February 4, 2023

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What we learned this Super Wild Card weekend: Trevor Lawrence's insane return, historic debut of Brock Purdy

What we learned this Super Wild Card weekend: Trevor Lawrence’s insane return, historic debut of Brock Purdy

It doesn’t look like the first day of the NFL postseason will provide many fireworks. Trailing by a point at halftime, the San Francisco 49ers ran off the Seattle Seahawks after a break for a convincing win. Next up for the 49ers is a trip to the divisional round, with the opponent yet to be decided New York Giants And Minnesota Vikings Squared on Sunday.

However, the nightcaps proved to be insane. The Chargers cruised to a 27-0 lead on Jaguar, only for Jacksonville to turn up an amazing rally to secure a 31–30 win, the third-largest comeback in NFL postseason history. Jacksonville will learn if he plays a Kansas City Chiefs At the conclusion of Sunday’s matches (the other two AFC matches have yet to be played).

With Saturday’s wild card games in the rear view, here’s what we learned from both contests and how that will carry over into the divisional round and next season.

Lawrence was historically abysmal in the first 28 minutes of his first playoff game, throwing three interceptions in the first quarter and becoming the first player with more than three interceptions in a playoff quarter since Carson Palmer had three interceptions in the fourth quarter of 2015. Game NFC Championship vs Carolina Panthers. He threw an interception in his first playoff attempt, the first player to do so since Aaron Rodgers in 2009.

Lawrence had 5 of 18 passes for 35 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions while the Jaguars trailed, 27-0, with two minutes left in the first half (his passer rating was 0.0). Once that two-minute mark was reached, Lawrence turned a corner.

Lawrence went 23 of 29 for 253 yards with four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 142.9 passer rating as the Jaguars outgained the Chargers, 31-3, in the final 32 minutes. Jacksonville scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions—all via Lawrence touchdown passes—before Lawrence led the Jaguars to the game-winning field goal with no time left on the clock.

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The Jaguars don’t win this game without Lawrence playing like a top five quarterback, and he’s shown he can take over the game in the greatest adversity possible.

The Chargers’ inability to run the ball causes them to crash

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The anatomy of a comeback goes two ways, especially when a team that had a 27-point lead saw it evaporate into a loss. In fact, the Chargers had a 75% running back percentage after building a 27-0 lead, 70% higher than the Jaguars. Which team with 27 points leads again?

Los Angeles had just 19 yards after building a 27-0 lead, and rushed seven times for 20 yards (2.5 yards per carry) in the second half—and 13 of that came on a run by Justin Herbert. Austin Eckler had five yards for zero yards in the second half and six total touches for four yards.

Brandon Staley’s throwing team is hard to defend as well, but the Chargers offense got nothing from the running game after leading 27-0. Put those two together, and you have one of the worst game losses in NFL history.

Doug Pederson’s aggressiveness still paid off

The guy who once called him the “Philly Special” at the Super Bowl was up to his old tricks again. Pederson went for two as the Jaguars were within striking distance of the Chargers, cutting the score to 30-20 in the third quarter. The Jaguars didn’t get the conversion on Lawrence’s pass, but that didn’t stop their coach from being aggressive.

On the Jaguars’ next touchdown, Pederson decided to go for two again rather than kick the extra point and make it 30-27. Thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Joey Bosa, Pederson snuck Lawrence from the one-yard line to cut the lead to 30-28.

Jacksonville then forced a three-out to win the ball back, and after driving into Chargers territory in the final minutes, Pederson had another trick up his sleeve. On fourth-and-one from the 41-yard line with 1:27 left and the game on the line, Pederson stuffed Travis Etienne into a T-formation and gave his best return. Etienne gained 25 yards and set up Riley Patterson for the game-winning kick with no time left.

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The Jaguars are in good hands with Pederson, as his aggressiveness in games is the reason he had a 5-2 postseason record in the first place.

Brock Purdy had a historic first playoff game despite a slow start

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Purdy looked like the last player taken in the NFL draft in the first half of the first playoff game of his career (and the first game against a team he actually faced). The seventh round rookie was just 9 of 19 for 147 yards in the first half with a touchdown and a 91.3 passer rating, missing throws to several receivers and running away with interceptions like 49ers trailed 17-16 at the half.

Then came the second half, as Purdy went 9 of 11 for 183 yards with two passing touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 rating. Purdy also added a rushing touchdown as the 49ers scored 25 unanswered points against Seahawks for victory.

Purdy finished with 332 passing yards, three rushing touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown. He surpassed Dan Marino as the youngest quarterback in the Super Bowl era with three touchdowns in a playoff game and was the lowest quarterback since Tom Brady to win his first career start. Purdy is the youngest quarterback (23) with 300 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and no interceptions in a playoff game.

The 49ers’ quarterback turned things around in the second half – And made history in the process.

Kyle Shanahan and the 49 Skills players deserve recognition

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Shanahan is the architect behind Birdie’s historic start with the 49ers, which was evident throughout Saturday’s victory. When Purdy struggled early, Shanahan used runs with Christian McCaffrey (15 carries, 119 yards) and Deebo Samuel (three carries, 32 yards) to set up the play. Purdy went 8 of 13 for 172 yards, three touchdowns and no interception play, and finished with a rating of 145.0.

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All of Purdy’s touchdown passes were thrown out of the pocket, and its 49 pass catchers averaged 10.3 yards after the catch—fourth highest in a game since YAC first tracked in 2006. Purdy was also 9-of-10 for 179 yards and three touchdowns when a receiver is separated by five yards, Scheme’s width had a lot to do with his impressive performance.

Purdy was only 9 of 20 for 153 yards and a passer rating of 71.5 when his targets didn’t get five yards of separation. This is something to watch as the 49ers get deeper into the playoffs.

The Seahawks offensive line showed its youth

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Seattle has had Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas start together in 16 of their 17 regular season games, yet the rookie tackles struggled against the 49ers on the defensive front again. Lucas allowed a sack and was hit on 4.9% of his pass-blocking shots, including Charles Omeniho’s sack on Gino Smith that was the turning point of the game.

Cross allowed three pressures and went up against Nick Bosa for most of the night. Bosa got the initial pressure on Smith which forced him to step up into the pocket and set up Omenihu for the forced fumble (Bossa caught the fumble). Bossa had five tackles a game and was finding the ball even when he wasn’t playing quarterback.

Kroos and Lucas had to play a near-perfect game for the Seahawks to have a chance. It’s been solid, but they both have plenty of room to grow over the next few years. The inside of the offensive line — veterans Gabe Jackson and Austin Blyth — the rookie hasn’t dealt any services with all the pressure coming from the A and B gaps.