The 49ers travel to Lincoln Financial Field for a highly anticipated NFC Championship battle against the Eagles. Kyle Shanahan gears up for a loaded Philadelphia Eagles team. We look at four keys that’ll keep San Francisco’s Super Bowl hopes alive below.
Keep calm, Brock
Chris Foerster’s offensive line allowed the sixth-fewest sacks in the regular season. Aaron Banks and Trent Williams are playing at an elite level with an occasional hiccup. But things get rockier from center over to right tackle. Jake Brendel, Spencer Burford, and Mike McGlinchey usually have a head-scratching play in pass sets, which explains why Brock Purdy escaped the pocket early and often last week.
Purdy went on about rolling out left when previewing the Eagles Wednesday.
“Yeah. Honestly, I hope I don’t have to scramble, so that’s not something that I have in my mind, but it is part of the game. I just feel like how the pocket is collapsed, that’s just an area I feel like I’ve gone to, but it’s not something that I’m like, man, I have to stop going left, or I need to go more right. It’s just part of the game. It’s a natural feel I feel like in the moment, so it’s not something that I’m practicing or anything like that.”
Philadelphia’s historic defensive line has four guys with ten sacks or more; that doesn’t count Fletcher Cox or Ndamukong Suh. Hassan Reddick and Josh Sweat pose a great threat to both tackles with their athletic bend. Both players can win with an array of pass-rush moves, so let's hope Purdy is calm and decisive.
Shanahan takes charge
The offensive line isn’t the only position group that needs to keep Purdy calm. Pass-catchers can ease Purdy’s nerves by running routes hard and avoiding drops. Philadelphia’s decorated secondary will be praying for a turnover after watching Purdy’s interceptable pass reel.
Shanahan and Nick Sirianni will display an array of run-and-pass concepts that’ll excite football nerds across the globe.
This is the clip to ask about next. pic.twitter.com/9ZIaUwek6E— Landon (@johnnychristo) January 26, 2023
Shanahan has plenty of run concepts, but running at them will wear out Philadelphia's weak rush defense. Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell are both do it all running backs equipped to do damage on the ground.
And now that McCaffrey is off the injury report, his 16-touch performance against the Cowboys a week ago will seem modest.
Both backs can help put the game away by staying active for check downs to keep chains moving. The game is in Shanahan’s hands. It’s big on big across the board and San Francisco’s offense will shine if everyone takes it one play at a time.
Stand tall against the pass
DeMeco Ryans’ secondary had some hiccups against Dallas, but they executed when it mattered most. Deommodore Lenoir and Jimmie Ward forced turnovers, and Ryans’ “Swarm” mentality prevailed against the run.
Sirianni’s Run Pass Options will stress each level of the defense. Jalen Hurts’ low average depth of target means plays will be there for Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, and Azeez Al-Shaair to make.
To bracket either AJ Brown or DeVonta Smith is the question. Slowing either is achievable with active hands or getting heads around to locate the ball. By silencing these two, Ryans’ defense can show who truly has the best pass defense in the league.
Contain Hurts’ scrambles
San Francisco’s edge group will be in hell with Sirianni’s RPOs, Hurts’ mobility, and defending the multiple run concepts thrown at them. Hurts extends drives with his legs when the pass isn’t there, paired with designed quarterback runs.
Getting Hurts down when the secondary does their job will be a huge task for the defensive line. Limiting explosive runs and tackling Hurts on third down will be ways to stay afloat on defense.