Game Review – NFC CG – PHI 31, SF 7

Posted: February 1st, 2023 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Game Review – NFC CG – PHI 31, SF 7

I don’t remember exactly when I watched my first NFC Championship Game, but it was a long time ago. The Eagles and Niners delivered the strangest NFC title game I’ve ever seen. Thankfully the good guys won so we can enjoy the strangeness of the game rather than asking what the heck just happened.

Let’s look at some of the craziness.

  • The Eagles knocked out both of the Niners QBs on almost identical hits
  • The starting QB had to return, but couldn’t throw more than 10 yards so SF became a running team
  • They considered using their RB at QB, but decided it was better to hand him the ball so he could run
  • The Eagles had a punt hit FOX’s skycam wires
  • The Niners backup QB dropped a snap and the Eagles recovered it
  • The Eagles had a 29-yard “completion” on 4th and 3 that should have been overturned, but SF didn’t challenge
  • SF had a barrage of penalties on their defense, which all looked legit
  • Haason Reddick came very close to stealing the ball from the QB as he took him to the ground
  • Reed Blankenship did steal the ball away from a runner on an odd play
  • SF had the best run D in the league but gave up 4 rushing TDs, 2 of them from 10 or more yards out
  • SF’s star pass rusher got hurt when their own STs player tossed the Eagles gunner into him

The Eagles had a major advantage going into the game, with a high level QB like Jalen Hurts facing a rookie in only his eighth start ever. Once Purdy was knocked out, it felt like the game was over. But the Niners defense kept battling and the Eagles couldn’t score. Part of the problem was bad field position. That eventually gave SF good field position and they tied the game at 7-7 on a wild TD run by Christian McCaffrey.

I will admit that got me a bit nervous. The Eagles were the better team. They had the healthy QB. But the score was 7-7. The Eagles played some of their worst football this year against mediocre teams. The comeback win over Indy. The struggles to put away Chicago and Houston. The loss to the Saints.

If you’re an old enough fan, you remember the horrible NFC CG loss to the Panthers. There was the disaster vs the Bucs. Remember Joe Webb and the Vikings beating Michael Vick and the Eagles on Tuesday night in 2010. There was a 2006 game where Donovan McNabb battled rookie Bruce Gradkowski. The Bucs won that game, despite Gradkowski throwing for only 104 yards.

Put simply, if you’ve been an Eagles fan long enough, you always fear the worst.

Eagles Nation breathed a huge sigh of relief when Hurts marched the team down the field in the second quarter and the Birds had a 14-7 lead. Then Josh Johnson fumble the snap and Haason Reddick recovered. The Eagles scored four plays later and the Eagles were up 21-7. Game over.

Johnson got knocked out in the third quarter and it was simply a matter of watching the clock run out. SF couldn’t even hope for a miracle. All they could do was run or throw screens. I can’t recall a playoff game going like that, let alone a championship game.

The Niners defense played very well at times and kept the game closer than it should have been. If the Eagles had hit on a couple of deep throws, Gardner Minshew might have played the entire fourth quarter.

The Eagles defense was outstanding. I think they win no matter who’s at QB. SF struggled to protect the passer all game long. Whoever was back there was going to get hit a lot and struggle to string together long drives.

Wild game.


I’m not going to do a normal review since the game got so much coverage and I’m also doing draft stuff. Here are thoughts on the coaches and key players.



Kyle Shanahan is a terrific coach. You don’t go to 3 NFC title games in 4 years by accident. That said, Nick Sirianni out-coached him. And I don’t just mean in the game. Think about what DeVonta Smith did after  his “catch”. He immediately jumped up and called for the Eagles to get to the line and run a play. If Smith doesn’t do that, the play probably would have been overturned.

Sirianni and his staff focus on situational football. They try to teach the players the importance of doing little things correctly in big situations. The Eagles benefited from that on Sunday.

When there was a close play that was ruled an incompletion, Sirianni challenged. He got the right replay to look at, but his players also were telling him to challenge. The Eagles won that challenge. Shanahan should have been more aggressive with his challenge situation. He could afford to lose the timeout. And with the NFL office helping on replay situations, losing the challenge wasn’t as big of a deal.

Siranni was aggressive on fourth downs, even going on 4th/1 from his own 34. He didn’t see this as a gamble. With his OL and QB, he expected them to convert. The Eagles went 3 for 3 on fourth downs.

The offensive staff had a mixed day. The passing game struggled, but the run game was surprisingly effective against the best run D in the league. The Eagled didn’t force the passing game. They went with what was working.

Some analyst questioned why the Eagles used Jalen Hurts as a runner in the third quarter. They wondered if this was to show something for the Super Bowl. That’s not the way I saw it. They were up 21-7 and wanted to put the game away. Don’t risk some miracle comeback. Be a bully. Score and put the Niners out of their misery.

Jonathan Gannon did an outstanding job with the defense. I said something about that on Twitter and a person was incredulous that I was referencing this game with the QB situation. Huh? The QBs were knocked out by the Eagles. That is Buddy Ryan’s fantasy game. If the QB had been suspended or hurt in a car accident, I could see the point. Since it was Gannon’s defense that created the situation he sure as heck gets credit for it.

