The 49ers are back to winning, and, for the most part, comfortably.
Despite a relatively close first half, San Francisco ran away with things after the break. Brandon Aiyuk had a career day, Brock Purdy looked outstanding, and the defense stifled a Buccaneers offense that gave them a few early troubles at the edges in a 27-14 win.
It sets up a massive Thanksgiving matchup in Seattle next Thursday.
Purdy’s arm strength, and near perfection
Aside from one ill-advised scramble on which he could have dumped the ball off to Brandon Aiyuk, Brock Purdy was just about flawless.
While the offense sputtered in the fourth quarter and left the door open for a desperation Tampa Bay comeback, they did their job through three quarters.
Purdy was dynamic, and for the second-straight week, he launched a deep ball for a walk-in touchdown that should quiet some of the concerns regarding his arm strength.
Last week, he threw up a prayer in a closing pocket to George Kittle for a 66-yard touchdown down the right sideline. This week, it was a 76-yarder, the longest pass play in the NFL this season, to Brandon Aiyuk.
Purdy was extremely efficient. He was 21-of-25 for 333 yards and 3 TDs with no interceptions. He also scrambled for a first down in the fourth quarter to move the chains and chew time off the clock. He had a perfect QB rating of 158.3.
Career-best from Aiyuk
Brandon Aiyuk had himself a day. He set a career-high with 156 receiving yards and had a career-long 76-yard touchdown reception, the longest in the NFL this year. His only mistake came at the end of the first half, when he caught a pass and went upfield instead of out of bounds near the sideline.
It cost the 49ers a timeout, which could have factored into Kyle Shanahan’s decision to take a field goal on 4th-and-3 instead of going for it.
Aside from that mistake, though, he was dominant, as he has been since last season, when he broke out for his first 1,000-yard season. His five-catch, 156-yard, 1 TD game puts him at 33 catches, 831 yards and 4 TDs for the season.
Were he not in an offense with Christian McCaffrey (21 carries, 78 yards, 5 catches, 25 yards, TD), Deebo Samuel (3 catches, 63 yards) and George Kittle (8 catches, 89 yards, TD), he’d be getting a dozen plus targets a week.
Hufanga carted off, Brown comes up huge in his stead
The most concerning part of Sunday’s game was the loss of Talanoa Hufanga.
In the third quarter, Buccaneers running back Rachaad White caught a ball in the right flat, then caught Hufanga with a brutal ankle-breaker.
Hufanga immediately went to the blue medical tent and was examined for about 10 minutes. At that point, the cart came out to take Hufanga into the locker room. He was immediately ruled out with a knee injury, which is not an encouraging sign.
The rookie, Ji’Ayir Brown, got beat for a 41-yard gain by Rakim Jarrett. It looked like he was confused about his assignment, sinking low like he was in zone coverage, then turning too late to chase down Jarrett.
But Brown made up for that mishap when it mattered most.
Steve Wilks dialed up a zero blitz, with Isaiah Oliver — coming in at nickel after an injury to Charvarius Ward, with Deommodore Lenoir sliding outside — blitzing from the edge. Baker Mayfield, who probably should have been picked off a few times, but played solid otherwise, threw up a ball towards the front left pylon towards Mike Evans.
Brown was covering Evans, who had his way with much of the 49ers’ secondary. This time, he came through, breaking up the pass, and avoiding a typical rookie mistake of running through the receiver on a play that often results in defensive pass interference.
But a 51-yard return from Deven Thompkins to the 49ers’ 13-yard line forced the defense to do it all over again.
Brown obliged. Cade Otton had a sure touchdown catch that he bobbled, and Brown clocked him to prevent him from securing it.
One play later, the rookie came up with a game-sealing interception. He stayed down for a bit with his teammates around him, but he might have just needed a moment to catch his breath and soak it all in. He got up and was mobbed.