Kurtenbach: ‘The time is now.’ Inside the huddle as Brock Purdy found his game and saved the 49ers’ season

Kurtenbach: ‘The time is now.’ Inside the huddle as Brock Purdy found his game and saved the 49ers’ season

SANTA CLARA — Amid the driving rain, Brock Purdy was perfectly clear in the huddle.

“The time is now,” the 49ers quarterback told his offense.

Trent Williams was even more direct:

“This might be the last time we get the ball,” the future Hall of Fame left tackle said. “This can be the last time we’re in the huddle together.”

The 49ers’ performance in their NFC divisional-round matchup with the Packers had been as ugly as the Bay Area weather. The No. 1 seed was losing 21-17 to the NFC’s last-place playoff team with 6:18 to play in the fourth quarter.

But they had a chance at redemption — a lifeline, in the form of a missed Green Bay field goal.

They needed to take it.

At the drenched Levi’s Stadium, the Niners took the ball at their 31-yard line. The best 49ers team in recent memory had one last great chance to win the game and keep its Super Bowl dream alive.

The quarterback’s poor performance from the first three-and-a-half quarters didn’t matter.

The team’s 0-30 record under head coach Kyle Shanahan while trailing by five or more points going into the fourth quarter didn’t matter either.

“Hey guys, lock in,” Purdy demanded.

They did. He did.

And over the next five minutes and 11 seconds, Purdy and the Niners wrote a legend.

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It can’t be called “The Drive” — that nickname is taken. (Nor was there a “John Candy” moment.)

But this drive doesn’t need a nickname or definite article. In the years and decades to come, every Niners fan will be able to tell you where they were, what they were thinking, and the relief they felt when Christian McCaffrey scored his 6-yard touchdown to give the Niners a 24-21 lead with 1:07 to play. They might not be as forthright about the sound they made when linebacker Dre Greenlaw intercepted Green Bay quarterback Jordan Love’s desperation pass four plays later to seal the win.

And if the 49ers do, indeed, win the Super Bowl in February, the legend of Saturday’s drive will only grow larger.

Yes, it was a narrow escape — one that the Niners, if we’re being honest, shouldn’t have needed.

But faced with a dream season ending in a nightmare, the Niners and their second-year quarterback (who had only authored one game-winning drive in his NFL career — and had two losses this regular season under similar circumstances) showed the kind of mettle that, to that point, was fairly questioned.

“We needed a win like that,” defensive end Nick Bosa said. “We just haven’t come from behind in a while. It just helps you get more battle-tested.”

This surge in the storm required everything to go right amid a game where that was anything but the norm.

“That game felt off until the end there,” McCaffrey said.

It required McCaffrey, tight end George Kittle, and receiver Brandon Aiyuk to make big plays — a need more accentuated by star receiver Deebo Samuel’s absence due to a shoulder injury.

They came through.

It required a 17-yard catch from a player the 49ers cut before the start of the season: Wide receiver Chris Conley wasn’t even on the 53-man roster until December; he had three catches all season, all in the no-stakes scrimmage they called Week 18.

Conley came through.

But most of all, it required Purdy, whose accuracy was nowhere to be found in the second half, to find the form that made him an MVP candidate this season, if only for one drive.

And man, did he come through.

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Of the 69 yards the Niners needed to reach the end zone, Purdy provided all but 11, completing 6-of-7 passes for 47 yards on the final drive, with the only incompletion being a Kittle drop, and running twice for 11 yards — a third-down sneak to move the chains and a 9-yard scramble that set up the game-winning touchdown run the next snap.

“On that last drive, the look in everyone’s eyes: they wanted it. They wanted that moment to be on them,” Conley said.

Purdy, most of all.

He was cool, collected, and accurate when his team needed him most.

“That’s MVP Brock, man,” safety Tashaun Gipson said.

No, you can’t overlook the poor performance that led to that moment, but you also can’t overstate the value of his play when the moment arrived.

Sometimes, it’s better to be clutch than good.

That’s especially true if you’re unsure if a quarterback can be clutch.

But no such questions will exist moving forward.

“What better time to learn to win a gritty game than right here in the playoffs?” Kittle said.

The Niners will go to the NFC Championship Game for the seventh time in the last 13 years, the fourth time under Shanahan, and the second time with Purdy at the helm of the offense.

This Niners team, with the kind of talent that only comes around once in a generation, still has a chance to fulfill its ultimate potential — to do what those prior seven teams couldn’t do: win the title.

“We had what we wanted right in front of us. You had to clean the slate. You have to have a clean mind and not try to force anything,” Purdy said. “You have to find a way… For us to capitalize like that was huge. We have too many good players… for us to not find a way… it wasn’t right.”

Purdy made it right on Saturday.