The Eagles haven’t shut down elite passers, but this league is all about results and right now the Eagles are delivering outstanding results. The defense is on fire.

This wasn’t an accident. The Eagles spent the offseason upgrading their pass rush and made it the key to their defense. They had 70 sacks in the regular season. They had 5 against the Giants in the divisional round. And then they knocked out two QBs in the NFC title game. Marion Campbell, Buddy Ryan, Bud Carson, Ray Rhodes and Jim Johnson are all proud of this pass rush. What a special group.


Jalen Hurts

I wrote about Hurts yesterday. Put simply, he didn’t play his best game, but he made some key throws and led his team to 31 points. He was critical to the success of the run game. He also didn’t have any turnovers.


Miles Sanders didn’t post big numbers, going 11-42, but he ran for a pair of TDs. Sanders ran hard up the middle at times, but the Eagles also used him on wide runs. Some fans get frustrated when the offense runs E-W against a good defense, but sometimes you have to do that to set up other plays. If you just run up the middle, the defense will play accordingly. Make they cover the whole field. You’ll have some bad plays, but will also have some things open up that wouldn’t otherwise.

Kenny Gainwell had some key plays. His aggressive running style and burst were a good fit for attacking SF. Gainwell had a 13-yard TD run. He had a run of 17 yards that set up a Sanders TD run. Gainwell finished 14-48. He also had 2 catches for 26 yards.

Boston Scott had a 10-yard TD run.

The Eagles had a TD run to the right, up the middle and to the left, as well as a QB sneak.


Notice I didn’t just say OL. The TEs and WRs didn’t get a ton of passes thrown their way, but they blocked well and helped the Eagles run for 148 yards.

The OL was simply outstanding. Jason Kelce is cementing his legacy as one of the greatest centers to ever play in the NFL. He continues to blow me away.

The Eagles used him as a puller to get a numbers advantage on weakside runs and SF struggled with that. Kelce wasn’t the lone standout. Jordan Mailata might have played the best game of his career.

Some of those blocks…wow. Mailata can be absolutely dominant at times.

Lane Johnson faced the likely Defensive Player of the Year. LJ did that while dealing with torn groin. No sacks or QB hits. Lane did give up a few pressures, but always kept Nick Bosa under control. Incredible performance by a guy who should go to the Hall of Fame when he retires.

Landon Dickerson and Isaac Seumalo each were crucial to the inside run game. They helped the Eagles get big time movement on their combo blocks.

Dickerson hurt his elbow and Andre Dillard took over for him. The run game kept chugging along.


Run Defense

You can’t rush the passer if you can’t stop the run. The Eagles knew run defense would be critical. SF had averaged 145 yards a game on the ground since Halloween. They have one of the most creative rushing attacks in the league and an OL with outstanding run blockers.

The Eagles held them to 81 rushing yards on 24 carries. An amazing run by CMC gave them 23 yards and then a draw play of 16 yards on 3rd and long was also in there. Take away those two runs and SF had 22 carries for 42 yards. The Eagles got off blocks, played the right gaps and tackled well. Very good run defense.

That kind of run D meant they could rush the passer.

Haason Reddick

What a stud. 2 sacks, FF, FR. Played the run well. Josh Sweat got a TFL on a run play where Reddick blew it up. Just missed another FF when he hit Johnson and stole the ball away. Refs ruled JJ was down and that looked correct. Reddick has been an impact player in his first two playoff games.

Pass Rush

The Eagles only had 3 sacks, but they pounded the QBs relentlessly. Backup DT Ndamukong Suh had 2 QB hits, including the one that knocked Josh Johnson out of the game. On the play before that, backup DT Milton Williams landed a big hit on Johnson. The Eagles came in waves and were disruptive all game long.

It wasn’t like SF had a bunch of scrubs out there.

Trent Williams is the best LT in the league. And there is the Eagles backup DE driving him right back to the QB. Fletcher Cox got pressure. Javon Hargrave got multiple pressures. Josh Sweat was a factor. Everybody contributed.

The Eagles finished with 7 QB hits. That number doesn’t sound huge, but understand there only 18 dropbacks (non-sacks).

Kyzir White

I thought he was outstanding. He led the team with 6 tackles. He had to cover CMC multiple times. White was able to make tackles and limit RAC yards. He did a good job on run defense. No spectacular moments, but White made the kind of plays that were needed.


The pass rush was so good that the guys on the back end didn’t have all that much to do. Aside from missed tackles on CMC’s long TD run, the secondary tackled well and did their part on run defense.

Darius Slay had a chance for an INT, but couldn’t quite get to the ball.


Boston Scott opened the game with a good KOR.

Jake Elliott hit his only FG and all 4 of his XPs.

Brett Kern had a punt hit the skycam wire and that led to good field position for SF. Kern averaged 45 yards per punt, but he hasn’t been impressive. Arryn Siposs will have a chance to get his job back if he’s ready to go.

Josh Jobe was called for a penalty while blocking on a PR. That cause the offense to really be backed up. Can’t have role players making mistakes like that in big games. Have to stay under control.


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