This game will be dominated by stars. Today, we’re asking which team can slow down the other team's best players.
Offense: George Kittle vs. Kyzir Withe/T.J. Edwards
There’s no doubt that George Kittle was the deciding factor in Sunday’s victory over the Cowboys. This week, the Eagles present a challenge with one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL. James Bradberry and Darius Slay will match up with Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk for most of Sunday’s matchup.
Of the 49ers’ starting pass catchers, Kittle leads in slot percentage with 171 slot routes for a percentage of 30.1 on the season. The Eagles’ base defense typically comes out in a 5-2-4 look: five down linemen, two linebackers, and four members of the secondary.
It may give the 49ers chances on early downs to take advantage of Kyzir White and T.J. Edwards. White and Edwards are the third and fourth most targeted defenders, with 72 and 71 targets, respectively. Both players have allowed 73.6 and 66.2 reception rates.
In nickel defense, it will come down to Avante Maddox’s health status for the game. If Maddox can’t go, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson will move down from safety into the slot.
Isolating Kittle or any of the other 49ers’ pass catchers on linebackers and safeties may be the key to unlocking the passing game.
Defense: Deommodore Lenoir vs. A.J. Brown/Devonta Smith
In back-to-back playoff games, Deommodore Lenoir has notched huge interceptions. For cornerbacks, it’s important to play with confidence. Perhaps the last two weeks have led to more confident play in Lenoir.
Last week, Lenoir allowed one long catch, but otherwise was nails. Funny enough, including the postseason, Lenoir has allowed a QB rating of 85.7 when targeted. That is the best number of any player in the secondary.
The Eagles have two incredible receiving options in A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith. Mooney Ward doesn’t travel, so Lenoir will be asked to slow them down on Sunday.
If Lenoir can continue his solid play, it only adds to a defense that played some of its best football this past week.