Unbeaten 49ers, Brock Purdy ready to test Browns’ defense

When the San Francisco 49ers selected Brock Purdy with the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, they could never have anticipated him developing into the quarterback he is today.

Purdy has yet to lose in the regular season as a starter, and he will look to stay perfect Sunday when San Francisco visits a Cleveland Browns team on its third starting quarterback in three weeks.

The 49ers won their final 10 games of the 2022 regular season, with Purdy starting under center in five of those contests. He also led San Francisco to the NFC Championship Game, where the Niners fell 31-7 to the Philadelphia Eagles as Purdy sustained a major elbow injury that required surgery.

But the seventh-round pick wasted no time bouncing back.

San Francisco is off to a 5-0 start, making Purdy 10-0 in the regular season over the course of his brief career. He most recently completed 17 of 24 passes for 252 yards and four touchdowns — three of which went to tight end George Kittle — in last Sunday’s 42-10 rout of the Dallas Cowboys.

“He’s super detailed, super confident,” Kittle said of Purdy. “It’s everything you want in a quarterback and he’s just playing at such a high level right now.”

Things might get a little tougher for Purdy against a well-rested Cleveland team coming off a bye week. The Browns (2-2) have been anything but generous on defense, allowing the fewest total yards of offense per game in the NFL (196.8). They are also tied for second in scoring defense (15 points allowed per game).

However, Cleveland linebacker Sione Takitaki realizes the challenge that the potent 49ers offense presents.

“Brock Purdy does a great job with his reads, a lot of movement, pre-snap, a lot of eye candy. But I think they’re a real solid team,” Takitaki said. “Obviously, it’s the reason why they’re 5-0, tip our hat to those guys. We’re excited for the matchup.”

It isn’t just the passing game that the Browns will have to worry about, though, as San Francisco running back Christian McCaffrey leads the league with 510 yards on the ground. He also is tied for the lead with seven rushing touchdowns.

“They’ve been playing very good football on all three sides of the ball,” Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski said. “We had really one eye on them last week in our work, in our bye week work.”

The Browns were smacked by the Ravens 28-3 back in Week 4. Dorian Thompson-Robinson stepped in as signal-caller in place of an injured Deshaun Watson for Cleveland, throwing for just 121 yards on 19-for-36 passing. He was picked off three times.

Watson is reportedly dealing with a contusion to his rotator cuff and was ruled out for the second straight week, but this time the Browns will turn to veteran P.J. Walker to start under center. Walker spent the past three seasons with Carolina and started seven games.

Walker will face off against 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, who was the Panthers’ defensive coordinator and then interim coach during Walker’s three seasons at Carolina.

Besides Watson, Cleveland ruled out guard Joel Bitonio (knee) and wide receiver Cedric Tillman (hip). Tight end David Njoku (face/hand) and center Ethan Pocic (chest/knee/foot) were questionable.

For the 49ers, running back Elijah Mitchell (knee) and linebacker Dre Greenlaw (hamstring) were deemed questionable.

San Francisco and Cleveland last met in 2019, when the Niners cruised to a 31-3 home victory.

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