Lombardi: A look ahead to NFL Week 15

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The funny thing about NFL players, even though they make millions playing the sport they love, nothing fuels their motivation when playing for a simple T-shirt and hat.  The hats and shirts represent winning their division, which also means playoff checks, and a chance at the ring, yet players seem to raise their level of play when free gear is available.  And last night, the 49ers showed everyone they have another echelon of play with a convincing road win, 21-13, against the Seahawks. If you took Seattle and the 3, or the 3.5, you knew from the start it might not cash as the 49ers’ defense and their offense were by far the better team.  The score wasn’t as close as the game. 

 

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When Bill Parcells was coaching the Giants with the great Lawrence Taylor rushing off the edge in 1986, once his team got a two-score lead, he was on the headsets telling his offensive staff to milk the clock. Check out any NFL Films clip and hear Parcells telling Ron Erhardt his offensive coordinator, “milk it, milk it.”  It didn’t matter when the lead occurred; all Parcells cared about was reducing the game and letting his defense dominate.  He knew teams couldn’t put two great drives together. Parcells knew his defense eliminated the big play, so the shorter he made the game, the quicker he would gain a win.  The ’86 Giants, winners of Super Bowl XXI, allowed only 14.6 points per game and controlled the line of scrimmage—much like the ’22 49ers. 

Examining San Francisco, they have been as dominating the last seven weeks, allowing 11 points per game, and only 15 points per game on the season.  When healthy, the speed and quickness of the 49ers, along with their space tackling ability, make it hard for any offense to have consistent success.   They are relentless in their pursuit and closing speed to the ball, requiring the offense to be precise with each throw.  They fit the runs perfectly, forcing teams to be one-dimensional, and when the game becomes all pass—the 49ers’ defense becomes better—much like those ’86 Giants. 

Watching the game last night, I was wondering what happened to all chatter about 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan having to change his offense?  That narrative led to the drafting of Trey Lance, giving away high draft picks for a player who allegedly would give the 49ers more explosive plays and expand their staling offense.  It never happened—and won’t happen.  In two starts, Brock Purdy has looked ten times better than Lance because he is the perfect player for the Shanahan offense.  His talents fit within the offense.  Purdy is smart, accurate, can move and make plays with his feet, and can handle the pressure of the moment.  The game isn’t too big for him. Winning on the road, in a hostile environment like Seattle, playing with great poise last night is a tribute to his 46 career starts at Iowa State.  Yes, I know Ames, Iowa isn’t the big time—but Purdy played in many big games, in front of huge crowds, and the poise and confidence he displayed last night was impressive. It should give the 49ers confidence when they head on the road in the playoffs.    

What Micah Parsons of the Cowboys said about Jalen Hurts of the Eagles can be said about Purdy and the 49ers.  It’s the perfect system for the player’s talent.  Why do fans get offended when players are labeled as system players?  Any good coach always wants to match the talents of the players to the system.  When a player is forced onto a system that doesn’t highlight his skills the best, he looks bad.  Why was Steve Young a failure in Tampa Bay and a Hall of Fame player in San Francisco?  It was the perfect system match—the same can be said for most Hall of Fame quarterbacks.  Lance wasn’t a good fit for the system, whereas Purdy is. 

With three games remaining, the 49ers’ largest hurdle is remaining healthy come playoff time.  If they have their complete team when facing Dallas or Philadelphia, they will be a hard team to beat—even with Purdy under center.   

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