The 49ers' offense has been the NFL's most explosive unit since Brock Purdy made his first start last season, averaging 33.5 points per game.
Purdy's ability to generate chunk plays through the air is a significant reason for their consistently high-scoring outputs. The second-year pro currently is leading the NFL with 5.7 average air yards per attempt, while also leading the league in completion percentage on throws that travel at least 10 yards in the air, recording an astounding 72.1 percent completion percentage on such throws this season.
On the latest episode of "49ers Game Plan," Kyle Shanahan spoke to host Greg Papa about how valuable it is to have a quarterback capable of executing the big play while having the patience and vision to pick defenses apart at all three levels.
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"What's great about Brock is he wants the big play, he's aggressive for the big play, and you can see it in the timing of the play," Shanahan told Papa. "So, he's not going to force anything, but when it's there and our play's going there, he doesn't hesitate. It goes there every time the coverage gives him that. And if they're back at all, taking that away, he doesn't hesitate to the second level and … he doesn't hesitate at the bottom level."
Through five games this season, the 49ers have recorded 18 passing plays of 20 or more yards, which ranks in the top 10 league-wide. While Purdy's efficiency through the air has played a pivotal role, this high-octane offense wouldn't be possible without the deep stable of weapons at the skill positions.
The 49ers currently have five different players averaging at least five yards after the catch per reception. Shanahan spoke about the value of having the ability to check down to dynamic players who can create chunk yardage on their own after the catch.
"So, Brock is fun to call plays for because you can get aggressive, and he'll take it if it shows because that's what you work on," Shanahan told Papa. "You talk all week, but you're also not scared to call it because if it doesn't show, he's not usually not going to force it. He's going to see right away what you've been talking about, know that's not the look, and get the ball to someone underneath. And when we get balls to people underneath, we usually make some big plays, too, because we got some talented guys who can run with it."
San Francisco 49ers
One of the more common criticisms of Purdy centers around a perceived lack of arm talent. The issue is that no true objective definition of what "arm talent" entails exists. The criteria are entirely subjective.
However, Purdy's arm is the least of his worries for Shanahan. The 49ers coach explained how Purdy's accuracy and anticipation are far more critical to the success of the offense than possessing raw arm strength.
"He can throw it," Shanahan said. "He's very accurate. He knows when to throw, he knows where to throw it. It's not much different in practice as it is in the games, but people talk about Brock's arm strength, and Brock can make any throw on the field in the timing of the play. He's not going to sit there and be really late and take a bunch of hitches, staring something down, and just throw it to the opposite side 70 yards. Not many people in the world are going to do that, but that's also usually a bad decision when you do that."
Last week, Purdy joined Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Kurt Warner as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to score at least 30 points in eight consecutive regular season games. The 49ers have scored at least 30 points in nine of the 10 regular season games he has started, with the only outlier being a 23-point showing on a short week in Seattle that saw San Francisco clinch the NFC West with a win.
As far as marriages between head coach and quarterback go, the duo of Shanahan and Purdy have the 49ers in position to wreak havoc on the NFL for years to come.