The San Francisco 49ers defense got all the attention and accolades ahead of the NFC championship game. Then the game started and the overlooked Philadelphia Eagles defense was the one terrorizing the quarterbacks.
The Eagles knocked out the 49ers’ two quarterbacks on Sunday. Niners rookie Brock Purdy injured his right elbow on a Haason Reddick hit that resulted in a fumble, and Purdy was unable to continue. Josh Johnson replaced him, until he was hit on a pass attempt and suffered a concussion when the back of his head hit the turf. Purdy had to come back into the game despite an injured throwing elbow. The 49ers couldn’t move the ball and the quarterback situation was the biggest part of that, but they give the Eagles defense credit for their dominant 31-7 victory Sunday in Philadelphia.
The Eagles offense is making a lot of headlines. Philly’s defense, which led the NFL in sacks, was underrated for most of the season. That changes in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.
The Eagles advance to their fourth Super Bowl in franchise history after beating the 49ers. The Eagles previously appeared in Super Bowls XV, XXXIX, and LII. The Eagles won their first Super Bowl championship in their third appearance, with head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Nick Foles. When the Eagles defeated the New England Patriots for that championship, Nick Sirianni had just taken a job as the Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator and Jalen Hurts was coming off his sophomore season at Alabama.
Sirianni and Hurts will lead Philadelphia to Super Bowl LVII, a testament to how well general manager Howie Roseman supplied the Eagles on the fly. One of his best work was putting together the defense that was key to Sunday’s victory.
Eagles get a big break before halftime
The first quarter was bizarre. The Eagles scored a touchdown on a 6-yard Miles Sanders run after officials failed to notice that fourth-placed DeVonta Smith dropped a seemingly great one-handed catch, and the 49ers did not challenge it. The 49ers lost Purdy to an elbow injury on a play that hit his arm and he whistled, though it was initially called an incomplete pass. The goal came from Reddick, the Eagles’ leading off-season free agent who played a great NFC championship game. The Eagles had a punt that looked like it hit the Skycam, but officials didn’t see it and have no video evidence of it.
It was one of the most eventful first quarters you’ll ever see, and the Eagles led 7-0 at the end.
The 49ers tied the game on a stellar run by Christian McCaffrey, seemingly stopped three times, but he broke tackles and avoided others, running 23 yards for the score and a tie.
The Eagles were a bit on the strings. They hadn’t moved the ball since their first drive. The 49ers were right and seemed to be settling in with Johnson at quarterback. Then came a huge drive.
The Eagles drove 75 yards on 14 plays. It was kept alive after a questionable pass interference and concluded with Sanders’ second touchdown, this one a 13-yard run. The Eagles’ line finally started to open holes and Philly hit some key runs. It took 6:53 off the clock.
Then the Eagles got a huge present before halftime. A shotgun snap hit Johnson in the hands, but he dropped it. Johnson couldn’t get it right away, and Reddick recovered at the 49ers’ 30-yard line. Boston Scott scored a 10-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left before halftime and the Eagles had a 21-7 lead.
The 49ers were in big trouble. It got worse.
49ers get another QB injury
The 49ers were already in danger of being blown out as the second half began. They trailed 14 points with their fourth quarterback of the season in the game. Then the game really turned into a mess for San Francisco.
In the first series of the second half, Johnson got a hit from Ndamukong Suh and his head hit the turf. Johnson was taken out of the game and returned to the locker room shortly after. He was ruled out with a concussion. McCaffrey was the emergency quarterback and watched an offensive playing sheet on the sideline, but Purdy got back in. Purdy was limited and mostly just transferred.
The Eagles abandoned the game soon after. They got going again, helped by more 49ers penalties, and Jalen Hurts scored on a quarterback sneak. Even though it was late in the third quarter, the 49ers failed to return with a quarterback who had an elbow injury and was unable to pitch downfield. Going for it early in the fourth quarter on fourth and second, the 49ers gave the ball to Deebo Samuel, who was stopped cold. The Eagles knew what was coming, but it’s not like the 49ers could pass it.
The Eagles were the top team in the NFL from Week 1 through the NFC playoffs. They are 16-1 as Hurts starts at quarterback. The offense can execute it effectively or make big plays in the passing game. The defense showed on Sunday that it is also a championship-quality unit.
Philadelphia returns to another Super Bowl. The Eagles have all the ingredients to also win their second Lombardi Trophy.