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49ers' Purdy vows to be 'smart with the ball' after five interceptions during three-game skid

Brock Purdy Brock Purdy - The Canadian Press

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Brock Purdy hasn't had much to apologize for since taking over as starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers late last season.

But after a second straight two-interception game sent the Niners to their third straight loss, Purdy took the chance in a postgame meeting to own up to his mistakes.

“I just wanted the team to know and hear from my own mouth, face-to-face like, I got to be better,” Purdy said Thursday. “I own up to the mistakes that I’ve made and certain points in the game. I have to be smart with the ball. The quarterback is one of the most trusted guys in the organization because we get the ball in our hands every play to make a decision. So just owning up to that and understanding that I have to be better.”

Purdy's storybook start to his career that took him from the last pick in the draft to the starting quarterback for one of the top teams in the league in a matter of months, hit its first obstacles in recent weeks.

He had won his first 10 regular-season starts and the 49ers were 13-0 when he played at least three quarters before a recent slump.

He threw his first interception of the season and completed just 44.4% of his passes in a 19-17 loss to Cleveland in Week 6. That was followed by two interceptions in the fourth quarter of a 22-17 loss to Minnesota and two more late picks in the 31-17 loss to Cincinnati.

That led to Purdy addressing the team in what run game coordinator Chris Foerster described as a “heartfelt message.”

“It meant a lot,” running back Christian McCaffrey said. “That’s not shocking. He doesn’t have to explain himself to anybody. We know what kind of work he does, his mentality and his mindset. I think everybody, including him, is fired up to get back out there this week.”

Purdy is far from the only person to blame for San Francisco's offensive slump that has seen the 49ers held to 17 points in each of the past three games after scoring at least 30 points in the first five games.

The running game has been bottled up with left tackle Trent Williams playing on an injured ankle against the Browns and then missing the past two weeks.

The Niners are averaging 3.0 yards per carry and 51 yards rushing per game from their non-quarterbacks the past two games after averaging 4.85 yards per carry and 144 yards rushing per game the first six weeks.

“I think it’s a combination of a lot of different things,” McCaffrey said. “It’s staying on the field, being better on third down so we can keep calling them. It’s not turning the ball over, staying ahead of the sticks. Then from my vantage point, breaking a couple more second level tackles and getting more explosives.”

Williams returned to practice Thursday and could play this week. The Niners also should benefit from the return of receiver Deebo Samuel, who has been out since injuring his shoulder early in the loss to Cleveland.

Samuel provides a good outlet for Purdy in the passing game with his ability to turn short passes into long gains and also can be used as a runner to change things up from McCaffrey.

“It’s huge,” McCaffrey said. “He complements everybody. Just having him on the field, he’s such a threat whenever he has the ball. He can move it maybe a play that looks like it’s not going to work out. Just having that confidence to be out there means a lot to all of us.”

NOTES: Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks downplayed his planned move this week from the booth to the field after defensive struggles the past three games. “Guys to me, just very candid, I think we’re making a bigger deal out of it than it needs to be, to be honest,” he said. “I just want to be able to communicate with the guys a little bit more during the game.”