*Above video shows the long list of Browns quarterbacks who played in a game for the Browns since the franchise returned to the league in 1999*
CLEVELAND (AP) — San Francisco’s Brock Purdy has been labeled a game manager and system quarterback. He has been described as robotic, savvy and consistent. Most famously, he has been called Mr. Irrelevant.
However, there’s one word that perhaps best sums up the startling start to his professional career: Perfect.
In less than two seasons, San Francisco’s 23-year-old QB has risen from being the final pick in the NFL draft (hence Mr. Irrelevant) to being in the conversation as one of the early frontrunners for MVP this season.
Going into Sunday’s game against Cleveland’s top-ranked defense, Purdy leads the league in passer rating (123.1) while completing 72.1% of his passes. He has thrown nine touchdown passes, zero interceptions and allowed fans in the Bay Area to turn the page on Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance.
And in case anyone was still wondering if his start was a flash or fluke, Purdy threw four TD passes last week as the 49ers (5-0) demolished Dallas 42-10 on national TV — the most lopsided outcome in the storied rivalry.
Purdy is 10-0 in 10 career regular-season starts, and he’s unbeaten in the 13 games in which he’s played at least three quarters. No. 13, 13-0. Brock perfect.
The Browns have been impressed with the young QB’s skillset.
“He’s been great for their team,” said cornerback Denzel Ward. “Able to get the ball out quick, put the ball where it needs to be, goes through his progressions. Accurate quarterback, able to make every throw on the field and just leading those guys over there.
“He’s definitely coming up in this league and definitely going to have a challenge ahead of us.”
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan staunchly defended Purdy earlier this season against those critics who argued he was merely a product of San Francisco’s innovative schemes. Purdy has changed some of the narrative by showing he create when a play breaks down.
There isn’t much Purdy does that shocks Shanahan anymore, but he is surprised by his steadiness at such a young age,
“He does it all the time, but just to continue doing it at such a high rate has been pretty unbelievable,” Shanahan said. “Just how good he’s been, how many plays he’s made and how many plays he hasn’t made for the other team. The consistency of that has been what’s been impressive the most.”
Although he hasn’t faced Purdy, Browns defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has had great success in matchups against Shanahan, going 7-1.
Schwartz has transformed Cleveland’s defense from problematic to powerful in his first season. The Browns lead the league in fewest yards allowed (196.8) and passing yards (125.0). Cleveland is tied for second in points (15.0) and fourth against the run (71.8).
They played poorly two weeks ago in a 28-3 loss to Baltimore, and the 49ers will be by far the unit’s toughest test.
“We’re going to have to play our game and accentuate our guys,” Schwartz said. “We have some multipurpose players that can do a lot of things. It’s going to be a great matchup. This is NFL football at its finest. This is an outstanding offense, a good defense.”
And at the moment, a perfect QB.
NEXT, NEXT MAN UP
Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will miss his second straight game with a bruised right shoulder — an injury that has grown from minor to mysterious.
The team’s mixed messaging prompted speculation about the severity of the injury to Watson’s toughness.
Unlike two weeks ago, when the Browns started rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who had a forgettable NFL debut against Baltimore, Cleveland will elevate P.J. Walker from the practice squad to either start or back up Watson.
Walker made seven starts over three seasons with Carolina, and that experience should give the Browns some comfort.
“He throws the ball really well,” said Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt. “I liked him coming out when I was in Green Bay. I always thought he was a really good quarterback, so I followed him through my time of evaluating him in college and through his career. He does a nice job.”
ON THE EDGE
Once again, San Francisco’s offensive line has its hands full.
The Niners have faced some of the league’s best outside rushers so far this season with mixed results.
Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt had three sacks and two forced fumbles in the opener. San Francisco had better results slowing down Dallas’ Micah Parsons, holding him to a season-low two pressures, including none in eight pass rushes against All-Pro tackle Trent Williams.
Now the Niners have to deal with Myles Garrett, who has 5 1/2 sacks already this season.
“Our job never stops. You go from Micah Parsons to 95 over in Cleveland,” Williams said, referring to Garrett’s number. “It doesn’t get too much better than that. There’s not any time to rest on our laurels.”
PASS RUSH REINFORCEMENT
San Francisco’s defensive front should get a boost this week with the expected debut of Randy Gregory.
The Niners acquired Gregory late last week from Denver to give them another pass-rushing threat opposite Nick Bosa. Gregory struggled with injuries and production in his two seasons with the Broncos, but should fit better in San Francisco’s aggressive system.
“I think he just needs to get the scheme down, which will take hopefully a couple of days,” Bosa said. “It’s not too complicated, but just getting the nuances of it down. I think he’ll be able to set the edge as good as anybody we have. We obviously have him here because he can rush.”