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Eagles vs. 49ers NFC Championship: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Highlights and lowlights.

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Eagles are going to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in franchise history, after their dominating 31-7 victory over the gradually deflating San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

The NFC championship was rather anti-climactic and over after the Niners’ first series, when starting quarterback Brock Purdy went down with an elbow injury and San Francisco had to resort to their fourth quarterback this season, Josh Johnson.

The Eagles became the first team in NFL history to win by scoring more than 30 points, while allowing less than 10 points in consecutive playoff games (against the 9-8 New York Giants and a 49ers’ team sans a quarterback).

The looming question entering the Super Bowl is are the 2022 Eagles truly great, or fortunate?

It will be determined in Super Bowl LVII on Sunday, February 12, 2023, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Jalen Hurts completed a modest 15 of 25 for 121 yards and scored a third-quarter touchdown (his 15th rushing TD, the most all-time for an NFL quarterback), and rushed for 39 yards. He involved six different receivers, while the defense smothered Purdy, then the overmatched Johnson, then Purdy again.

By then, Purdy couldn’t lob the ball 10 yards and it was apparent.

The Eagles now advance to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2017 and for the fourth time in franchise history, and third time since 2004.

Miles Sanders rushed for 42 yards on 11 carries and scored two touchdowns, and the Eagles rushed for 148 yards and four touchdowns.

The Eagles ran 70 plays to the 49ers’ 45 plays, held the Niners to 164 yards of total offense, 81 yards rushing and recovered three fumbles.

There was a lot of good, sprinkled with some bad and some ugly in the Eagles’ 31-7 NFC championship victory over the one-dimensional San Francisco 49ers.

The Good

It starts again with the foundation and that’s up front in right tackle Lane Johnson, right guard Isaac Seumalo, center Jason Kelce, left guard Landon Dickerson and left tackle Jordan Mailata, and tight end Dallas Goedert absolutely manhandling and controlling the 49ers’ defense to the tune of four rushing touchdowns, 269 total yards, 148 coming on the ground.

Defensive end Josh Sweat’s three-yard takedown of Christian McCaffrey on the Niners’ first play of the second half. By then, Niners’ coach Kyle Shanahan was looking in the stands for anyone who could throw a football more than 10 yards.

San Francisco’s back-up quarterback Josh Johnson looked like he needed a Depend diaper on the fumble at the Niners’ 30 with 1:11 left in the half. Haason Reddick pounced on the fumble and the Eagles capitalized, heading into halftime with a commanding 21-7 lead on Boston Scott’s 10-yard touchdown run. Until the last 96 seconds of the half, the Eagles did not look good.

Sanders’ second touchdown, a 13-yard run with 1:36 left in the half. Kelce pulled left and took out linebacker Dre Greenlaw, Dickerson sealed off the Niners’ Kevin Givens, and Mailata manhandled Niners’ end Samson Ebukam. Sanders went untouched into the end zone for a 14-7 lead—to get a quiet crowd engaged in the game again.

Kenneth Gainwell’s 17-yard run just before the two-minute warning of the first half, which brought the ball to the San Francisco 24. On the play, Kelce and Dickerson pulled, Mailata occupied the Niners’ Jordan Willis coming up field, creating a pathway for Gainwell. Another Gainwell 17-yard gain with 5:00 left in the third quarter came during a crucial time, on a third-and-five at the Eagles’ 29. Hurts hit Gainwell, who generated the yards-after-catch by running through several Niners’ defenders. Gainwell had a nice overall game, rushing for 48 yards on 14 carries and two catches for 26 yards.

On the Niners’ first possession, Reddick’s 10-yard sack on Brock Purdy on a second-and-six at the 50, recovered by Linval Joseph at the Eagles’ 44. On the play, Reddick caught a piece of Purdy’s arm during his throwing motion and Purdy sat the remainder of the first half for what San Francisco’s medical team reported at nerve damage. Reddick’s second sack for minus-9 against Niners’ back-up quarterback Josh Johnson came on the Niners’ second drive.

Sanders’ 6-yard touchdown run had great blocking from Kelce, right guard Isaac Seumalo on one side, and Dickerson and Mailata plowing back Niners’ tackle Javon Kinlaw, and Seumalo teaming with Johnson in shoving back Kerry Hyder.

