SANTA CLARA — The 49ers’ season took another abrupt turn in the first quarter of their 33-17 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who has been playing at a Pro-Bowl-consideration level, sustained a season-ending broken foot while being thrown for a sack to end the 49ers’ first offensive possession of the game.
Garoppolo was ruled out for the game, and now is done for the rest of the regular season. Rookie Brock Purdy stepped in, played well and guided the 49ers to an impressive victory over the Dolphins.
Garoppolo’s spot on the 49ers’ regular-season roster seemed like a long shot before he signed a new contract a week prior to the season that included a significant pay cut. He returned to the starting lineup after second-year player Trey Lance sustained a season-ending ankle injury in the first quarter of the 49ers’ Week 2 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
Now, the 49ers (8-4) are forced to turn to Purdy, their third-string quarterback, for the remainder of the season.
Here are takeaways from the 49ers’ Week 13 game against Mike McDaniel’s Dolphins (8-4):
Purdy important time to step into lineup
The 49ers invested the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft in Purdy, who ended up beating out Nate Sudfeld for a spot on the regular-season roster.
Purdy, who was summoned off the sideline on Sunday after Garoppolo broke his foot while being sacked at the end of the 49ers’ first offensive series of the game, played well enough on Sunday to allow the 49ers to win their fifth game in a row. Purdy completed 25 of 37 passes for 210 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Purdy got off to a strong start, as he led the team on a nine-play, 54-yard drive on his first possession behind center. He threw his first NFL touchdown pass when he found fullback Kyle Juszczyk near the front right pylon on a 3-yard pitch and catch. The score gave the 49ers a 10-7 lead near the end of the first quarter.
Purdy’s best sequence came at the end of the second quarter when he led the team on a well-executed 11-play, 76-yard drive. His 3-yard touchdown pass to Christian McCaffrey gave the 49ers a 17-10 lead with :04 remaining in the first half.
The Iowa State product is in line to remain as the 49ers’ starter for as long as Garoppolo is out of action. The only other quarterback in the 49ers’ building is Jacob Eason, whom the club signed to the practice squad on Nov. 15.
Eason, 25, has appeared in two NFL games: One last season with Indianapolis, and one this year with Carolina. He has completed five of 10 pass attempts for 84 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Defense tightens after worst-possible start
The explosive Dolphins offense did not waste any time showing up.
Coach Mike McDaniel dialed up a big opportunity on the first play of the game when their pre-snap motions caught the 49ers’ defense in a state of confusion. San Francisco appeared to have some mix-ups with safeties Talanoa Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson, and Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and receiver Trent Sherfield made them pay.
Tagovailoa hit Sherfield on a quick slant, and the former 49ers receiver took it the rest of the way — 75 yards, untouched, into the end zone after just 10 seconds of game action.
After that quick strike put the 49ers in a 7-0 hole, the defense held firm with back-to-back three-and-outs and surrendered just three points for the rest of the first half.
The defense held until the opening seconds of the fourth quarter, when Tagovailoa hit Tyreek Hill against Charvarius Ward for a 45-yard touchdown. That score broke a streak of 141 minutes, 37 seconds in which the 49ers had not given up a score in the second half of their games, dating back to Oct. 23 against Kansas City.
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw came up with a big play with six minutes remaining when he broke up a fourth-down pass for tight end Mike Gesicki.
Jimmie Ward, Deommodore Lenoir and Fred Warner all had key interceptions in the second half to help the 49ers snuff out the Dolphins' chances.
The final touchdown of the game came courtesy of Dre Greenlaw, who recovered a Tagovailoa fumble and returned it 23 yards.
Upcoming stretch of NFC playoff contenders
As interesting — and important — as the 49ers’ game Sunday was against the Dolphins, they enter into a crucial stretch of games against NFC teams, first against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next week at Levi’s Stadium, before facing the Seattle Seahawks in Week 15 in a Thursday night road game.
The Seahawks are the 49ers’ only competition in the NFC West. Seattle improved to 7-5 with a 27-23 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
The 49ers’ three-game stretch concludes against the Washington Commanders on Christmas Eve. Washington remains in the thick of the playoff hunt with a 7-5-1 record. The Commanders and New York Giants played to a 20-20 tie on Sunday.
Tampa Bay remains in the hunt for the NFC South title. The Buccaneers are 5-6 entering their game Monday night against New Orleans.