January 29, 2023
It's party time in Philly, as a two-week celebration of the Eagles winning the NFC commences. A 31-7 dismantling of the 49ers earned them a Super Bowl berth Sunday afternoon.
Just how did the Eagles get it done in what could very appropriately be called an unconventional blowout victory?
Here's a look at four reasons why — that we hope you'll read about after (or during?) your celebratory pole climb and city hall storming this evening:
The first quarter of Sunday's game was a tale of two bad calls by officials and two different coaching decisions.
As the Eagles embarked on their first drive, they were faced with a fourth and 3 and Nick Sirianni pulled the trigger to go for it. The play appeared to be broken, as Jalen Hurts scrambled to his left and hurled a ball to a sprinting DeVonta Smith.
Somehow, this was ruled a catch:
JALEN TO DEVONTA OH MY 🔥— NFL (@NFL) January 29, 2023
📺: #SFvsPHI on FOX
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/FKUP5TdmfQ pic.twitter.com/rUoyhJmsbM
Minutes later, it was a Sirianni challenge on this play that reversed what was initially called a forward pass:
Nobody had more forced fumbles in the NFL than Haason Reddick @Haason7Reddick 1st player since 1982 with 10+ sacks in 3 straight seasons with 3 different teams 🔥🔥— Jeff Skversky (@JeffSkversky) January 29, 2023
Pair those two coaching decisions with Sirianni's correct decision to go for it on fourth down deep in his own end in the second quarter and the Eagles opened up a 21-7 halftime lead thanks to some extremely impactful decisions from Sirianni and Kyle Shanahan.
There was some buzz in town after Haason Reddick was overlooked as a finalist for the NFL's defensive player of the year award, despite his 16 sacks and five forced fumbles during the regular season. Was that on his mind when he took the field days later to take on the Niners? We'll never know for sure, but his play did all the talking.
Reddick was the man responsible for the strip sack that knocked Brock Purdy out of the game (after a successful challenge), and when Josh Johnson came in, the Temple alum overpowered a Niners tight end who was blocking him for some reason to get a big sack No. 2.
And, after an Eagles score inside two minutes before halftime, it was Reddick, again, jerking the ball loose to set up another Philadelphia touchdown.
Reddick was the best defensive player on a field that also had Nick Bosa (likely the DPOY) on it Sunday afternoon and he's the biggest X-factor behind their advancement to the Super Bowl.
It was a little odd at times in this one, seeing the Eagles run the ball 42 times (for 150 yards) with Hurts throwing just 25 passes. Was he still hurting from his shoulder injury back in December? Hurts had a lot of dump off passes and screens and was less accurate than usual down the field. But none of that matters, as the Niners offered almost nothing offensively themselves.
We'll know the answer there soon enough — Hurts will have nearly two weeks off before Super Bowl LVII — but the offense didn't miss a beat as it pounded the Niners on the ground for three first half touchdowns (they only allowed 11 all year). Hurts called his own number 11 times in the game, rushing for 39 yards and was pushed into the end zone for the Birds' fourth touchdown of the game in the third quarter.
It was apparent that the run was the emphasis late in the first half, as the Eagles had short fields and a ticking clock, and both times elected to give the ball to Miles Sanders, Kenny Gainwell and Boston Scott in the red zone instead of looking for big bodied receivers Dallas Goedert and A.J. Brown.
And finally, Brock Purdy injured his elbow in the first quarter, and Josh Johnson left with concussion symptoms early in the third quarter. It looked like the Niners mulled having a position player go in at QB, but Purdy did return, in a very limited capacity, throwing screens, dump offs and handing it off to Christian McCaffrey.
Down by double digits it must have been infuriating for the Niners to have to be so conservative with the football, but the injury gods continue to smite them, for whatever reason.
Would a fully healthy Purdy for 60 minutes have made a difference in this one? Who knows. It certainly makes the loss easier for the 49ers to take, who have seen Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance, Purdy and Johnson each take meaningful snaps this season.
The quarterback play will be considerably better in Arizona with Patrick Mahomes or Joe Burrow.
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