December 4, 2023   7 MIN READ

Gold Rush

Niners Weapons Too Much For Birds Defense


PHILADELPHIA – It took longer than expected – one quarter, to be exact – but the aesthetically pleasing, high-octane San Francisco 49ers offensive machine, known for it’s eye candy motion and misdirection, eventually revved up and hit the gas on Sunday at the Linc against the Eagles.

If it wasn’t running back Christian McCaffrey gracefully gliding his way to 133 all-purpose yards, it was tone-setting tight end George Kittle bulldozing his way through a reeling Philadelphia defense, totaling 68 receiving yards as the 49ers trounced the Eagles, 42-19, for the second-most lopsided loss in Eagles coach Nick Sirianni’s tenure.

Then there was do-it-all playmaker Deebo Samuel, a villain to many across the Delaware Valley following his months-long chatter and disparaging comments directed at the Eagles, who had routed an undermanned 49ers team last January in the NFC Championship.

Samuel, by the way, made good on the gauntlet he threw down, totaling 138 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns on just seven touches, quieting the energetic home crowd.

In their own modern version of the “Greatest Show of Turf,” the 49ers posed as the perfect storm for an Eagles pass defense in disarray and chronically marred by confusion and miscommunication.

Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan, the maestro behind the offensive juggernaut, has presided over a largely indefensible system that, when healthy, feasts off an array of jet sweeps, motions, and outside-zone runs.

The complexities of their offense forces defenses to think as opposed to react, almost like a 60-minute chess match.

The Eagles knew they’d need to keep communication breakdowns to a minimum to avoid back-breaking mishaps, but easier said than done, apparently.

“I would say it was definitely on our radar,” cornerback James Bradberry said. “They do a good job with jets and motions post- and pre-snap. When you play defense, everyone has to see things the same way. And when you have jets and motions, the reads can get kinda murky.

“And that’s what they did. I feel like that’s kinda what put us in a bind. They made plays based off what they ran, and once they got the ball in their hands, they did a good job getting yards after the catch.”

George Kittle Deebo Samuel

GETTY IMAGES: Deebo Samuel, left, and George Kittle were too much for the Eagles’ defense Sunday.

After the teams traded jabs throughout the opening frame, Kittle’s signature rumble with 8:49 left until the break opened the proverbial floodgates, awakening the Eagles’ most recent conference rivals.

On 1st-and-10, 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy patiently surveyed the landscape before identifying a wide-open Kittle scooting out into the right flat.

The seventh-year tight end snared the ball and headed up field, where he collected 32 yards before being met by linebacker Nicholas Morrow and safety Kevin Byard.

The catch advanced the ball to the Philadelphia 10-yard-line. Three plays later, the 49ers reached the end zone and would never again trail in the rout.

“It’s a huge play-action,” Kittle said. “We got a pulling guard … we’re trying to get people to step up so we can hit Deebo or [Brandon] Aiyuk. And I’m just kinda in a motion, waiting for someone to fly off the edge.

“And Reddick flew off the edge, and I kinda hit him. I don’t know if someone just forgot about me after I hit him, but fell into the flat and Purdy gave me a nice little dump-off. Anytime you’re running in space is pretty fun.”

The 49ers were unrelenting in their full-on assault of the second level of the Eagles’ defense, which included third-year linebacker Christian Elliss, making his first NFL start.

While Elliss showcased range, athleticism and tenacity, he also appeared to be frequently out of place and slow to react.

For the second consecutive week, Morrow found himself isolated on a running back in coverage. Only this time, McCaffrey hauled in the pass for a 33-yard gain.

While the loss of veteran linebacker Zach Cunningham to a hamstring injury might have seemed insignificant on the surface, it magnified the Eagles’ problems at the middle level and revealed the unit’s inexperience and continuity issues.

The secondary hardly fared better, surrendering chunk plays of 32, 33, and 48 yards, and conceding three touchdowns.

Tackles were missed, assignments were blown, and communication broke down.

It wasn’t just the usual Niners suspects – McCaffrey, Kittle, Samuel and Aiyuk – who inflicted the punishment.

Even rotational wide receiver Jauan Jennings, who had corralled just two receptions for 15 yards over the past three games, registered 44 yards and a touchdown on three catches – his third-best performance of the season.

Jennings caught a 3rd-and-5 strike from Purdy before he eluded Eagles cornerback Eli Ricks and scampered into the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown, his first of the season.

“Just a simple out route,” Jennings said, recalling the play. “Mano a mano. I knew if I just made [Ricks] miss, I’d have a chance to score.”

Then there was Samuel, who single-handedly tormented the Eagles’ defense as a runner and receiver, ripping off explosive scoring plays of 46 and 48 yards, respectfully.

“Going into the week, obviously, Deebo had a little something to him,”  Purdy said. “That’s just who he is, and he can do that. He’s good enough to do that.

“But was it a distraction or anything like that? No. Deebo’s practiced hard all week. Every single week, he’s done that, and he’s been very consistent this year.

“But, going into this game, yeah, he had a little something. A little history with obviously the way things went down last year in the playoff game and he’s definitely looked forward to this game, coming back into this place. So, he was pumped about it and ready to go.

“Man, all I had to do was get him the ball and some space and he made the rest happen. Really happy for him.”

The Eagles, who still hold the NFL’s best record, are hardly ignorant to their substandard play, which is hardly exclusive to the defense.

They’ll have another opportunity to stake their claim as the NFL’s top team next week, in an NFC East showdown at AT&T Stadium against the surging Dallas Cowboys.

But many of the deficiencies that the 49ers exploited defensively will need to get cleaned up.

While little can be done about injuries at important positions – perhaps free-agent linebacker Shaq Leonard signs on this week after visiting last week – everyone in the locker room has to see things the same way, to Bradberry’s point, while specifying certain areas.

“It mainly applies to zone,” Bradberry explained. “And then, of course, quarters is pretty much like man somewhat, because you have guys matching low and whatnot.

“But it’s really tough to play this team man across the board, because they have a dynamic running back that can get mismatches against linebackers and safeties. And they also do a lot of jets and motions, so it’s kind of hard to play man against them.

“So you wanna do a good job of mixing zone in there with it as well. In certain downs, they had us in zone; in certain downs, they had us in man. And they got the mismatches and whatnot. It’s a tough team to play – and hopefully we see them again.”

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for

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