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What we learned as Purdy leads 49ers to big win over Bucs

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SANTA CLARA — The 49ers on Sunday took a major step toward the NFC West title as rookie Brock Purdy, making his first NFL start, and his teammates thoroughly dominated Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a 35-7 victory at Levi’s Stadium.

Now, coach Kyle Shanahan’s team can virtually assure itself of a top-three seed in the NFC playoffs on Thursday in a matchup against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field.

But the 49ers' latest win could have a negative impact on the team due to All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel sustaining a concerning ankle injury.

The 49ers won for the sixth consecutive game and improved to 9-4 on the season. The second-place Seahawks fell to 7-6 on the season with a 30-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Here are three takeaways from the 49ers’ Week 14 victory:

Season could hinge on Samuel’s outlook

Samuel got to his feet after being on the ground and having the 49ers' medical staff evaluate his condition, but in obvious pain, he went back to the ground.

The cart was summoned to transport Samuel to the locker room area for further observation on his injured left leg.

Most of the team was on the field to wish Samuel well before he was taken away. Samuel’s importance to the team is obvious. Not only is he the 49ers' most irreplaceable offensive player because of his playmaker as a pass-catcher and ball-carrier, his tenacity is also a tone-setter.

Samuel was injured on a play in which he was bent back over a pile and fumbled at the end of a 3-yard gain in the second quarter.

 

With four games remaining in the regular season, the 49ers are in solid position to earn a spot into the NFC playoffs.

But the task once the postseason begins becomes infinitely more difficult without their most-clutch offensive performer to help out their rookie quarterback.

The 49ers took a 7-0 lead just two and a half minutes into the game when Samuel took a pitch to the right, somehow remained inbounds and scooted 13 yards for a touchdown.

Purdy solid as a rock in first start

Just as he was when entering the lineup in Week 13, Purdy looked to be in complete command.

It started out rough for Purdy as he did not see safety Keanu Neal blitzing off the front side. Neal leveled Purdy for an apparent sack.

However, Neal was called for roughing the passer due to a helmet-to-helmet hit and the play resulted in a 15-yard gain for the 49ers.

After that, Purdy was more than just solid, almost darn-near perfect, completing 16 of 21 passes for 185 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions. His passer rating was 134.0.

Purdy showed his mobility with a 2-yard touchdown on a scramble to give the 49ers a 14-0 lead.

For the second week in a row, Purdy expertly engineered a late-second-quarter touchdown drive. After getting a reprieve with a defensive holding penalty that wiped out an interception, Purdy hit Brandon Aiyuk on a 32-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds remaining before the half.

The play gave the 49ers a 28-0 lead to basically seal the victory with 30 minutes of football remaining.

Brady’s forgettable homecoming game

Brady, the seven-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, is not going to play forever, though it seems that way.

Brady played a road game against the 49ers for only the second time in his 23 NFL seasons, and things did not go well.

Brady’s Bucs were completely dominated in all phases. And Brady struggled mightily. He completed 34 of 55 pass attempts for 252 with one touchdown pass while throwing two interceptions. 

Safety Tashaun Gipson and linebacker Dre Greenlaw picked off Brady in what could have been the final Bay Area appearance for the San Mateo native. He grew up rooting for the 49ers. But his childhood team did not draft him in 2000. And the current regime passed Brady in 2019, when he was a free agent after 20 seasons with the New England Patriots.

It is uncertain whether Brady, 45, will opt to continue his NFL career beyond this season. But Shanahan said last week he believes Brady is throwing the ball better than ever.

RELATED: Where 49ers stand in NFC playoff picture in Week 14

The 49ers have two quarterbacks under contract for next season: Trey Lance and Purdy. In addition, Garoppolo is scheduled for unrestricted free agency.

Purdy will have the remainder of the season to make his case for an elevated spot on the depth chart next season. Then, the 49ers will have some decisions in the offseason.

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