49ers Get Three TDs From Deebo, Demolish Birds In NFC Title Rematch
PHILADELPHIA – Almost five hours ahead of Sunday’s conference clash between the Philadelphia Eagles and visiting San Francisco 49ers, amid another rainstorm, the energy and urgency of a playoff-like game atmosphere be felt all around before the Week 13 showdown.
But the anticipated 2022 NFC Championship rematch hardly lived up to the billing, with the 49ers pulling away in the second quarter en route to a dominant 42-19 win, as they advanced to 9-3 on the season.
The 49ers, who carried an eight-point lead into the break, hit their stride in the third, with quarterback Brock Purdy completing 6-of-7 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown, and with running back Christian McCaffrey rolling up 53 rushing yards while wide receiver Deebo Samuel collected 60 all-purpose yards and two scores.
The Eagles reached the end zone in the third, courtesy of a Jalen Hurts 1-yard touchdown plunge, but wouldn’t score again until the waning moments of the final frame.
The franchise signal-caller briefly exited the game to be evaluated for a concussion but later returned to lead a late touchdown drive.
Hurts completed 26-of-45 pass attempts for 298 yards and a touchdown, while adding 20 yards and a score on the ground.
Purdy finished 19-of-27 for 314 yards and four touchdowns, while Samuel accrued 138 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns on just six offensive touches.
Eagles linebacker Nicholas Morrow and safety Reed Blankenship each totaled a team-high seven tackles. Fletcher Cox and Haason Reddick were the only Eagles to bring down Purdy, each notching a sack apiece.
Let’s go ahead with the observations.
* DT Fletcher Cox, sidelined throughout the practice week with a groin injury and listed as questionable entering Sunday, warmed up on the field roughly two hours before kickoff. The 12-year veteran defied the odds and was active despite not practicing all week, speaking to the team’s trust in Cox to be ready.
* As expected, pregame warmups showed LB Christian Elliss alongside Nicholas Morrow, who was sporting the green dot. Undrafted rookie Ben VanSumeren, signed to the roster last week following three practice squad elevations, served as the No. 3 linebacker. Elliss showed good closing speed and tenacity, traits he’s known to have, and looked fluid from sideline-to-sideline in his first NFL start but he was an obvious target by the Niners in coverage and showed some inevitable blunders,
* Man did WR A.J. Brown on slant routes appear to be almost impossible to defend early. On a 3rd-and-9, on the Eagles’ opening possession, Brown took a short pass 38 yards to the San Francisco 36-yard line. WR Quez Watkins also logged his first reception in weeks, hauling in an 8-yarder on 2nd-and-8. Overall, good play designs from OC Brian Johnson but the a drive only netted three points, which came back to haunt them.
* Textbook end zone coverage from Niners CB Charvarius Ward, who used his outside hand to deflect a would-be touchdown to Brown in the first quarter, a big stop for San Fran.
* EDGE Haason Reddick, among the few vocal Eagles in light of the incessant 49ers chatter, dropped Niners QB Brock Purdy on the second play from scrimmage, setting up a 3rd-and-12. DE Josh Sweat provided pressure on the ensuing playing to force a three-and-out as the Eagles defense tried to set an early tone. Through two drives, the Niners had registered minus-6 net yards and their OL served as a turnstile.
* Early offensive snaps for TE Albert Okwuegbunam, who broke free over the middle on a play that ultimately went to DeVonta Smith for 10 yards. A lot of WR Julio Jones sightings in the first, as the Eagles continued to mix-and-match personnel to compensate for the absence of TE Dallas Goedert.
* Tough sequence for the Eagles on 2nd-and-6 from the San Fran 14. Hurts, scrambling, appeared to be signaling to Brown to head for the corner, but Brown – who was tangled with CB Jimmie Ward – didn’t see. Hurts slipped, which credited Javon Kinlaw for a 15-yard sack.
* Interesting to see S Kevin Byard trail RB Christian McCaffrey on the successful 3rd-and-3 conversion to TE George Kittle. Instead, slot CB Bradley Roby drew Kittle in coverage. The Eagles didn’t have any answers for McCaffrey, who rung up more than 130 yards from scrimmage. Bad whiff in the open field from Roby when Purdy shimmied past him for a 6-yard run, advancing the ball to the Philadelphia 4.
* This was the second consecutive week in which Morrow was isolated in coverage on a running back. While last week’s attempt to Bills RB James Cook was dropped, negating a potential touchdown, this time McCaffrey reeled in the target for a 33-yard pickup.
* Looked like a busted coverage on the back-breaking 32-yard completion from Purdy to Kittle, as it appeared two Eagles were drawn to Samuel. Purdy orchestrated an 11-play, 85-yard scoring drive, culminating in a 2-yard touchdown to a diving Brandon Aiyuk, as the Niners took the 7-6 lead.
* Two offsides penalties called on Josh Sweat in this game, and they were costly.
* In one of the more bizarre sequences you’ll ever see, Niners LB Dre Greenlaw body-slammed Devonta Smith out of bounds following a 13-yard completion. Greenlaw, who was flagged, then had a physical exchange with the Eagles security honch Dom DiSandro, resulting in Greenlaw’s and DiSandro’s ejections.
* Samuel, a year-long lightning rod for disparaging comments he made abou the Eagles, delivered with the target on his back, totaling 92 scrimmage yards and two scores on six touches before the end of the third quarter.
* Curious decision by Eagles HC Nick Sirianni to punt on 4th-and-2 with 2:32 remaining in the third. Sirianni’s MO is typically to remain aggressive. Down 15 – with the league’s best offensive line – one would think his decision would require a bit more deliberation.
* The Eagles’ defense provided little resistance after the first quarter. Purdy completed 6-of-7 pass attempts after the break for 119 yards and a touchdown, while McCaffrey rolled up 53 rushing yards on 7 attempts.
* It took a few series for the Niners to find their stride, but credit Niners HC Kyle Shanahan and his staff for making necessary adjustments and countering the Eagles’ early physicality. Shanahan is known for calling specific plays early to get intel on how defenses will react, and then adjusting to his findings.
* LB Zach Cunningham has quietly served as the Eagles’ best linebacker, but I’m not sure one could appreciate how much his presence was missed until watching the Niners pick apart the middle of the field.
* Both teams combined for 12 penalties (94 yards). San Francisco converted 8-of-11 third-down attempts.
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.