Nick Bosa is a game wrecker.
The San Francisco 49ers’ 6-foot-4, 267-pound defensive end is the front runner for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league during the regular season with 18.5 sacks, and 21 tackles for losses. But something has happened during the postseason that hopefully the Eagles will continue this Sunday when they host San Francisco in the NFC Championship at 3 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field: Bosa has not had a sack in the postseason, making it two-straight games without a sack for the first time this season. Bosa’s last sack came almost a month ago.
Eagles’ left tackle Jordan Mailata will have a task on his considerably large hands this Sunday in trying to keep quarterback Jalen Hurts clean against Bosa.
“He’s a threat anywhere, he can play both sides, he can play inside, and when he goes to one move, and if you stop that one move, he goes to another,” Mailata said about Bosa. “He’s very tenacious in that way. You don’t really know (where Bosa will be), that’s what really makes him a threat.”
Bosa is the hub of 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans’ defense. If he goes off, the Eagles could be faced with problems.
“I think just watching them over the past couple days, they’re very sound in what they do up front. It starts with Bosa and [Arik] Armstead,” Eagles’ offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said. “Those guys are really good players. Bosa is an exceptional player. He has really good speed to power. They do a good job in their rush lanes collapsing the pocket, especially on 3rd down.
[Fred] Warner and [Dre] Greenlaw, really good players. I can’t say enough about Warner, just the way he plays within that scheme. You can tell he prepares the right way. He understands route combinations. He has incredible instincts to where the ball is. He understands line blocking schemes of when to shoot, go through the gaps.
“Like I said, he plays within the scheme really well, but phenomenal instincts, and then on the back end, they’re really sound too. Just overall a really good, solid defense that we’ve got to be ready for.”
Bosa may not have a sack since the 49ers’ last regular-season game against Arizona on January 8, although he is aiming for his fourth-straight playoff with a tackle for a loss. He had two sacks and a forced fumble against Mailata and the Eagles in their last regular-season meeting on Sept. 19, 2021, a 17-11 49ers’ victory. Bosa became the first Niner since 1982 to lead NFL in sacks (career-high 18.5) and ranked tied for second with 19 TFL in 2022. He became only the fourth player in the NFL since 1982 with a sack in 13 or more games (13) within a single season.
The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season and under Ryans, haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since the Bears’ Justin Fields (103), on Oct. 31, 2021. Since Ryans replaced Robert Saleh as San Francisco’s defensive coordinator in 2021, his unit has allowed just two 100-yard rushers in 39 games, including playoffs. Of the NFL’s Final Four, three rank among the league’s leaders in points allowed per game during the regular season: San Francisco (16.3, first), Cincinnati (20.1, tied for fifth) and the Eagles (20.2, tied for seventh).
Three of the final-four teams rank among the league’s leaders in total yards allowed per game during the regular season: San Francisco (300.6, first), Philadelphia (301.5, second) and Kansas City (328.2, 11th), while the Niners’ 30 takeaways tied for second in the NFL and the Eagles’ 27 tied for fourth. The 49ers’ plus-13 takeaway ratio led the league while the Eagles (plus-eight) ranked third.
The Niners also had 20 interceptions this season, tied for the league lead while the Eagles had 17, tied for fourth.
Bosa is a headache in himself. But the Eagles’ offense could have far more concerns than Bosa this Sunday. Dealing with Bosa will require the Eagles to do some adjusting and sacrificing. It means giving Mailata running back help and possibly keeping a tight end in when the Eagles move to 12 personnel to help stymie Bosa at the point of attack.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written features for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, and his breaking story on Carson Wentz for PhillyVoice on January 21, 2019. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.