Going into the 2023 NFC Championship Game, there seemed to be a negative vibe around the NFL world looking at the Eagles. And, man, did they shut everyone up.
It was a weird game, but the Eagles are headed back to the Super Bowl with a 31-7 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
This game was expected to be an instant classic. It did not go like that.
All that matters is that the Eagles beat the 49ers to win the NFC Championship Game and advance to the Super Bowl, the franchise’s second appearance in five years and third of the century.
The reason the Eagles won this game was the defense.
The Eagles really shut down the 49ers’ weapons in Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey. Only allowing one touchdown to that group is exemplary.
Of course, it was helpful that Brock Purdy left the game with a shoulder injury in the first quarter, and for most of Sunday’s game, the Birds were facing off with Josh Johnson.
It sucks to see guys get injured, especially those with improbable stories such as Purdy, but the fact of the matter is that the Eagles’ defense destroyed the 49ers’ offensive line and got after the quarterback all game long, no matter who was in.
And it’s a good thing the defense was so dominant because the Eagles’ offense lacked at times.
The Eagles’ offense didn’t look like the explosive squad we had seen last week. Jalen Hurts was just a bit off in the passing game, the ground game stayed under 4.0 yards/attempt in the first half, and they felt uninspiring.
But, because the Eagles’ defense kept getting after it and forcing San Francisco’s offense off the field, the Eagles held the ball for 19:00 in the first half. The 49ers’ defense was gassed and kept taking bad penalties as they were exhausted. That’s not luck, it was the defense’s domination getting the 49ers’ offense off the field.
Haason Reddick is a huge talking point. Reddick was coming out with vengeance after being snubbed for being a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year. He recorded two sacks, had a strip-sack, and picked up a fumble.
Jalen Hurts completed 15-of-25 passes for 121 yards and ran for 39 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. His 15 rushing touchdowns in the regular season and postseason are an NFL record for quarterbacks.
Miles Sanders rushed for 42 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.
Oh, and we cannot forget about playoff Kenny Gainwell.
Gainwell had 14 carries for 48 yards and two catches for 26 yards. He starred, not just Sunday, but last Saturday in the win against the Giants.
So, the Eagles are going to the Super Bowl for the first time in five years when they were led by Nick Foles and Doug Pederson.
Five years later, it is nearly a whole new team.
It is special.