The NFC Championship Game may have been decided after the 49ers’ sixth offensive play of the game. Haason Reddick hit Brock Purdy’s arm as the rookie released the ball, forcing a fumble and injuring the quarterback’s arm, an injury that likely would have kept Purdy out the remainder of the game had Josh Johnson not gotten injured as well. The 49ers were outscored 24-7 after the fumble, resulting in an Eagles 31-7 win.
It was a tough situation for any team to deal with, and one that likely ended the 49ers’ season. These are the winners and losers from the end of the 49ers 2022 season.
Loser: the 49ers quarterback situation
Most of the 49ers’ problems on Sunday can be brought back to them not having a quarterback who could throw the ball more than five yards for the entire second half. Both Purdy and Johnson combined for 83 passing yards on 17 attempts, with the 49ers throwing the ball three times in the final 25:04 of the game.
The offense only ran 16 plays after Johnson left the game with a concussion, with 13 rush attempts compared to the three passes. The 49ers averaged two yards per play on those 16 plays because the offense was more or less forced to exclusively run the ball. Both of Purdy’s throws after returning to the game were short screens that barely had enough behind them to get five yards downfield to his intended target.
The 49ers couldn’t get anything going offensively and never had much of a chance after the Purdy injury.
Winner: the 49ers defense
The 31 points allowed on Sunday by the 49ers was just the third time this season the defense allowed 30 or more points, but it wasn’t from a lack of effort. Jalen Hurts threw for just 121 yards and the Eagles’ run game averaged only 3.4 yards per attempt, the third-lowest average in a game by Philadelphia this season.
What caused the struggles was the lack of production from the offense and the defense staying on the field too long. Philadelphia ran 25 more plays than the 49ers’ offense and finished with a nearly 15-minute time of possession advantage.
After the Eagles scored their touchdown near the end of the first half after the Johnson fumble, the 49ers offense had the ball for just under 12 minutes for the remainder of the game, with Philadelphia out-gaining the 49ers 136-37 in the second half.
The score doesn’t necessarily reflect the effort from the 49ers’ defense, who played as well as they could with the situation they were handed. There was one place the defense could have improved however…
… And that’s the penalties. The 49ers were called for 11 penalties on Sunday, with seven coming from the defense. The 11 penalties cost the 49ers 81 yards, both the highest in a game from the 49ers since their Week 1 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Not only was the number of penalties an issue, but the time as well. Three of the seven penalties against the 49ers’ defense were called on either third or fourth down, with all three drives resulting in points for the Eagles. Jimmie Ward was called for a first quarter pass interference, Jordan Mason was called for roughing the kicker on a fourth-and-6, and Dre Greenlaw was called for unnecessary roughness after a two-yard gain on a third-and-12, all resulting in first downs.
As mentioned, the defense did what they could, but frustration settled in, and it resulted in some poorly timed penalties.
Loser: QB Josh Johnson
It was nearly an impossible situation for Johnson to enter, but Johnson’s biggest mistake of the game may have turned the tide for good in the Eagles’ favor.
The 49ers had a chance to enter the half somehow down only seven points despite Purdy exiting the game. Philadelphia had just jumped out to a seven-point lead with a 14-play drive, giving the 49ers the ball back with 1:36 remaining and all three timeouts remaining. The drive started out promising, with Johnson hitting Deebo Samuel for an 11-yard-gain to get the 49ers out to their own 36-yard-line.
Johnson lined up in shotgun on the next play, but fumbled the snap after appearing to take his eyes off the ball. Instead of falling on the ball and using a timeout, Johnson compound his original mistake but trying to pick up the ball, but instead knocked the ball forward to be recovered by the Eagles. The Eagles’ offense took the ball and scored just three plays later, extending their lead to what felt and proved to be an insurmountable lead for the 49ers.
Again, an impossible situation for Johnson as QB4 of the 49ers, but mistake-free football would have been enough. With the turnover being a preventable one and the timing of it, it was just too big of a mistake for the 49ers to overcome.