The NFC Championship game featured the top two seeds as the Philadelphia Eagles hosted the San Francisco 49ers. The Eagles finished the regular season at 14-3 and demolished the Giants in the divisional round, 38-7. The 49ers finished 13-4 and won their last ten regular season games and two playoff games, largely behind rookie quarterback Brock Purdy. The game featured the top-ranked defense in the 49ers against the Eagles high-powered offense behind MVP candidate Jalen Hurts.
San Francisco won the toss by elected to defer, trying to set the tone with their top-ranked defense. However, it was the Eagles who put the pressure on early. Starting at their own 34, the Eagles used seven pass plays and four runs resulting in a six-yard touchdown run by Miles Sanders. The key play was a 4th and three from the San Francisco 35. Davonta Smith made a great one-handed catch on a deep pass, which actually hit the ground on one camera angle, but the 49ers failed to challenge. The missed challenge cost the 49ers a score and they trailed, 7-0.
On the 49ers next possession, Purdy was sacked by Haason Reddick on a 2nd and five from midfield. The sack resulted in a fumble, recovered by the Eagles. The 49ers held and the Eagles were forced to punt, but Prudy was injured on the sack, forcing 4th stringer quarterback Joe Johnson in the game. The defenses came to the forefront, allowing a combined 25 yards on 15 plays over the next five possessions, all resulting in punts.
Forced to go to the run, the 49ers used Christian McCaffrey, who broke several tackles on a 23-yard touchdown run to even the score at 7-7. As was the case most the season, the Eagles responded in a big way, going 75 yards on 14 plays on their next possession, using a mixture of short passes and runs by Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell. It was Gainwell who trotted 13 yards for the touchdown to put the Eagles up, 14-7.
The 49ers gained 11 yards on their first play in the next possession on a pass from Johnson to Deebo Samuel. However, a Johnson fumble on the next play resulted in yet another costly turnover, as the Eagles scored three plays later on a 10-yard run by Boston Scott. The Eagles took a commanding 21-7 lead at the half.
After Johnson was knocked out of the game on the first possession in the second half, the 49ers were in the worst possible situation. They either had to go to McCaffrey as a wildcat quarterback or put Purdy back into the game. Purdy returned but could do nothing but hand off or throw short screen passes. San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan is a mastermind, but with so few cards in the deck, had no choice to try wrinkles in the running game to get Samuel and tight end George Kittle the ball.
The Eagles put the game away with a masterpiece 15-play, 91-yard drive that took up nearly eight minutes. The key play was a roughing the punter penalty on a 4th and 6 at midfield. Jalen Hurts bulled his way into the endzone from a yard out to put the Eagles up, 28-7. The Eagles added a Jake Elliot field goal in the 4th to win, 31-7.
Statistically speaking, the 49ers completed 11-of-18 passes for 83 yards and were sacked three times and pressured numerous other times. McCaffrey rushed for 84 yards on 15 carries and the rest of the team rushed for –3 yards on eight carries.
For the Eagles, Jalen Hurts was a methodical 15-of-25 for 121 yards. He was far from his best in terms of passing, but didn’t turn the ball over. Dallas Goedert led all players with five receptions, while A.J. Brown added four. The Eagles pounded out 148 yards on 44 carries, led by Kenneth Gainwell’s 48 on 14 carries. Although they averaged only 3.4 yards per attempt, the Eagles controlled the clock and scored all four touchdowns on the ground.
The victory for the Eagles advanced them to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in franchise history and first since 2018 when they took down the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, 41-33.
Once you’ve read the NFC championship recap, you might also be interested in the AFC championship game recap.