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Eagles-49ers preview by the numbers: A challenge for Jalen Hurts

NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Well Eagles fans, it’s the big one. I have written these stats pieces every week and it always feels like the Eagles are heavy favorites. This will be the first real test in a long time. The 49ers are a very good team but I still favor the Eagles at home. Let’s get into it! All stats via Sports Info Solutions unless stated as always.

49ers Tendencies

49ers Offense

Get ready for 21 and 22 personnel. The fullback is back! The Eagles' defense matches up well against 11 personnel, but we don’t really have a good sample size of how they handle 21 or 22 personnel. The 49ers' offense actually has a higher EPA per play from 11 personnel (0.11) than it does from 12 (0.07).

This is a Shanahan offense, so get ready for motion. They barely ever use no huddle and use a lot of under-center. The Eagles’ defense has to be prepared for motion at all times.

This is not surprising either. The 49ers want to get the ball out quickly, either on short passes or screens. They will want to do this to nullify the Eagles’ pass rush too. They are not afraid of stacked boxes at all and will run it until you stop them!

49ers Defense

The 49ers are pretty simple on defense and they will match 12 personnel with 4 defensive backs quite a lot. The Eagles can almost certainly use this to their advantage. More on this later...

It’s pretty hard to predict what the 49ers will do because they are quite a team specific defense. They can do a little bit of everything. I expect to see a lot of cover 3 and I’ll point out why later.

This is a heavy zone coverage defense. Considering the weapons the Eagles have and the mobility of Hurts, I think they will play a lot of zone this week. They play a lot of MOFO (middle of the field open - no single-high safety) zone defense but I think we will see them play a lot more MOFC (single-high safety) this week for reasons I will get into later. Don’t expect a huge amount of blitzes either, this team can get home with 4 pass rushers.

Statistical Matchup

Eagles Offense vs. 49ers Defense

This is the best defense the Eagles will face this year. It might be the best defense in the NFL. They are not perfect against the pass which gives me hope, but they are 1st in EPA per play, 2nd in EPA per pass, and 2nd in EPA per rush. That is ELITE. The sack numbers are decent and they turn the ball over a lot. This defense is flat-out good. Hurts is going to have to play well.

Eagles Defense vs. 49ers Offense

The 49ers’ defense is elite, and the offense isn’t bad either. It doesn’t matter who the quarterback is, this team will score points. They don’t take a lot of sacks and they don’t turn the ball over. If the Eagles want to beat this offense, they are going to have to get Purdy to hold the ball on late downs and get after the quarterback. With Trent Williams at left tackle, this is a massive Haason Reddick game.

Key Matchups

Eagles 12 Personnel

This is a big one for me. The Eagles are just really, really good when they go 12 personnel. They played a lot of 12 last week and it worked a treat. The 49ers’ defense doesn’t struggle against anything, but they are slightly weaker when in base personnel (4 defensive backs).

The Eagles’ offense generates 0.07 EPA per play from 11 personnel and 0.23 from 12 personnel. 0.23 per play is huge. Additionally, the 49ers’ defense will likely match a lot of 12 personnel with base defense as I pointed out earlier. The 49ers’ defense allows -0.12 EPA per play from 4-2-5 personnel but -0.07 from 4-3-4 personnel.

The 49ers have struggled in particular against the pass from 12 personnel. They are allowing 65% of passes from 12 personnel to be completed against them, at 9 yards per attempt (!) for 6 TDs and 1 INT. This is pretty bad for an elite defense.

In very simple terms: The Eagles’ offense is more efficient from 12 personnel and the 49ers’ defense is less efficient when playing 4 defensive backs. Sirianni and Steichen, you know what to do.

49ers Cover 3 / Eagles Quads

I’ve watched the all22 of every single snap Jalen Hurts has thrown this year and I have not seen a weakness. However, based on some EPA data, it appears he is weaker throwing against cover 3. It just so happens that the 49ers' favorite coverage is cover 3.

Is it time to panic? No. I think the 49ers can be beaten on the outside and the Cowboys had some opportunities last week. I trust Hurts to throw outside the numbers and prove this statistic wrong.

If you want some good news, the same data also suggest that Brock Purdy struggles against cover 4. We know what the Eagles love to run.

Watch out for George Kittle

The 49ers love isolating George Kittle out wide because he is too good for a safety or a linebacker to cover him. Whatever the Eagles decide to do on defense, they must have a plan for Kittle.

On plays as the isolated receiver, Kittle leads all tight ends this year with 417 yards. The next highest has 295 yards... that’s a significant difference. Oh, and those 417 yards came from 38 targets (10.8 yards per attempt) and 31 of those were completed. That’s 82%.

Those numbers are scary good. The Eagles need a plan to handle Kittle when he’s isolated.

Run away from Fred Warner

This may not surprise you, but running directly at Fred Warner hasn't led to much success. On inside runs this year against the 49ers, teams have 499 yards on 179 carries (2.8 yards per carry). However, on outside/off-tackle runs, teams have 882 yards on 210 carries (4.2 yards per carry).

If you want to get even more specific, this is the run to the right game.

Deebo Samuel out of the backfield

Lining up elite wide receivers in the backfield feels like a cheat code at times. The Eagles’ defense has to have a plan for Deebo in the backfield and CMC out wide. There are no easy answers (or everyone would do it!) but the Eagles have the personnel to come up with a plan. They cannot consistently let Deebo be covered by linebackers. Deebo has lined up in the backfield the 2nd most of all wide receivers in the past few years.

Sadly, throwing to wide receivers lining up out of the backfield is about as effective of a play as you can get. These numbers are scary.

Defense - catch the ball

Listen, sometimes we get too caught up in stats. I’ve watched a lot of the 49ers this week, and Brock Purdy is playing incredibly well for a 7th-round rookie, but he’s getting a lot of luck.

The Eagles' defense has been good at taking the ball away this year and they need to be on Sunday. I think the Eagles need a turnover or two to get the win.

That will do folks. This was a detailed one so I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll be on the BGN Radio Instant Reaction podcast this Sunday, so make sure you tune in so you can hear me celebrate or cry...

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