What we learned on Super Wild Card Weekend: Trevor Lawrence’s insane comeback, Brock Purdy’s historic debut

What we learned on Super Wild Card Weekend: Trevor Lawrence’s insane comeback, Brock Purdy’s historic debut

The first day of the NFL postseason didn’t look like it was going to provide many fireworks. After trailing by one point at halftime, the San Francisco 49ers pulled away from the Seattle Seahawks after intermission to earn a convincing victory. Next up for the 49ers is a trip to the divisional round, with the opponent to be determined after the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings square off on Sunday.

The nightcap, however, turned out to be annoying. The Chargers jumped out to a 27-0 lead over the Jaguars, only for Jacksonville to mount a remarkable rally to secure the 31-30 victory, the third-largest comeback in NFL postseason history. Jacksonville will find out if it plays the Kansas City Chiefs at the conclusion of Sunday’s games (two more AFC games have yet to be played).

With Saturday’s wild-card games in the rearview, here’s what we learned from both contests and how it will carry over into the divisional round and next season.

Lawrence was historically bad in the first 28 minutes of his playoff debut, throwing three interceptions in the first quarter and becoming the first player with more than three interceptions in a quarter of a playoff game to when Carson Palmer had three in the fourth quarter of the 2015. NFC Championship Game against the Carolina Panthers. He threw an interception on his first playoff attempt, the first player to do so since Aaron Rodgers in 2009.

Lawrence was 5 of 18 passing for 35 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions as the Jaguars trailed, 27-0, with two minutes left in the first half (his passer rating was 0.0). Just after the two-minute mark, Lawrence turned in a corner.

Lawrence went 23 of 29 for 253 yards with four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 142.9 passer rating as the Jaguars outscored the Chargers, 31-3, over the final 32 minutes. Jacksonville scored touchdowns on four straight possessions — all via Lawrence touchdown passes — before Lawrence led the Jaguars to the game-winning field goal with no time left on the clock.

The Jaguars don’t win that game without Lawrence playing as a top-five quarterback, and he showed he can take over a game in the face of the greatest adversity possible.

The charger’s inability to run the ball results in the collapse

The anatomy of a comeback goes two ways, especially when the team that had a 27-point lead saw it evaporate in a loss. The Chargers actually had a 75% punt return percentage after building a 27-0 lead, higher than the Jaguars at 70%. Which team had the lead again with 27 points?

Los Angeles had just 19 yards after building a 27-0 lead, rushing seven times for 20 yards (2.5 yards per carry) in the second half — and 13 of those yards came on a Justin Herbert run. Austin Ekeler had five carries for zero yards in the second half and six total touches for four yards.

Brandon Staley’s team running the ball was tough to defend, but the Chargers offense got nothing out of the running game after going 27-0. Put those two together and you get one of the worst playoff losses in NFL history.

Doug Pederson’s aggressiveness is still paying off

The man who once dubbed the Super Bowl “Philly Special” was up to his old tricks again. Pederson went for two when the Jaguars were within striking distance of the Chargers, cutting the lead to 30-20 in the third quarter. The Jaguars didn’t get the conversion on a Lawrence pass, but that didn’t stop their coach from being aggressive.

On the Jaguars’ next drive, Pederson decided to go for two again instead of kicking the extra point to make it 30-27. Thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Joey Bosa, Pederson got Lawrence to sneak in from the one-yard line to cut the lead to 30-28.

Jacksonville then forced a three-and-out to get the ball back, and after he drove into Chargers territory in the final minutes, Pederson had one more trick up his sleeve. On fourth-and-1 from the 41-yard line with 1:27 left and the game on the line, Pederson put Travis Etienne in the T formation and did his best to recover the ball. Etienne gained 25 yards and set up Riley Patterson for the game-winning touchdown with no time left.

The Jaguars are in good hands with Pederson, as his aggressiveness in games is why he has a 5-2 postseason record in the first place.

Brock Purdy makes historic playoff debut despite slow start

Purdy looked like the last player taken in the NFL draft in the first half of his first career playoff start (and the first game against a team that had already faced him). The seventh-round rookie was just 9 of 19 for 147 yards in the first half with one touchdown and a 91.3 passer rating, missing throws to several receivers and coming away with interceptions as the 49ers trailed 17-16 at the half .

Then came the second half, where Purdy went 9 of 11 for 183 yards with two touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 rating. Purdy also added a rushing touchdown as the 49ers scored 25 unanswered points against the Seahawks for the win.

Purdy finished with 332 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. He surpassed Dan Marino as the youngest quarterback in the Super Bowl era with three touchdowns in a playoff game and was the lowest quarterback drafted since Tom Brady to earn his first career playoff start. Purdy is the youngest quarterback (23) with 300 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a playoff game.

The 49ers quarterback turned things around in the second half — and made history in the process.

Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers’ skill players deserve credit

Shanahan is the architect behind Purdy’s historic start to the 49ers, which was evident throughout Saturday’s win. When Purdy struggled early, Shanahan used running backs Christian McCaffrey (15 carries, 119 yards) and Deebo Samuel (three carries, 32 yards) to set up the game. Purdy went 8 of 13 for 172 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions out of game action, finishing with a 145.0 rating.

All of Purdy’s passes were thrown outside the pocket, and 49ers pass catchers averaged 10.3 yards after the catch — the fourth-highest in a game since YAC was first tracked in 2006. Purdy was also 9 of 10 for 179 yards and three touchdowns when a receiver had a five-plus yard separation, showing the scheme had a lot to do with his impressive performance.

Purdy was just 9 of 20 for 153 yards and a 71.5 passer rating when his targets failed to get more than five yards apart. This is something to monitor as the 49ers go deeper into the playoffs.

The Seahawks’ offensive line showed its youth

Seattle had Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas start together for 16 of the 17 regular season games, however, the starting tackles again faced the 49ers’ defensive front. Lucas allowed a sack and was beaten on 4.9% of his pass blocking snaps, including Charles Omenihu’s sack of Geno Smith that was the turning point of the game.

Cross allowed three pressures and went against Nick Bosa most of the night. Bosa got the initial pressure on Smith that forced him to step up in the pocket and set up Omenihu for the forced fumble (Bosa had the fumble recovery). Bosa had five tackles in the game and was finding the football even if he wasn’t going to the quarterback.

Cross and Lucas had to play a near-perfect game for the Seahawks to have a chance. They were strong, but both have a lot of room to grow over the next few years. The interior of the offensive line — veterans Gabe Jackson and Austin Blythe — didn’t do the rookie any favors either, with all the pressure coming from the A and B gaps.

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