Game Preview – SF at PHI

Posted: January 28th, 2023 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 4 Comments »

The Niners are coming to Philadelphia to battle for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. The game will feature the two best teams in the NFC (arguably the entire NFL). There will be two good offenses and two good defenses. This game should be a lot of fun.

The Eagles are slight favorites, likely because MVP candidate Jalen Hurts will be going against rookie Brock Purdy. That is a key advantage for the Eagles. Purdy could play the game of his life and out-duel Hurts, but that doesn’t seem likely. Hurts is more experienced and more talented.

When the Eagles have the ball

SF is the best defense in the league. They were 1st in points allowed, yards allowed and defensive DVOA. They are good. As good as the defense is, they have allowed 500 or more yards in 2 games. Eagles fans saw back in 2017 that even the #1 defense can be not only beaten, but dominated.

PHI 38

That doesn’t mean we’ll see that again. It would be wild to see an elite defense get run over like that a second time. One can dream, though…

Jalen Hurts will be a huge challenge for SF. We’ll start with the run game. The Niners have an elite run defense, but they have been vulnerable to running QBs. They only allowed 100 or more yards in five games. QBs were key in three of those.

ATL – Ran for 168 yards. Marcus Mariota was 6-50
KC – Ran for 112. No QB rushes but WR Mecole Hardman was 2-28
DEN – Ran for 101. Russell Wilson was 6-17
LV – Ran for 135. Jarrett Stidham was 7-34
SEA – Ran for 104.  Geno went 4-28

You aren’t going to line up and just run on SF out of your base offense.

You need to be creative, which the Eagles are. They will run the ball with Hurts. They will use RPOs. These things can affect the Niners. The Eagles have had success against good run defenses this year. Here is an interesting stat from numbers guru Warren Sharp.

  • With Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia has played 5 games vs top-10 run defenses and they’ve 4-1 in those games, scoring 35, 35, 26, 24 and 21 points.

The Niners will have adjustments. The Eagles know that and will have counters to those adjustments. This is the chess match you always hear about.

The Eagles OL is good enough to win their share of battles. Miles Sanders ran for 55 yards against SF last year. He’s a better RB this season so I expect him to have his moments and make some plays.

One of the things that makes the Eagles run game so challenging is that they mix in the passing game. They are really good with RPOs so even when the defense is right on one option, there is another.

The Niners LBs give them a chance to shut some of these plays down. They are disciplined and athletic. They are in the right spot at the beginning of a play and then have the speed/range to help if the ball goes elsewhere. They cover ground horizontally and vertically.

Eagles coaches have done a good job at using players athleticism against them. Get guys that are fast to pursue and then attack where they were. Use fakes and misdirection to confuse them. It was wild to see unblocked Micah Parsons looking helpless in the first Dallas game. The Eagles coaches will have a creative plan for how to deal with Nick Bosa and Fred Warner. We’ll have to see how well it works.

SF’s defense is predicated on the DL getting pressure and allowing the back seven to cover. If the Eagles OL wins their battle upfront, things get tough for the Niners in a hurry.

Check out this nugget from Deniz.

Great info. The Niners have really athletic DL so stunting allows them to take advantage of that. If the Eagles pick up those stunts and limit their effectiveness, things get challenging for SF in a hurry. More interesting numbers from Warren Sharp.

  • The 49ers when not blitzing this year: 1st in EPA/att (-0.18), 1st in YPA (6.1), 6th in 1st down rate (26%)
  • But when blitzing? 28th in EPA/att (+0.17), 29th in YPA (8.2), 18th in 1st down rate (33%)

If they don’t get pressure, they blitz. When they do that, the secondary is vulnerable. Look at recent games and the struggles with shutting down top receivers.

DAL – CeeDee Lamb 10-117
SEA – DK Metcalf – 10-136-2
ARZ – AJ Green – 3-91
LVR – Davante Adams – 7-153-2
WAS – Terry McLaurin 4-77, Jahan Dotson – 6-72

Have to go back to Week 15 to find them holding a WR below 70 yards. I think that bodes well for AJ Brown or DeVonta Smith having a big game. Maybe both. I think they are better than the Niners CBs.

The Eagles ran for 151 yards against SF last year. The passing game was the problem. A lot has changed since then. Hurts is a worlds better QB. AJ Brown upgraded the WR corps in a huge way. Dallas Goedert is playing at a very high level. The OL is better. Young guys like Jordan Mailata and Landon Dickerson have a lot more experience than they did in Week 2 a year ago.

The Niners finished second in the league in takeaways. They had five games in a row with at least 2 and 9 out of the last 10 games. That’s a key part of their hot streak. Ball security is crucial in this game. It is always important, but the Niners are good at taking the ball away so the Eagles must focus on security.

Hurts must make sure he knows where SS Talanoa Hufanga is before the snap. Hufanga plays all over the field. He can be very dangerous when he comes up to the line and blitzes. Hufanga times it very well and flies up the field. Hurts needs to know where he is so he’s not caught off guard when Hufanga blitzes.

When the Niners have the ball

SF wants to run the ball. That has been true of Kyle Shanahan’s offense wherever he’s been. With a rookie QB at the helm, the Niners have leaned even more on the run game. SF ran for 150 or more yards five times in the first 12 games of the season. They ran for 150 or more in all five of Purdy’s regular season starts. They ran for 181 yards in the wild card round. Last week Dallas limited them to 113 yards.

The Eagles run defense is complicated in terms of evaluation. They are 21st in run defense DVOA. They have allowed at least 115 yards on the ground in each of the last six games. That doesn’t sound good.

