The San Francisco 49ers have hit a rough patch, losing three straight games after a 15-game win streak in the regular season. The latest loss was a 31-17 home defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals. Quarterback Brock Purdy has been struggling in late, close situations, throwing five interceptions during the losing streak, all of which came with the 49ers tied or trailing in the second half.
In fact, Purdy’s career record when tied or trailing in the second half is not impressive, with three touchdown passes and seven interceptions, tied for the worst ratio in the NFL in the last two seasons.
The 49ers’ struggles in late, close situations are not new. They have a 30-1 record under head coach Kyle Shanahan when up by at least eight points at halftime. However, they are 0-37 when down eight-plus points in the fourth quarter since 2017, the only team with a loss in every game during that time.
The team has also had one of the league’s better offenses under Shanahan, but they rank 30th in the NFL in EPA per play in game-tying or go-ahead situations in the fourth quarter with him.
Niners have a problem beyond Purdy struggling
The question is whether Purdy is solely responsible for the 49ers’ struggles or if he is just part of a larger QB dilemma under Shanahan. The team has been great when playing with a lead, but they have struggled in late, close situations because they haven’t had a QB who can make big-time throws when facing an opposing pass rush.
The team has also been shorthanded in recent games, with key players like Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and Trent Williams all out due to injuries.
It may be too early to judge Purdy harshly for his recent interceptions in clutch situations. Two of his interceptions against the Vikings appeared to come after suffering a concussion on a QB sneak in the fourth quarter. He was also just cleared from concussion protocol Saturday.
His first interception against Cincinnati on Sunday was on a broken play that was intended to be a handoff during which linebacker Germaine Pratt made a great play on. However, his interception on the following drive where he didn’t see linebacker Logan Wilson in coverage was less excusable.
While Purdy’s struggles are part of the problem, it’s not fair to blame him solely for the 49ers’ recent losing streak. The team has faced injuries and has struggled in late, close situations under Shanahan for some time now. The team needs to find a way to perform consistently in those situations if they want to be a serious contender in the playoffs.