Eagles must deal with Brock Purdy, the ultimate underdog
PHILADELPHIA — They love their underdogs here. The Rocky statue stands proudly near the Rocky steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Nick Foles taking over for Carson Wentz and somehow leading the Eagles to their first Super Bowl championship on Feb. 4, 2018, will never be forgotten.
Heck, living-legend Eagles center Jason Kelce has an Underdog Philadelphia apparel collection.
“Underdog embodies the city of Philadelphia,” Kelce said in November. “It’s a mentality.”
So Brock Purdy is the kind of underdog fairy tale story that Philadelphia would embrace with brotherly love — if only he weren’t trying to end the Eagles’ season Sunday in the NFC Championship game, quarterback the underdog 49ers to Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Ariz., and make history as the first rookie quarterback to play in a Super Bowl.
Mark Sanchez played well in his first AFC Championship game as a rookie for the 2009 Jets (17-of-30, 257 yards, two touchdowns, one interception), but the clock struck midnight for Joe Flacco as a rookie in his first AFC Championship game, and for Ben Roethlisberger as a rookie in his first AFC Championship game. So perhaps it will strike midnight between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday for Brock Purdy, the Mr. Irrelevant who kept the 49ers relevant after Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo were lost.
But no 49er who has watched Purdy win seven games in seven starts and go without an interception in 59 postseason attempts, believes Winderella will melt now under the brightest lights and on the biggest stage of his life.
“I think it’s the composure and the competitive spirit in high-pressure situations,” right tackle Mike McGlinchey told The Post. “He’s done such a great job taking over this team in such a wild circumstance that he hasn’t missed a beat. And as the game goes on and the moments get bigger and brighter, he gets better. He has attacked this head-on with no fear, and has been a complete pro throughout the whole deal, and that’s why he’s having success.”
It is never easy for a rookie quarterback to lead. But it has been easy for the 49ers to follow Brock Purdy (13 TDs, four INTs in the regular season, three TDs, zero INTs in the postseason).
“There’s a quiet confidence about him,” McGlinchey said, “and he leads by example. He knows he doesn’t need to be a superhuman in there. We have a really talented team. Everybody just needs to do their job. He’s taken that wholeheartedly, and does the right things on and off the field, and that’s why he’s grown into a leader.
“Obviously the more success that you have at the position that he plays, the more credibility you get, and so as the season’s gone on he’s grown and grown from his experiences.”
There is no time for screwing around in Brock Purdy’s huddle.
“He’s intense,” McGlinchy said. “He’s on it. He’s locked in and he has a total command over the other 10 guys in there. He tells people to shut up when they need to shut up. He gives guys reminders on plays throughout the whole thing, which is a lot for our offense.”
The 49ers’ midseason trade for running back Christian McCaffrey has been a godsend.
“He’s as good of a football player as I’ve ever been around,” McGlinchey said.
And there is no way to measure how fortunate Purdy is to be guided and developed by play-caller head coach Kyle Shanahan.
“It’s a great thing for Brock to be able to come in with Kyle,” McGlinchy said, “because Kyle is so good and so smart. But there’s also a double-edged sword because Kyle demands excellence. He is as strong of a competitor as anybody on our team as well. But Brock has done it in such a great way that he’s earned Kyle’s respect so that Kyle can keep helping him improve his game, and Brock has helped Kyle improve his play-calling. He’s a killer, and he wants to win just as bad as anybody, and Brock certainly has benefitted from that mindset and that ability to scheme up defenses.”
The Eagles front is ferocious and formidable.
“They’re great players, they play well as a unit, and they have great individual players that can make plays all over the field, and they’re gonna rush five, they’re gonna test you in one-on-one situations and they’re stout against the run,” McGlinchey said. “It’s a huge challenge, one that we’ve kind of seen coming for a while now, and one we’ve been excited for, but we gotta go earn it on Sunday.”
Of course, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts will have to go earn it against a fearsome DeMeco Ryans defense spearheaded by Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa.
“He’s the most complete defensive lineman that I’ve ever played against in terms of being able to play the run, the pass,” McGlinchey said. “There’s so many ways that he can beat you in the pass game that it just makes it so difficult to prepare for him. He can beat you with power, he can beat you with speed, he can beat you with finesse, he can beat you in so many different ways because of how committed and how understanding he is of how to rush and his study of offensive linemen and his ability to expose your wrong movements.”
McGlinchey, who grew up an Eagles fan in Warrington, Pa., has this recollection of Purdy in training camp:
“He was super-serious about being great. He was very committed to studying, to learning as fast as he could. And when he got opportunities in training camp, he took advantage of ’em, and that’s why he beat out another quarterback or two that were here in the building, and he stayed over them, and they were vets and he showed that he was capable of doing what we needed him to do. And thank God our team and our staff don’t take the last spot lightly, because it could have been easy to just overlook him.”
No one is overlooking Brock Purdy now. Least of all Underdog Philadelphia.
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