The San Francisco 49ers gritted out a hard-fought win over a tough Philadelphia Eagles team to complete a 2-0 road trip to start the season before heading home for Week 3 to face the Green Bay Packers in their home opener.
I’m going to break down five numbers that told the story of this slugfest in Philly that the 49ers ultimately prevailed in.
This was the length of the reception by Eagles wide receiver Qeuz Watkins, a play I believe was the turning point in this game. With the Eagles backed up in the shadow of their own goal post, quarterback Jalen Hurts hits Watkins for a deep strike down the right sideline, and it appeared Watkins had a clear path into the end zone for six.
Enter Jaquiski Tartt.
The 49ers' safety made an all-time hustle play, running down Watkins to bring him down 7 yards shy of the goal line.
Why is this so important? The 49ers defense stood tall and kept the Eagles from scoring on this drive after forcing a turnover on downs, followed up by a 97-yard touchdown drive by the 49ers offense that sent them into the locker room at halftime with a 7-3 lead despite being severely outplayed for most of the first half. However, it’s important to remember prior to this sequence. The 49ers' offense hadn’t converted a single first down on offense.
The 49ers never gave up the lead after this series of events leading into the half, as this huge momentum swing propelled by the incredibly clutch tackle by Tartt was the boost the 49ers needed to seize control of this game. Another interesting fact, the catch by Watkins was only the 10th in NFL history to go for over 90 yards and not result in a score.
This was the number of times defensive lineman Arik Armstead got pressure on Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. In this game, Nick Bosa stole the show with two sacks, but Armstead arguably looked like the most dominant player on that line while rushing the passer, supported by his team-leading six pressures. In addition, Armstead regularly beat a very stout interior offensive line for the Eagles, putting All-Pro center Jason Kelce on his back on multiple reps, and beating pro bowl guard Brandon Brooks on the inside as well.
It should be noted that through two weeks, Armstead has been one of the best defensive linemen in the league, posting 15 pressures (second in the entire league, trailing only Maxx Crosby of the Raiders, who has 19) while also being very stout on the edge defending the run. Armstead is posting a pressure rate of 28.2%, which is the second-best in the entire league.
20.0% successful run rate
This was the 49ers' successful run rate on running back carries, the second-lowest in a game since Kyle Shanahan has been the head coach in San Francisco. It was very clear the Eagles set out to slow down the 49ers' ground attack, and for the majority of the game, the 49ers struggled to get any kind of rhythm going running the football, averaging only 3.1 yards per carry on 38 carries.
Pulling out a victory in a game like this when the ground game isn’t effective is the kind of gritty performance that further builds the belief within that locker room that this is a team that can match up with anyone and wins games in many different ways, which is often a great barometer of where a team stands in terms of relative ability to compete for a championship.
45.2 yards per punt
This number may seem insignificant on the surface, but Mitch Wishnowsky’s performance played a huge part in the 49ers hanging in this game early on when the offense sputtered to a halt on their first three drives. Wishnowsky helped the 49ers flip field position in their favor nearly every time he was asked to punt and pinned the Eagles inside their own 10-yard line on three different occasions.
The 49ers special teams units as a whole have been incredibly reliable through the first two weeks of the season, posting the 2nd highest cumulative special teams grade in the league per PFF, trailing only the Saints. Far from a glamorous area to excel in but vital to the success of any team with aspirations of serious contention, the 49ers special teams unit is off to an exceptional start.
This was the amount of time the 49ers possessed the ball for, which is incredible when you consider they went three and out on their first three possessions while the Eagles had moderate success moving the ball to start the game. The 49ers rebounded from their rocky start early on, with the signature drive of the game going 16 plays for 92 yards which gave them a double-digit lead while eating up nearly nine minutes of clock spanning from the end of the third quarter into the middle of the 4th quarter.
The 49ers had two drives that had double-digit plays while going over 90 yards respectively in each, including a 97-yard touchdown drive that put them on the board just before the half. This kind of ball control football is ideally how the 49ers would like to play. Even in the face of adversity, when they were unable to get anything remotely positive going on offense, they found a way to string together some drives when they needed it most, dominating the clock and allowing the defense a chance to get some much-needed rest.