The 49ers built a 27-7 lead against Tampa Bay and coasted home to a 27-14 win. This is common for a veteran championship contender that wants to conserve energy at every opportunity. They do what they need to put the game out of reach and then switch to autopilot.
That's not a problem as long as they can play 60-minute football when they have to – and the Niners have to for the next three games, their toughest stretch of the year.
They’ll have to do it without All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga, who was lost for the season with an ACL injury on a non-contact play where he slipped and his knee gave. Top draft pick Ji’Ayir Brown steps in and now faces baptism by fire as the starter in the Niners three most important games of the year.
The win featured career-best games from Brock Purdy and Brandon Aiyuk, their combined success reflects a growing trust and chemistry that's elevated the offense.
Brandon Aiyuk – Set a career high in yards for the second time in seven weeks, speaking to how well he and Purdy are executing together. Aiyuk had six catches for 156 yards including a 76-yard touchdown, the longest pass play for a score in the league this year.
Brock Purdy – A perfect passer rating of 158.3. Joe Montana and Steve Young pitched perfect games, but not in their second season in the league. Purdy’s long score to Aiyuk was a beautifully placed ball for 40 air yards. Earlier in the year Purdy said his arm wasn’t 100%, coming out of the bye he appears to be at full power now. In his last two games Purdy has gone 40-51 averaging 314.5 yards per game at a 78.4% completion rate with six touchdowns and no picks.
Purdy also continues to make confident gains moving in the pocket and making off-schedule plays. One led to a 40-yard pass to a wide open Deebo Samuel.
Fred Warner – He said this week that the team needs to play a week at a time - and as leaders do, Warner walked his talk. Ten solo tackles, half a sack, a forced fumble, and two passes defensed. Warner had some struggles in the losing streak and is now leading the defense by example.
QUESTIONS GOING FORWARD
4th and 1 to end the game and fail.
The Niners lost the physicality matchup on a play that revealed they had already switched to autopilot. They can afford to do that against Tampa, but not in the three-game gauntlet they now face with the Seattle-Philly-Seattle sandwich.
Welcome to the big time Ji’Ayir Brown.
Brown gave up a big gain caught flat-footed on his first play, but then came back with the most important pass breakup of the game to deny a touchdown, finishing with three pass breakups, an interception, and four tackles. The Niners lose Hufanga, but Brown has been a playmaker throughout his career. Now he has to prove it on the biggest stage in the biggest games of the season.
The second path to a bye before the playoffs.
Thanks to the Rams last minute heroics in beating the Seahawks, the Niners have the opportunity to take a two-game lead in the division with a win in Seattle on Thanksgiving Night.
This is a must-win game for both teams.
Take down the Seahawks and the Niners would be on a path to lock up the NFC West before their final game of the year against the Rams. Sweep Seattle and the 49ers can sit their starters in week 18, a de facto bye right before the playoffs.