PHILADELPHIA — The depths of the 49ers’ quarterback magic turned out to be what amounted to a fifth-stringer with one hand tied behind his back.
Brock Purdy suffered an elbow injury, Josh Johnson suffered a concussion and the 49ers were left Sunday playing the final 27 minutes of the NFC Championship game with a version of Purdy that couldn’t throw a pass beyond 5 yards.
Turns out that head coach Kyle Shanahan can win with first-, second- and third-stringers, but handing off to Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle was no way to make up a double-digit deficit in a 31-7 loss to the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
“How does it feel to lose the NFC Championship game because I don’t have a quarterback?” Kittle said rhetorically. “Pretty sh–y, to be honest.”
On the final play of the 49ers’ first offensive possession, Haason Reddick, who wrecked last week’s game against the Giants, hit Purdy just as he released a second-down pass at midfield. Officials overturned the original call of an incomplete pass for a fumble recovered by the Eagles.
“I don’t think we were numb,” Shanahan said. “Guys were up for the challenge.”
Purdy, who said he felt “shocks” that were “extremely painful” in his arm, is scheduled for an MRI on Monday.
It wasn’t even the last straw in a year of terrible luck for the 49ers, who lost starter Trey Lance to a broken ankle in Week 2 and backup Jimmy Garoppolo to a broken foot in Week 13. Purdy, who was the final pick in the 2022 draft, carried a 7-0 mark into the game but was wearing an oversized winter coat on the sideline with no intention of returning when suddenly re-summoned because Johnson was concussed.
“I told him right there,” Purdy said of his message to Shanahan, “ ‘If we run a play, I can’t throw deep. It’s hurting really bad. If we’re going to get a completion, it has to be something short, if that’s all right.’ ”
Johnson, 36, entered the NFL as a fifth-round draft pick and has been a member of 14 different NFL organizations over 20 total stops (including four separate stints with the 49ers) and teams in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football, the United Football League and the XFL. He was making his playoff debut — and it didn’t last long because Ndamukong Suh drove him into the ground.
“We felt, down two scores, we could run the ball well enough,” Shanahan said, “and get a turnover on the side to give us a chance to come back.”
With no other quarterback in uniform, the 49ers went back to Purdy, who threw just two screen passes in the second half. The Eagles teed off on the 49ers’ one-dimensional scheme.
“He couldn’t throw,” Shanahan said. “He wouldn’t have gone back in if we hadn’t had to [do it]. It was that or we were going to have wildcat. We didn’t get long enough drives to show that, either.”
Purdy and Johnson combined to complete 11 of 18 passes for 97 yards. Johnson made a catastrophic mistake when he fumbled a shotgun snap that Reddick recovered and the Eagles turned into a second touchdown in 79 seconds to open up a 21-7 halftime lead. McCaffrey threw one pass as a wildcat quarterback when the game was already out of reach.
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