One year ago, quarterback Brock Purdy was inactive for the 49ers' season-opening loss to the Chicago Bears. And on Sunday, Purdy -- as the new team captain -- led San Francisco on a seven-play, 54-yard scoring drive to open the 2023 NFL season with a touchdown.
Purdy looked the part of a franchise quarterback by throwing for 220 yards and two scores on 19-of-29 passing in the 49ers' dominant 30-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He answered all questions about how he would recover from offseason elbow surgery by effectively steering the 49ers' talented offense to victory.
"You see why we voted him team captain," left tackle Trent Williams said in the locker room after the win. "Obviously, seeing how he played today, you can’t tell he was hurt. We’re proud of Brock, man. He just took everything in stride. He’s become our leader; he’s become a quarterback who we can lean on."
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Williams has experienced plenty of quarterback drama since being traded to San Francisco ahead of the 2020 NFL season. Jimmy Garoppolo sought a trade after leading the 49ers to the 2021 NFC Championship Game, only to return the following summer to be Trey Lance's backup. When Lance got injured, Garoppolo was the guy again until he suffered a foot injury.
Then came Purdy, the final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft who improbably solved all the franchise's issues under center.
"I think he attacked his rehab, as everybody can see," Williams said. "You can’t tell a difference between him prior to the surgery and post-surgery. I think he did everything he was asked to do in the offseason. The team noticed it, which is why he got a 'C' on his chest.
San Francisco 49ers
"I’m just so proud of him, man, just to watch his journey coming in, last year to right now — he’s a dream. A dream to work with."
With the win in Pittsburgh, Purdy became the first quarterback in NFL history to win his first six career regular-season starts and throw at least two touchdown passes in each. He also became the first NFL quarterback to notch a passer rating of 95.0 or higher in six straight regular-season games to start a career.
"Made some big plays," coach Kyle Shanahan said after the win. "... I thought Brock had a hell of a game."