By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Brock Purdy’s focus headed into his biggest regular-season start as a pro is on the Eagles and their stout defense instead of on the disappointment of his previous trip to Philadelphia that ended in a significant elbow injury.
Purdy and the 49ers return to Philadelphia on Sunday for the first time since least season’s NFC title game when the injury Purdy suffered on his first drive of the game derailed San Francisco’s Super Bowl hopes and led to major surgery and an offseason of rehabilitation.
“Am I going to go in there and get all sentimental about, ‘Man, I’ve come a long way since,’” Purdy said Thursday. “It’s not really like that. We have a goal in mind and I’m trying to be the best version of myself every week. So, am I going to go into the game saying I want revenge and all this kind of stuff? It’s not like that. I’m just going to try to go do my job.”
No matter what happens when the 49ers (8-3) visit the Eagles (10-1) on Sunday in a matchup of the teams in position to be the top two seeds in the NFC playoffs, it won’t change the outcome of the bigger game played last January.
San Francisco came into that game on a 12-game winning streak and with a strong belief that Purdy and the offense could have enough success against the Philadelphia defense to carry the Niners to the Super Bowl.
That all changed on the opening drive when Haason Reddick hit Purdy so hard that Purdy tore a ligament in his throwing elbow. Backup Josh Johnson came in but struggled before leaving with a concussion early in the third quarter.
That forced the Niners to play most of the second half with Purdy at quarterback and unable to throw the ball more than a few yards, leading to a 31-7 win for the Eagles.
“We felt good about our game plan and stuff,” Purdy said. “Things obviously just didn’t go our way in terms of keeping the quarterback healthy, so it’s hard to say exactly what we were going to do and all that kind of stuff. But once Josh went down, things sort of changed and I had to get thrown back in there. … You go into a game feeling like what you’re going to do is going to be good. So we never really got to that, I feel like. So I’ll just leave it at that.”
The 49ers come into this game playing on an even higher level offensively than they were a year ago, thanks in large part to improvement from Purdy.
After getting thrust into action as a rookie last December, Purdy played efficiently and helped San Francisco win his first seven starts before the loss to Philadelphia.
He is carrying an even bigger workload this season and comes into this game leading the NFL in passer rating (112.3), completion rate (70.2%) and yards per attempt (9.4) thanks to what he describes as an even better grasp of the playbook and his role.
“I was still trying to find my way in the NFL and play consistent and prove to the guys that I can play,” he said. “Now it’s all about how can I be consistent, every single drive, every game and sort of being able to handle all the factors that come with playing quarterback, the noises, keeping guys calm, cool, collected, that kind of stuff. So, I feel like in that game, or at that time, I don’t know if I was that guy yet. I feel like that’s a difference.”
Purdy could have to deal with more than just the Eagles tough defensive front with forecasts calling for a chance of rain on Sunday.
Purdy struggled gripping the ball in wet weather at Cleveland earlier this season and said he might use a glove on his throwing hand if the weather is bad enough.
“A wet ball makes it harder on everybody,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I’ve had some guys who really struggle in the rain. I’ve been through some situations with Brock, not just the game but practice, but I think he’s as good as any quarterback I’ve had in the rain.”
NOTES: DT Arik Armstead (foot) missed a second straight practice but said he will play on Sunday. … RB Jordan Mason (hamstring) and WR Ray-Ray McCloud (rib) also missed practice and G Spencer Burford (knee) was limited.
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