The Philadelphia Eagles steamrolled their way to a 14-3 record this season because they are a strong team in all three phases of the game. They have amassed one of the most talented rosters in the league and present the 49ers with arguably their toughest test of the year as these two heavyweights will square off at Lincoln Financial Field with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
While Philadelphia will pose a serious challenge as the last obstacle standing between the 49ers and date with the AFC Champion in Glendale, there are a few areas where San Francisco matches up quite favorably with this Eagles team.
49ers run defense against 11 personnel
One of the things that have made this Eagles' offense so dynamic this season has been their ability to spread teams out in 11 personnel groupings and then run the ball out of those looks. For those who may not be aware, 11 personnel is one running back, one tight end, and three wide receivers.
Having three wide receivers on the field typically will force a defense to match personnel by adding an additional defensive back, which in theory, is going to take away a bigger body elsewhere that would otherwise pose a greater threat to a team trying to run the football.
This is where the 49ers and their particularly unique defensive personnel can pose some problems for Philadelphia’s offense. Most teams throw the extra defensive back in against 11 personnel out of necessity, but this 49ers' defense creates a unique challenge because they can stay in their base personnel against these looks due to the speed they have at the linebacker position at the second level.
Two of the 49ers' starting linebackers are converted defensive backs who are as comfortable in open space as a good portion of the secondary players in the NFL.
Azeez Al-Shaair might not have the same background as a defensive back that his fellow linebackers share. Still, he is no slouch in space either and is as good as anyone at moving laterally from sideline to sideline.
The speed, instinct, and ability to diversify allow the 49ers to stay in a defensive personnel grouping that keeps them stout against the run while also not compromising themselves should any threat through the air present itself.
This is a major factor in the 49ers' ability to limit the damage opposing teams have done on the ground out of these 11 personnel looks.
Brett Kollman had a fantastic tweet about this, where he pointed out that the 49ers are only allowing 3.2 yards per carry against inside zone out of 11 personnel this season, which is important because that is the foundation of this Eagles offense.
Eagles run 11-personnel more than almost everyone else, and they run inside zone more than almost everyone else.— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) January 23, 2023
49ers defense, against 11p inside zone: 3.2 YPC allowed.
Doesn't even matter on MOFO vs MFC structure - they kicked ass either way. Tough matchup for Sanders.
If you aren’t already familiar with Kollman and the work he does, it is a must that you check it out. The content is fantastic, and you can find it on his YouTube channel, “The Film Room,” which I will post the link to here.