Running QBs were a factor in all of those games. Purdy won’t be mistaken for Justin Fields or Taysom Hill anytime soon. He ran 22 times for 13 yards this season. SF will be creative and use RBs, WRs and even a FB to run the ball. I don’t see the Eagles completely shutting down the Niners run game. The Eagles are better when they take out a star RB. Stopping SF is more complicated than that.

I’m sure SF knows the best way to beat the Eagles is with a ball control attack. That means running the ball, short throws and converting on 3rd downs. Washington did that in their upset win. So did the Saints. The Colts had success with that for part of their game.

Jonathan Gannon will have all his players available, even Avonte Maddox. It is up to Gannon to figure out how he wants to use everyone. The defense was outstanding last week and I expect another strong performance.

The Eagles DL will have a chance to get the best of the Niners OL. Trent Williams is their only above-average blocker. RT Mike McGlinchey is good on runs, but can struggle in pass pro. The Dallas DL was able to sack Purdy twice last week and be disruptive against the run. SF averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. For the season, they averaged 4.7 ypc.

The Eagles can be tough to run on. Linval Joseph can clog the middle. The LBs and DBs can attack downhill and make plays. The edge players are good vs the run. The Eagles will need to be disciplined. If they over-pursue, the Niners can burn them on cutbacks. Get in the right gap and defeat blocks.

If they can put SF into known passinig situations, things get interesting. Purdy hasn’t been sacked much this year, but he’s also not faced a pass rush like the Eagles. They have the horses to win off either side or up the middle. That makes it tough for SF to plan their protections.

Last week Gannon mixed in blitzes and stunts effectively. He might try to do that to speed up Purdy. The Eagles DBs will cover better than the Dallas secondary. Purdy shouldn’t have guys running quite as open. Purdy will have to decide to hold the ball or force it into coverage. He’s had some success at holding the ball in other games. That isn’t likely to work against the Eagles pass rush.

One of the real keys to this game will be tackling. SF loves to get RAC yards. That’s critical to their offense. The Eagles must fly to the ball and tackle to limit how many RAC yards they give up. The Niners are good at working the middle of the field. It is important for the nickelback, LBs and safeties to cover well and get to the ball quickly. Luckily the Eagles are pretty good at that.

I am curious to see what happens if the Eagles get a lead. Purdy has played with the lead most of the time since taking over as starter. The Eagles will be his biggest challenge. They can score points on offense and play good defense. They can rush the passer. SF doesn’t have many clear advantages. If the Eagles get up, how will Purdy do when he has to throw the ball and the defense knows what is coming? Would the pressure of the moment affect him?


Both teams have good kickers. Ray-Ray McCloud is a dangerous returner, but also had a fumble last week. Boston Scott has been a good KOR since midseason. Britain Covey has had some good PRs.


I feel like the Eagles have an advantage here.

Kyle Shanahan is a great play-caller. DeMeco Ryans is a terrific defensive coordinator. The Eagles also have good coordinators. You might give SF a slight edge there.

When it comes to game management, Nick Sirianni has a clear advantage.

For as innovative as Shanahan seems, he can be awfully conservative when it comes to taking chances and being aggressive. Sirianni is the opposite. He sees 4th downs as opportunities, not risks.

Shanahan has gotten his team to the NFC title game in 3 of the last 4 years. He knows what he’s doing in the postseason.

Sirianni has had the Eagles playing at a very high level all season. I think his messaging about this being the next game works with these players. I don’t think the Eagles will be overwhelmed by the situation. I think Sirianni will have his guys ready to go.

Final Thoughts

The Eagles are the better team. They’re at home and facing a rookie QB. This is a game they should win.

Fred Warner is the player who makes me the most nervous. He has the ability to neutralize some of Hurts running, while also affecting WRs and TEs in coverage. He is an X-factor.

The offensive guy who is a concern is TE George Kittle. Think about the way Dallas used their TEs on bootlegs and play-action passes. They were 7-72 and 4-67 against the Eagles. If SF can get the ball to Kittle in space, he can be a game-changer.

I really think this game boils down to the line of scrimmage.

SF is good.

The Eagles are better.


4 Comments on “Game Preview – SF at PHI”

  1. 1 Mailbag: If the Eagles reach the Super Bowl, would the Chiefs or Bengals be the more ideal opponent? - Waseem Trader said at 8:37 AM on January 29th, 2023:

    […] a scheme and game plans, but he’s not an aggressive decision maker. As Tommy pointed out in his excellent game preview, Sirianni added more win probability on in-game decision making for the Eagles this season than any […]

  2. 2 Mailbag: If the Eagles reach the Super Bowl, would the Chiefs or Bengals be the more ideal opponent? – DailyTechTop said at 8:50 AM on January 29th, 2023:

    […] a scheme and game plans, but he’s not an aggressive decision maker. As Tommy pointed out in his excellent game preview, Sirianni added more win probability on in-game decision making for the Eagles this season than any […]

  3. 3 Mailbag: If the Eagles attain the Tremendous Bowl, would the Chiefs or Bengals be the extra preferrred opponent? - YOUR LOCAL SEARCH said at 10:19 AM on January 29th, 2023:

    […] and recreation plans, however he is not an aggressive determination maker. As Tommy identified in his excellent game preview, Sirianni added extra win chance on in-game determination making for the Eagles this season than […]

  4. 4 Mailbag: If the Eagles attain the Tremendous Bowl, would the Chiefs or Bengals be the extra perfect opponent? - COMBO DIRECTORY said at 7:07 AM on January 30th, 2023:

    […] a scheme and sport plans, however he is not an aggressive resolution maker. As Tommy identified in his excellent game preview, Sirianni added extra win chance on in-game resolution making for the Eagles this season than […]