NFC Championship Preview: Eagles vs. 49ers
The new era of professional football is among us as this year’s NFC Championship game features two quarterbacks under the age of 25.
Jalen Hurts and Brock Purdy — a rematch we’ll get to see for the first time since 2019 when Oklahoma and Iowa State gave us an instant classic that ended in Hurts walking away with the 42-41 victory.
This time, however, a trip to the Super Bowl is on the line as Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers will head to the east coast to face off against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
This will be the 49ers’ third NFC Title game appearance in four seasons, but they are back for revenge after falling short against the Rams last year.
Experienced as they are, a lot of fans counted the 49ers out after second-string quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a season-ending injury in Week 13 against the Dolphins.
That led to the rookie sensation taking the reins, and so far, it has worked out better than anyone could have imagined.
Since taking over as the starter, Purdy has thrown for 1,854 yards and 13 touchdowns while completing 67.1% of his passes on just four interceptions.
It was a huge task after taking over for both Lance and Garoppolo, but having guys like Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and Christian McCaffrey makes Purdy’s job a whole lot easier.
The 49ers have one of the most balanced squads in the league, with a defense that has been downright exceptional all season.
So much could be said about this San Francisco defense, which is one of the main reasons the 49ers have won 12 straight games which includes the playoffs.
This game will feature the top-two defenses in the league, with the Eagles allowing 301.5 total yards per game compared to San Francisco’s 300.6.
What a storybook season it has been for Jalen Hurts and head coach Nick Sirianni, as the Eagles have dominated both sides of the ball en route to a 14-3 record, previously finishing 9-8 in 2021.
The Eagles have made numerous acquisitions that have helped them get to where they are, most notably star wide receiver A.J. Brown and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
Both have complimented their positions well, with Brown racking up 1,496 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 88 receptions.
Brown tweaked his left hip in last Saturday’s 38-7 blowout win over the Giants, but should be fine moving forward.
A lot of questions were answered in that win after the Philadelphia offense stalled late in the season after Gardner Minshew took over for an injured Hurts.
There was a lot of speculation about how the Eagles would respond with Hurts returning after the first-round bye, but they looked like they hadn’t skipped a beat.
The blowout victory had everything, including Hurts throwing for two touchdowns, Kenneth Gainwell rushing for over 100 yards, and the occasional Boston Scott touchdown against the Giants.
Not only that, but playoff football returned to Lincoln Financial Field for the first time since that 2017 Super Bowl run, and a playoff atmosphere in Philadelphia in any sport is fiercely intimidating.
The fans have all the passion in the world, and after that 38-7 win against the Vikings in the NFC Championship, the 49ers will need to prepare for the hostile environment — especially with a rookie quarterback.
Although Purdy is playing at a level well beyond his experience, it’s environments like Philadelphia that bring out the worst in an opponent.
This game doesn’t have the makings to be a repeat of 2018, but both flashing defenses will be on full display, which will keep this game fairly close.
My Prediction: Eagles 23, 49ers 20
Kickoff for the NFC Championship is set for this Sunday at 3:00 p.m. on FOX.
Connor Fenix is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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