps in case he needs to come in from the bullpen down the stretch.


The red, Santa Claus robe was untied (or unbuckled), it covered Bosa’s tan hoodie and it draped to his knees as he strutted to the media podium in his Air Jordan 1 Low OG sneakers. Only Bosa could pull off that look with such swagger, befitting the NFL’s sack leader (17 ½) and growing favorite to win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.

His two sacks Saturday set his career high at 17 ½ for the season, tying him with Fred Dean (1983) for the second-most in franchise history behind Aldon Smith’s 19½ in 2012. Bosa said he’s “kind of eyeing” that record more so than the NFL mark of 22½ sacks, with two games to go.

He attributes his career-best year to “just more reps and being able to continue to learn each and every week, and plan out my rushing plan to tailor to who I’m playing. I feel I have an answer to every type of blocker at this point, some better than others, obviously. But it’s going well.”

Bosa’s second sack produced the fumble Willis recovered at a critical juncture early in the fourth quarter. He came awfully close to a third sack but officials ruled that Carson Wentz got away a pass before his knee hit the ground. (“Yeah, I saw it on the big screen. It was close,” Bosa said.) He didn’t get credit for sacking – or dropping — Wentz on a two-point conversion because such point-after plays don’t count on the stat sheet.

Kittle stumped for Bosa to win not only the Defensive Player of the Year award but be in the MVP conversation, which is essentially reserved for quarterbacks. “He’s the most talented player on the field, beside Trent Williams, but I don’t think they’ll give the MVP to an offensive lineman,” Kittle said. “Every single day he’s an absolute monster. All those sacks, they’re earned and deserved. He’s fantastic and he’s never not good.”


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