Bowl Bound Once More!
Birds Flatten Injury-Ravaged 49ers, Head Back To Super Bowl
Reminding a national audience and their legion of rabid fans of the potency of their run game, the Philadelphia Eagles flexed their ground-and-pound muscle against the NFL’s top-ranked defense.
The result is another trip to the Super Bowl, the team’s second in five seasons, but first under head coach Nick Sirianni and first with Jalen Hurts as the starting quarterback.
Miles Sanders rushed for two first-half touchdowns, Boston Scott added another and Jalen Hurts added one in the second half as the Eagles capitalized on the Niners losing quarterback Brock Purdy to an elbow injury after San Francisco’s first possession and some critical 49ers turnovers that helped the Eagles open a double-digit lead by halftime in a 31-7 NFC Championship win at the Linc.
“This is something you dream about your whole life,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “Like I said to the guys, we’ve all been dreaming about it, whether you were dreaming about it when you were 2, 10, 14, 18 or when you got in the NFL, this is something we all dream about, and we get to do it because we did it better than anybody else in the NFC this year. It’s pretty special. Fans were awesome.”
The Eagles will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Ariz., at State Farm Stadium. They’ll play the AFC top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs, whose head coach Andy Reid, once took the Eagles to five NFC Championships and a Super Bowl in his 12 seasons as Eagles coach.
It’s the Birds vs. Big Red for a Super Bowl loaded with juicy storylines, including an All-Pro sibling rivalry between Eagles superstar center Jason Kelce and his younger brother, electric Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
The Kelce brothers have combined for 14 Pro Bowl nods and nine All-Pro honors.
The Eagles last made – and won – the Super Bowl in 2017, the first Super Bowl title in franchise history, a 41-33 triumph over the New England Patriots that ended the franchise’s 51-year drought.
“We put a lot of work in to have this opportunity and to be here it’s a moment we want to enjoy as a team,” said Hurts, whose controversial 29-yard pass to DeVonta Smith on 4th-and-3 on the opening drive – replays showed the ball was bobbled as Smith hit the ground – set up the game’s first touchdown.
“We’re reflecting on everything we’ve overcome to have this opportunity right in front of us and we want to take advantage of it. The atmosphere here tonight was amazing. The fans showed up with the energy and we need to bring that to Arizona.”
Like they’ve done all season, the Eagles advanced by winning the trench battle.
Edge defender Haason Reddick’s sack-strip of Purdy on San Francisco’s opening drive resulted in Purdy’s injury. Reddick hit Purdy’s elbow before the quarterback’s arm came forward, causing the ball to come loose. Linval Joseph recovered the fumble to flip possession.
Purdy exited, forcing the Niners to move forward with 36-year-old journeyman backup Josh Johnson, who didn’t sign with the 49ers until Dec. 6. Johnson left the game before halftime to be evaluated for a concussion and didn’t return.
Sanders’ 13-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, his second of the game, capped a 14-play, 75-yard drive that put the Eagles up 14-7. The Niners committed three penalties on the drive, a breakdown emblematic of their dubious trip to South Philly marred by injuries, bonehead penalties and lost tempers.
After the Sanders touchdown, the 49ers melted down again as Johnson dropped a snap on the Niners’ second play of the ensuing drive. Reddick jumped on the loose ball, and the Eagles parlayed the turnover into another touchdown drive, capped by Boston Scott’s 10-yard touchdown for a 21-7 lead.
“I’m still taking this in, there’s still a lot of emotion,” Reddick said afterward. “I can’t even get my thoughts right, right now. I’m just excited for the team, myself and I can’t wait.”
The Eagles ran for 148 yards on 44 carries against the Niners, with Kenneth Gainwell’s 48 yards leading the trio. Sanders finished with 42 and Scott added 21 as the ground game took pressure off quarterback Jalen Hurts, who’s still nursing a shoulder injury from the regular season.
With a double-digit lead and with the Niners jockeying injured quarterbacks, the Eagles played it mostly safe, opting to keep the ball on the ground and control time of possession despite the 49ers bringing their No. 2 run defense into the game.
The Niners, who lost their second straight conference championship, didn’t even get over the 100-yard passing mark.
“The guys were pretty down in there,” Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We really wanted the opportunity to play that team and they played great. They did good things. But, you know, we wish we had a little better of an opportunity than we did today.””
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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