Top-seeded Eagles host 49ers in NFC championship game

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Thursday, January 26, 2023


Sunday, 3 p.m., FOX

Eagles by 2 1/2

SERIES RECORD: 49ers lead 19-14-1.

LAST MEETING: 49ers defeated the Eagles 17-11 on Sept. 9, 2021, in Philadelphia.

LAST WEEK: 49ers defeated Cowboys, 19-12; Eagles beat Giants, 38-7.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: 49ers plus-13; Eagles plus-8.

EAGLES PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Jalen Hurts left no doubt that he was back to good health and good form in Philadelphia's dominating win over the Giants last Saturday night in which Hurts threw for 154 yards and two touchdowns and rushed nine times for 34 yards and a score. Hurts had returned from a two-game absence because of a shoulder injury in the regular-season finale on Jan. 8 and helped the Eagles clinch the NFC's No. 1 seed with a less-than-stellar 22-16 win over the Giants. But he looked last week more like the player who threw for 22 touchdowns, rushed for 13 and combined for 4,461 yards through the air and on the ground while giving defenses fits with his dual-threat ability. Hurts' play this season resulted in him being selected as an MVP finalist this week. The Eagles are 15-1 in Hurts' starts this season, and he'll be in for his biggest test of the season against the 49ers' No. 1-ranked defense.

49ERS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Brock Purdy has emerged as one of the NFL's unlikeliest success stories. The rookie seventh-round pick was given the moniker "Mr. Irrelevant" after being the last player picked in the draft. But he has been anything but for the 49ers, stepping in for injured starter Jimmy Garoppolo (broken foot) and winning seven straight starts, including playoff victories over Seattle and Dallas. He has thrown for 546 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in the postseason. But Purdy is facing a tall order playing in the NFC title game in Philadelphia. For one thing, it's just the third road game of his career, and surely will be the most intense atmosphere he's faced. Secondly, he will have to overcome the history of rookie quarterbacks in this situation. All four previous rookie quarterbacks to reach the conference title game, Shaun King (1999), Ben Roethlisberger (2004), Joe Flacco (2008) and Mark Sanchez (2009), lost. If Purdy is to become the first-ever rookie quarterback to reach the Super Bowl, he'll somehow have to avoid Philadelphia's potent pass rush, which sacked Daniel Jones five times last week after leading the league with 70 sacks during the regular season.

KEY MATCHUP: Eagles LT Jordan Mailata vs. 49ers DE Nick Bosa. Mailata is part of a talented Philadelphia offensive line that had three players, RT Lane Johnson, C Jason Kelce and LG Landon Dickerson, make the Pro Bowl. Mailata was selected as an alternate for the Pro Bowl, and the 6-foot-8, 365-pound Australian native and former rugby player will get the biggest test of his career against Bosa, who led the NFL with 18 sacks and is a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year. When San Francisco has the ball, Pro Bowl LT Trent Williams will face a similar challenge against Eagles edge rusher Haason Reddick, who added to his regular-season total of 16 sacks with 1 sacks of Jones last week.

KEY INJURIES: Eagles CB Avonte Maddox (toe) returned to practice this week. He has not played since getting injured on Dec. 24 against Dallas. Johnson, who is playing with a torn abductor, also was limited in practice this week. WR A.J. Brown was held to just three catches for 22 yards against the Giants and appeared frustrated in the second half. Coach Nick Sirianni confirmed on Monday that Brown was dealing with an undisclosed injury, but he was not listed on the injury report this week, indicating that he will be healthy and ready on Sunday. For the 49ers, WR Deebo Samuel (ankle) and backup RB Elijah Mitchell (groin) did not practice on Wednesday. Backup CB Ambry Thomas (ankle) and backup DE Charles Omenihu (oblique) were limited in practice. All four players are likely to play on Sunday, coach Kyle Shanahan said. Omenihu will play if healthy in spite of being arrested on Monday after a domestic violence allegation. Shanahan said the organization will let the legal process play out. Shanahan does not expect to have Garoppolo available.

SERIES Game notes

This is the second postseason meeting between the teams, following the 49ers' 14-0 wild-card win in 1996. San Francisco is the only NFC team never to have played a playoff game in Philadelphia.

STATS AND STUFF: The Eagles have a league-high eight Pro Bowl selections: Hurts, Brown, Johnson, Kelce, Dickerson, Reddick, RB Miles Sanders and CB Darius Slay. The 49ers have six: Bosa, Williams, S Talanoa Hufanga, LB Fred Warner, FB Kyle Juszczyk and TE George Kittle. ... San Francisco has won 12 straight games overall. ... The 49ers defense limited opponents to a league-best 300.6 yards during the regular season and held the Cowboys to 282 yards last week. Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, a former linebacker who played for the Eagles for four of his 10 seasons, is a top head coaching candidate. Ryans already has interviewed for head coaching openings in Houston and Denver and is drawing interest from the Colts, Cardinals and Panthers. ... The 49ers are playing in their second straight NFC title game and third in four years. They last played in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, 2020, losing 31-20 to the Chiefs. ... San Francisco K Robbie Gould has made all 29 career field-goal attempts in the postseason, including 4-for-4 against Dallas last week. ... Hurts and Purdy met once previously, though it was in college. On Nov. 9, 2019, Hurts led Oklahoma to a 42-41 over Purdy and Iowa State. In that game, Hurts threw for 273 yards and three TDs and rushed for 88 yards and two scores. Purdy matched him, tossing five TDs, but threw an interception with 24 seconds left on a 2-point conversion try, sealing the win for the Sooners. ... The Eagles last made the Super Bowl on Feb. 4, 2018, winning their first one with a 41-33 victory over Tom Brady and the Patriots. ... In addition to Reddick, Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave and Josh Sweat each reached double-digit sacks during the regular season with 11 apiece. Sweat returned from a one-game absence because of a neck injury to get 1 sacks against the Giants last week while Graham got one. ... Brown (1,496 yards) and WR DeVonta Smith (1,1196) yards became the first Eagles wide receivers duo to top 1,000 yards in a season. ... Home teams are 34-18 in NFC title games, and No. 1 seeds are 32-14 in conference championship games. ... Philadelphia, led by second-year coach Sirianni, set franchise marks for points (477), total touchdowns (59) and rushing touchdowns (32) in the regular season. ... Sanders ran for a career-high 1,269 yards in the regular season and had 90 yards on 17 carries versus the Giants last week. ... Philadelphia TE Dallas Goedert and Kittle are two of the best tight ends in the NFL. A shoulder injury sidelined Goedert for five games this season, but the fifth-year pro still finished with 702 yards, including 12.8 yards per reception, in the regular season. He tacked on five catches for 58 yards and a TD against the Giants last week. Kittle had one of the postseason's highlights, a juggling 30-yard reception down the middle of the field against Dallas last week. He caught 60 passes for 765 yards and 11 TDs during the regular season. ... The 49ers are making a record 18th appearance in the NFC title game and are seeking their eighth trip to the Super Bowl. Philadelphia is looking to reach its fourth Super Bowl.


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