“It’s a play to keep in mind Sunday in Philadelphia. That’s not to say the 49ers will duplicate it. But everyone will have their eyes on Samuel throughout the game. There are bound to be plenty of signs in the stands with clever Deebo puns and insults. The Eagles defenders will take extra pleasure in knocking him to the ground the way safety Reed Blankenship did when he forced a Samuel fumble in the championship game.
Samuel certainly won’t shy away from the heat. In fact, the best games of his career have come when everyone in the stadium knew he was getting the ball. Back in 2021, George Kittle and Elijah Mitchell had been injured and in and out of the lineup. Brandon Aiyuk hadn’t yet become Brandon Aiyuk. Christian McCaffrey was a member of the Carolina Panthers. Brock Purdy was a senior at Iowa State. Samuel wasn’t just the focal point of the offense, he was the offense, he was “the one.”
Sunday’s game is the 49ers’ biggest, most-hyped regular-season game since the finale against the Rams. This time, however, “the one” is one of many. Samuel will have his opportunities. So will McCaffrey, Aiyuk and Kittle. And the risk of being so fixated on the 49ers’ No. 1 antagonist is that you do what the Rams did two years ago and lose track of everyone else.”
“Just because this is a huge game doesn’t mean the Niners want the recipe for victory to change. They’ve jumped on their opponents early all season and will need to do that and keep their foot on the gas against an Eagles team that’s been outstanding in coming from behind. There should be opportunities to make plenty of plays in the intermediate passing game and run the ball successfully, particularly by attacking the edges.
The biggest challenge will be slowing down Philadelphia’s running game. The Eagles’ offensive line is posting a league-best 76.6% run block win rate. The 49ers have 15 sacks over the past three games and Hurts is prone to hang on to the ball, so there should be opportunities to get to him, but the Niners have to slow the run first. As always, the turnover battle is most important. The Niners have just 10 giveaways this year (third in the NFL) to Philadelphia’s 16 (tied for 18th). That means there should be some chances for takeaways and the Niners have to take advantage.”
“On Sunday, the Eagles might not have the services of All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (groin), who is questionable to play after not practicing during the week, and their linebacker corps is in tatters due to injuries. They will start two season-opening backups, Nicholas Morrow and Christian Elliss, a 2021 undrafted free agent who has played 104 career defensive snaps and has zero starts.
Elliss figures to occasionally be matched up in coverage with All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey and All-Pro tight end George Kittle.
“Are you supposed to beat a backup? Yeah, for sure,” Kittle said when asked about possibly facing one of the Eagles’ reserve linebackers. “I’m looking forward to any time I get a linebacker matchup. I don’t care if it’s (49ers’ All-Pro) Fred Warner or someone’s practice-squad guy. I love linebackers. That’s really fun for me. Whatever they put out here.”
“And the 49ers’ offensive line typically is referenced as Trent Williams and four others.
Those guys who fill the positions on the offensive line must be doing something right, too.
The 49ers rank third in the NFL at 386.1 total yards per game, and they’re tied with the Eagles for third with a 28.2-point average.
“We play our role in the offense’s success,” 49ers center Jake Brendel told NBC Sports Bay Area. “That doesn’t hit the headlines as much as some other things. But that’s fine. That’s just offensive line play.”
“Veteran safety Erik Harris is set to make his debut with the 49ers less than a week after joining the organization.
The 49ers on Saturday elevated Harris and wide receiver Chris Conley from the practice squad to be available to play in their key Week 13 game Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.”
“Of course, the Eagles are less sour about how the NFC title game played out. Bradberry heard what Samuel said about him, and the one-time Pro Bowl cornerback told reporters Wednesday that he “can’t ignore it,” didn’t “necessarily like what” Samuel said but “it is what it is.”
“It’s never been part of, I would say my personality or my game, saying things in the media to get another team riled up or just express all my thoughts,” Bradberry said. “I try to keep everything generic and just go out there and handle my business when it comes down to playing the game.”