The final four of the NFL playoffs is set. The Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs will face off for the right to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LVII, while the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers will battle on the NFC side of things.
It’s Patrick Mahomes vs. Joe Burrow, and Jalen Hurts vs. Brock Purdy. We’ve seen Mahomes vs. Burrow a couple of times over the past year, including in last year’s AFC Championship Game. But we haven’t seen Hurts vs. Purdy since 2019. The last time these two quarterbacks faced off, it was in college, and they gave us a Big 12 classic.
Hurts and the Oklahoma Sooners had just dropped their first game of the season in late October on the road against Kansas State, 48-41, and had Purdy and the fighting Iowa State Cyclones next up on the docket. No. 9 Oklahoma was favored by 14 points over Iowa State, and you were feeling pretty good at halftime if you laid the points with the favorites. The Sooners jumped out to a 35-14 halftime lead, as Hurts scored five total touchdowns in the first two quarters. However, things were about to change in a big way.
After Oklahoma and Iowa State exchanged touchdowns in the third quarter, Purdy and the Cyclones scored three straight touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull within a single point. Instead of opting to tie the game with an extra point with 24 seconds remaining, Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell went for the win with the two-point conversion. Unfortunately for the Cyclones, Purdy was picked off by Parnell Motley, which effectively ended the game. Oklahoma won, 42-41.
The statlines from this contest were incredible. Purdy completed 19 of 30 passes for 282 yards and five touchdowns, and rushed 15 times for 55 yards and another score, while Iowa State running back Breece Hall rushed for 110 yards. Hurts completed 18 of 26 passes for 273 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, and also rushed 22 times for 68 yards and two touchdowns. CeeDee Lamb shouldered the passing game, as he caught eight passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
Maybe Purdy and Hurts won’t combine for 11 total touchdowns when the 49ers and Eagles face off on Sunday, but we should expect another close matchup. The Eagles have been viewed as one of the best teams in the NFL all season, while the 49ers have evolved into one of the best teams in the league despite two quarterbacks being lost to injury — and Purdy has been a big reason why.
The very last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft is 7-0 as a starter, and has thrown 14 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions in those contests. Purdy is just the third rookie quarterback in NFL history to win multiple playoff games, and will be the fifth rookie in NFL history to start a conference championship game.