The Philadelphia Eagles punched their ticket to Super Bowl LVII with a 31-7 victory against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.
During the game, San Francisco struggled with their quarterback and penalties. The Niners were forced to depend heavily on the ground attack, with Christian McCaffrey scoring the game’s only touchdown. All four Eagles touchdowns came on the ground, including two by running back Miles Sanders.
On Feb. 12, the Eagles will meet either the Kansas City Chiefs or the Cincinnati Bengals in Glendale, Arizona (6:30 p.m. ET, Fox).
The Eagles didn’t just make it to Super Bowl LVII; they crushed it. The first was a 38-7 victory against the New York Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs. Then came a thrashing of the NFC’s finest, the San Francisco 49ers, in the NFC Championship Game.
It is the Eagles’ fourth Super Bowl appearance, with the most recent occurring in 2017, when they won their first Lombardi Trophy. They weren’t favored in any of their playoff games that year, and they played the underdog card so aggressively that players donned dog masks after each win. This squad, on the other hand, has been the class of the conference from start to finish, completely at ease in the alpha position.
Against the 49ers, the Eagles played to their strengths. The club that had 32 rushing touchdowns in the regular season — the third most in NFL history — scored four times on the run against the 49ers. Even despite restricted dropbacks due to injuries to 49ers quarterbacks Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson, a defensive unit that led the league with 70 sacks had three and seven QB hits.
They arrive in Glendale, Arizona, confident they can compete with any club in the league.
Coach Nick Sirianni’s choice to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 34-yard line midway through the second quarter was pivotal. Philadelphia has been aggressive on fourth down all season, but going for it in its own territory against this 49ers defense takes some guts. Jalen Hurts got the first down on a Quarterback sneak, and the Eagles went on to complete a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Sanders’ second touchdown of the day, putting Philly up 14-7.
QB breakdown: It was tough going against one of the league’s finest defenses. Hurts concluded the first half with minus-1 running yards, his lowest first-half total as a starting quarterback. He finished the game 15-of-25 for 121 yards with no touchdowns or picks, but he got things rolling on the ground in the second half, including a 1-yard touchdown late in the third quarter to put the game away.
Explain the game in two words: Punishment for defense. Haason Reddick, the edge rusher, led the way. Reddick had two sacks, three pressures, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in the first half alone, when this game was won. Purdy had an elbow injury, and Johnson departed the game with a concussion, requiring Purdy to return to the game and McCaffrey to handle some quarterback responsibilities.
Underappreciated fact: Prior to this season, the Eagles had never once ran for three or more touchdowns in a playoff game. They’ve done it twice this season, scoring four touchdowns on the ground (three in the first half) after scoring three in the divisional round against the Giants last week. — Timothy McManus
San Francisco 49ers
In many respects, the 49ers’ season concluded the same way it began: with a slew of concerns about what would happen at quarterback.
This season has seen significant change at the game’s most vital position. The majority of that was due to injuries to each of their signal-callers. Despite it all, the 49ers, probably the NFL’s least quarterback-dependent club, not only survived, but thrived.
It took them to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday with the opportunity to go to Super Bowl LVII if they could defeat the high-powered Eagles.
The Niners’ quarterback issues, though, eventually caught up with them at the worst possible time. They could no longer overcome the injuries at the conclusion of Sunday’s loss because they were left without anyone capable of leading the charge.
Hope faded when Purdy suffered a right elbow injury on the team’s opening attacking series. Johnson, who was acquired from the Denver Broncos’ practice squad on December 6, became the Niners’ fourth quarterback of the season.
Johnson appeared in his first postseason game since joining the league in 2009, but he didn’t last long. He left with a concussion early in the third quarter, forcing Purdy to come back in since he couldn’t throw the ball downfield.
After that, the Niners’ hopes of pulling off an upset disappeared.
Trey Lance could have been able to rescue the day in an other dimension. Or perhaps Jimmy Garoppolo might have completed a memorable reunion tour. Or Purdy might have became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to lead his club to a Super Bowl victory. Yet none of this occurred. And the Niners are now entering another offseason with a lot of quarterback uncertainty.
Explain the game in two words: Mistake-filled. With their quarterback predicament, the 49ers were already facing an uphill battle on Sunday, but they didn’t help themselves by making many mistakes. In addition to their turnovers, the Niners committed 11 penalties for 81 yards, including a few that allowed Philly to score.
Important fact: Turnovers are the most critical indication of a team’s victory and loss this season, and the Niners have been a great example. The Niners were 15-0 in games with one or fewer turnovers before Sunday. When they had two or more, they were 0-4.
They had three turnovers and lost against the Eagles, continuing their season-long tendency.
Crucial role: Facing fourth-and-3 at the Niners’ 35 on the game’s first drive, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni elected to go for it. Hurts heaved a deep throw down the left sideline for wideout DeVonta Smith, who seemed to make a spectacular diving grab in the eyes of the referees.
Smith, though, was doubtful that he had caught it and quickly summoned his teammates to the line of scrimmage to try to snap the ball before the 49ers could watch a replay and lodge a challenge. Smith’s strategy succeeded, as the Niners did not challenge, giving the Eagles a first down at the San Francisco 6 yard line. Two plays later, they scored.