As the NFL draft approaches rapidly, fans take a look back and reminisce at the season that could have been. With some fans celebrating and some in despair, looking back on the previous season brings up incredibly mixed emotions.
However, some fans reflect on their team’s play and realize how much of a monumental season it was. Some of the best games Football has seen in years were played throughout the 2022-23 season and will be replayed and enjoyed for years to come. Some teams found a way to defy all NFL odds and took strides when many thought they would fail.
One of the biggest stories of this past season was the San Francisco 49ers. With their defensive prowess and questions at quarterback, they somehow made it work. However, when their third-string quarterback faced off against the Las Vegas Raiders’ backup, all expectations were defied. When the world expected mediocrity, they were blessed with greatness.
What Made the Game So Special
When you think of the 2022-23 49ers team, you think of one player. His name is Brock Purdy. Iowa State alum and the last pick in the 2022 NFL draft, the rookie came in behind three other quarterback prospects. The rotation started with rookie sensation Trey Lance, followed by veteran starter Jimmy Garoppolo, with young passer and 4th-year player Nate Sudfeld in third. It was an uphill battle for Purdy to make the roster at all.
However, he beat out Sudfeld for the job as 3rd string quarterback, staying on the 53-man roster. He made the team, but nobody expected him to take the field. With two capable players ahead of him, there was a real-world possibility that this was Purdy’s one and only year in the NFL.
However, Trey Lance got hurt, and Jimmy G took over. Some weeks later, Garoppolo gets injured, and there is one quarterback left; Brock Purdy. Purdy took the reins of the offense with ease and broke record after record every week he touched the field. He was a phenomenon, and there was nothing like it.
Enter Josh McDaniels and the Raiders. After weeks of losses to lesser teams and a disappointing season, McDaniels decided to make the hard decision to bench starter Derek Carr. Although this seemed like the end of the journey for Carr’s run in the black and silver, backup Jarrett Stidham had an opportunity to shine.
Battle of the Backups
New Year’s Day comes around, and the Niners travel to Vegas to take on the Raiders. This was Purdy’s 5th game of the season with significant playing time, and he had established himself as a genuine talent. Stidham, on the other hand, would find his first real minutes of the season in a game against the best defense in the NFL.
What looked like a defensive battle before the game kicked off was the exact opposite. In the first quarter, each team scored, but the Raiders had a 10-7 advantage after a Darren Waller touchdown and a field goal.
Both quarterbacks seemed like veterans, with each throw being decisive and purposeful. Both Christian McCaffrey and Josh Jacobs were dominant on the ground and as pass catchers out of the backfield, being each team’s primary weapon.
The game goes back and forth, with high scoring and high excitement. The fourth quarter rolls around, and the score is 24-21. After two field goals, the Niners take a 27-24 lead. More scoring late into the fourth led to a 49ers 7-point lead, but with 1 minute left, Vegas scored to tie it and bring the game to overtime.
The Raiders started with the ball, and all was going well. They got the ball to their own 40-yard line, where the 49ers did the unthinkable and picked off Stidham to set up the game-winning field goal.
Both Purdy and Stidham seemed like veterans on the field, with each having impressive performances to create quite possibly the best game all year. Purdy’s 284 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception looked good, but Stidham’s 365 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions did as well.