The Eagles’ opening drive. Hurts went 5 for 7 for 54 yards and converted a third down and a fourth down. The Eagles went 66 yards over 11 plays, absorbing 5 minutes and 12 seconds off the clock. It was the 10th time the Eagles scored on their opening drive of the game and featured seven passes, three runs and one San Francisco sack.

The incredible one-handed catch by DeVonta Smith (a gift, considering the replay showed Smith actually dropping the ball) on fourth-and-three at the San Francisco 35 on the Eagles’ first drive. The 29-yard reception set up Sanders’ 6-yard touchdown run and an Eagles’ 7-0 lead. Hurts made the play possible, rolling left and throwing across his body right. He motioned to Smith as he was running, and threw it on the go, when Smith got behind Niners’ nickelback Jimmie Ward.

On the Eagles’ fifth overall play, they were faced with their first third-down. Hurts picked up a blitz by Greenlaw coming straight up the middle, and found A.J. Brown for 10 yards on a third-and-eight at the San Francisco 42.

The Bad

With 10:39 left to play, Dickerson coming up holding his right arm at the elbow and leaving the game.

Hurts’ 12-yard run with 3:47 left in the third quarter on a first-and-10 at the San Francisco 35. The game was over. Purdy couldn’t throw. The 49ers had no quarterback and their only other option was to run McCaffrey out of the wildcat, so why risk Hurts? At the end of the play, you’ll notice, Greenlaw came in somewhat late and threw a right shoulder into Hurts’ back. Hurts winced for a moment before he got up. With the Super Bowl at stake, again, why risk Hurts to injury there? Hurts even admitted before the game that he was not 100-percent healthy.

A.J. Brown’s drop on a slant on the Eagles’ second play of the second half at the Eagles’ 20.

How twisted this is, the Eagles’ first half. They went into intermission leading 21-7 against a depleted team with a quarterback that did not know what he was doing. The Eagles didn’t take the lead until the last 1:36 of the half, on Sanders’ second touchdown and the Scott score, courtesy of the Niners’ second turnover. Until then, it was an even game, which the Eagles should had command of after Purdy went out after the first series. Hurts later scored a 1-yard touchdown on that same drive for a 28-7 Eagles’ lead.

Seumalo getting nailed for a false start with 4:36 left in the first half, forcing a first-and-15 at the Eagles’ 42.

Linebacker Kyzir White getting beat by McCaffrey on a 9-yard reception to the Eagles’ 25 on San Francisco’s first scoring drive. The Eagles were woefully running behind McCaffrey every time he was in the open field during that possession.

Linebacker T.J. Edwards getting picked off by Niners’ guard Daniel Brunskill on McCaffrey’s 9-yard gain to the Eagles’ 46 with 11:15 left in the first half.

The Eagles’ second drive, off the Reddick sack and Joseph fumble recovery, and doing nothing with it. The Niners’ shut the Eagles down at midfield.

The miscommunication on the offensive line to allow Niners’ defensive tackle Kevin Givens to slice through and pull down Sanders for no gain on first-and-10 at the Niners’ 42 on the Eagles’ first possession.

The Ugly

McCaffrey’s 23-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 7-7 with 8:29 left in the first half—led by fourth-string Niners’ quarterback Josh Johnson. It was a run of will. Eagles’ safety Marcus Epps crashed the gap and literally rolled over and missed, cornerback Darius “Big Play” Slay whiffed at air, safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson looked like he was knocked off of McCaffrey by his own teammate, tackle Javon Hargrave, and McCaffrey ran free.

Tight end Jake Stoll getting beat backside by Greenlaw when Sanders was taken down for a one-yard loss at the Eagles’ five on their fourth possession. Then, one play later, Stoll completely missed Nick Bosa, who took down Hurts for a 3-yard sack. It was not a good series for the Eagles’ back-up tight end, who had no problem talking and pointing fingers at the San Francisco special after the opening kickoff.

Cornerback Josh Jobe with the foolish personal foul call on the Niners’ punt with 1:59 left in the first quarter, pushing the Eagles back to their 15. What compounded it was Jobe shoved the Niners’ Tarvarius Moore in the face right in front of the referee.

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for,,,, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

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