The 49ers may be pressed into giving Sam Darnold his first start of the season this Sunday because of Brock Purdy's head injury.
If quarterback Brock Purdy needed a reset after the first two-game losing streak of his young NFL career, it's possible he'll get it this Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers host the visiting Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8.
And it might not even be Purdy's choice. Or the Niners' choice, for that matter.
Purdy is currently in the concussion protocol, as head coach Kyle Shanahan revealed on Wednesday. On a short week after losing to the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football, there is a chance Purdy is cleared by the independent commission on head injuries.
But it's also feasible that the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft stays out because of the injury.
Should that be the case, veteran quarterback Sam Darnold would get his first-ever start with San Francisco.
Doom and gloom, right? After all, Darnold has been nothing but a bust since being drafted No. 3 overall by the New York Jets back in 2018, and not even the 49ers' quarterback-friendly offense can save him, right?
Not necessarily. If anything, placing Darnold under center in Week 8 might not be the worst thing ever.
Not all is lost if 49ers start Sam Darnold vs. Bengals on Sunday
Darnold's stats aren't great over the course of his career, no. He owns a 59.7 completion percentage with 61 touchdowns against 55 interceptions, and his passer rating is a lowly 78.2.
Those are all reasons why he's no longer starting-caliber material.
That said, Sunday's game doesn't necessarily have to be about Darnold. If it is in any way, it'll likley be merely about his need to eliminate/prevent turnovers, which he did under Carolina Panthers interim head coach Steve Wilks (you should know him by now) last season to the tune of just three; a career-low 2.1 interception percentage in 2022.
Instead, Sunday's game against the Bengals should be more about their inability to stop the run, which plays perfectly into Darnold's role as a distributor and little else.
Entering Week 8, Cincy is allowing 5 yards per rush, which is third worst in the NFL. Cincinnati has also given up 857 yards on the ground, too, which ranks fourth worst.
Provided the 49ers get All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams (ankle) back from injury, fellow All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey should be the player fans and analysts are talking about the most.
Quarterback Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense have had their share of offensive woes all year long, too, which also plays right into the Niners' defensive advantage. In turn, that'll assist their ground game, and that also alleviates pressure on Darnold to proverbially "carry the offense."
He won't have to do that, provided Cincy's run defense is as bad as advertised.
The two teams kick off on Sunday, Oct. 29 at 4:05 p.m. ET from Levi's Stadium.