Quarterback injuries doom 49ers season in devastating fashion


How do you overcome all of that?

The 49ers felt so optimistic entering Sunday’s NFC Championship, their third in the past four years. But in a Shakespearean tragedy-like fashion, quarterback injuries popped up again to doom the season.

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Brock Purdy has arguably been the most remarkable story in the NFL this season, as Mr. Irrelevant jumped into the 49ers offense after two quarterback injuries by Week 13. All he did was lead the Niners to eight straight wins heading into Sunday’s game against the Eagles, accounting for 18 total touchdowns and just three turnovers along the way.

Purdy only lasted one healthy drive on Sunday, as he was strip-sacked by Haason Reddick in the first quarter and injured his elbow. The 49ers’ Super Bowl hopes then laid on the shoulders of 36-year-old journeyman fourth-stringer Josh Johnson, but then he had to exit in the third quarter with a concussion.

Purdy came back in the game but he couldn’t throw the ball beyond two short screens. The Eagles stacked the box and rolled up the score in the second half, dominating in a 31-7 victory to end the 49ers season in devastating fashion.

"There's not much to say right now," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "It was kinda tough to talk right now after the game for everybody. I got more love for these guys than I possibly could have, and they've got it for each other. I was real proud of how they fought out there. Our guys didn't shy away from anything. Thought they got dealt a pretty tough hand today, but I just hurt for those guys."

49ers tight end George Kittle was much more succinct about his emotions Sunday, as the team felt like it got robbed of a legit shot at the Super Bowl.

"(It feels) pretty shitty to be honest," Kittle said. "That's about it."

The football gods seemed like they had it out for 49ers quarterbacks this year. First came Trey Lance’s season-ending injury in Week 2, putting an abrupt end to a new era for the 2021 No. 3 overall pick. Veteran Jimmy Garoppolo started the next 10 games, but then he suffered a foot/ankle injury in Week 13 that sidelined him the rest of the way.

The 49ers would have loved to turn the offense over to Jimmy G after Purdy’s injury, but his rehab couldn’t come fast enough. Johnson struggled to get the offense moving, as he went 7-of-13 for 74 yards with three delay of game calls and a costly fumble. The 49ers totaled just 164 yards of offense on Sunday.

Running back Christian McCaffrey said the Niners had no time to pout against the Eagles.

"You're in the heat of battle," McCaffrey said. "You gotta turn the page as quick as possible. There's still time left on the clock, so we're trying to score."

Purdy finished 4-of-4 for 24 yards as the team became one-dimensional once he returned. He completed a 3-yard dink to McCaffrey and a one-yard dunk to Kittle after returning, but that was it.

"I just tried throwing on the sideline and it was extremely painful," Purdy said.

Up next, Purdy is set to get an MRI Monday to determine the severity of the injury. This is an unceremonious end to his rookie season, one that should be celebrated.

"It just hurts," Purdy said. "I'm just so sad for the older guys, Fred (Warner), Trent (Williams), George (Kittle), Arik (Armstead) -- everyone. All the guy that have been through this. They've obviously been to the Super Bowl in '19 and last year in the NFC Championship. For this to happen, in the first drive? Really? This is the kinda game we have to play after the first drive? I'm just frustrated but more sad for those guys than anything, because they deserve to win the whole thing."

"He ain't got nothing to be sad about," Warner said. "He came in and did a heck of a job. He's the reason we're here right now."

McCaffrey tried to will the 49ers to a massive upset and scored a remarkable 23-yard touchdown, breaking three tackles along the way, but the limited offense was too much to overcome.

"It's not ideal," McCaffrey said. "You never want to see any of your teammates get hurt, let alone the quarterback position. It's tough. You're never out of the fight though. We believed it. It just didn't turn out our way. We got beat. Wish we had another shot at with everybody. But that's life. It's the way it goes."

San Francisco’s defense also committed some untimely penalties that aided three Eagles touchdowns.

The end of a season in the playoffs never feels good, but this loss was particularly brutal. Shanahan said it was worse than the Super Bowl loss against the Chiefs in 2020, when they led by 10 in the fourth quarter, and last year’s NFC Championship loss to the Los Angeles Rams, when they also led by 10 in the fourth quarter.

“Losing feels awful," Shanahan said. "Yeah, this one was harder. This one was harder. This one was a lot harder I thought.”

San Francisco is a proud franchise with five Super Bowl rings, while led by Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. The team rode a 12-game win streak into Sunday and had all the confidence in the world with Purdy under center, but 2022 will ultimately be remembered as a cursed season for the 49ers quarterbacks.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images