PHILADELPHIA — Fireworks went off atop Lincoln Financial Field, and Eagles players and coaches raced toward the end zone in an ecstatic celebration as Boston Scott ran untouched for a 10-yard rushing touchdown before halftime.
There were still 30 minutes left to play Sunday, but with a two-possession lead and the best passing in the NFL facing a fourth string quarterback, the touchdown seemed like an exclamation mark. The Eagles took the lead to beat the San Francisco 49ers, 31-7, to win the NFC Championship, and earn a trip to Glendale, Arizona, for their fourth Super Bowl appearance.
The Eagles have been one of the most complete teams in the league this season, and they showed it again on Sunday. With the win, they will face either Kansas City or Cincinnati in their first Super Bowl since they won it all in the 2017 season.
The Eagles defense, which during the regular season amassed the most sacks (70) and allowed the fewest yards per game (179.8) in the league, ended the Cinderella-like career of 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy. After the Eagles scored on the opening drive, linebacker Hasson sacked Riddick Purdy with about seven minutes left in the first quarter, causing a fumble. Purdy was hit in the right, elbowed on the play, and sat out for the rest of the first half.
The 49ers managed one score in the second quarter, which ended with a 23-yard rushing touchdown by running back Christian McCaffrey, but otherwise, their offense fizzled behind Purdy backup Josh Johnson. Johnson left the game early in the second half with a concussion, and Purdy made his comeback, but was clearly compromised. Purdy finished the game with four pass attempts. He completed them all for 23 yards.
It was an ambivalent end to the successful run Purdy had orchestrated since December, when he was brought into the lineup after the first two quarterbacks on the 49ers’ depth chart, Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, were injured. Purdy, the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, won seven games as a starter, playing efficiently while throwing for 1,374 yards, 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions in the regular season.
He became the fifth rookie quarterback to start in a conference championship game, aided by gritty coaching and a stellar roster. He excelled in part because of the weapons around him – receivers Debo Samuel and Brandon Ayuk; Tight end George Kettle. and McCaffrey’s versatile plan, which general manager John Lynch traded for in October—and coach Kyle Shanahan’s plan to run effectively and allow passing targets to gain yards after catch.
Without Purdy, however, the 49ers’ offense struggled to find rhythm behind Johnson, an eighth-season pro who played for seven teams. Johnson, before he was out, completed only 7 of 13 passes for 74 yards, and also fumbled a snap, which was recovered by the Eagles. Shanahan’s luck with a smooth transition through quarterback finally came to an end.
Reddick terrorized both San Francisco quarterbacks—he finished with three tackles and two sacks—and served as a model for major signings and free agency deals. Coordinated by General Manager Howie Roseman To bring the vultures back into relevance.
Reddick signed with the Eagles before the season, joining the team with cornerback James Bradbury, who was released by the Giants last May, and safety CJ Gardner Johnson, who was traded by Roseman in August. Those three led a defense that harassed the 49ers and limited them to just 164 yards of offense. That put an insurmountable pressure on the 49ers defense, which finished the regular season as the highest-ranked unit in the league.
The Eagles offense seemed in sync, took advantage of untimely penalties from the 49ers and used a balanced approach, as it had done all year. Jalen Hurts, a third-year quarterback who blossomed in his second full season as a starter, finished with only 121 yards passing, but stretched the play with his legs, rushing for 39 yards and a touchdown. He also hooked the ball into tight windows, as he did on a pass caught by one-handed receiver DeVonta Smith in the fourth quarter.
A stable of Eagles running backs – Miles Sanders, Kenneth Ginwell and Scott – combined for 111 rushing yards and three touchdowns against a 49ers defense that only allowed 77.7 rushing yards per game in the regular season, second fewest in the league.
The 49ers’ disintegration appeared in their players’ actions as well as the stat sheet: Linebacker Dre Greenlaw was reported for unsportsmanlike conduct for punching the ball still in the running back’s hand after a play in the fourth quarter, and safety Talanoa Hufanga was reported for hitting Hurts late out of bounds. San Francisco offensive lineman Trent Williams and Philadelphia safety Kvon Wallace were ejected after sparking a fourth-quarter brawl in which both benches were cleared.
The Eagles stumbled into mediocrity after their Super Bowl victory, and were knocked out early in the playoffs in the 2018, 2019, and 2021 seasons; In 2020, they’ve only won four games. They fired their coach, Doug Pederson, after the 2020 season and traded in their former first round quarterback, Carson Wentz, in an apparent rebuilding move.
Coach Nick Siriani and the Hurts made the playoffs in their first year together, in 2021, but the Hurts entered this season with questions about whether he could be a cornerstone of the franchise. He made a convincing case, throwing for 3,701 yards and 22 touchdowns in the regular season while rushing for 760 yards and 13 targets despite missing two games due to a shoulder injury. He also benefited from Roseman’s trade in April for receiver AJ Brown, who caught 11 touchdown passes and a record 1,496 yards. The Eagles started 8-0 and finished 14-3, to share the best record in the league with Kansas City.
Roseman’s roster building, along with the growth of the Hurts, propelled the Eagles to the Super Bowl after a quick rebuild. The celebration became official after the two-minute warning, when the players began dancing and the crowd sang in unison to “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty. Green confetti fell, followed by the boom of rapper Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares,” which became an anthem for the city of Philadelphia.
“Prone to fits of apathy. Introvert. Award-winning internet evangelist. Extreme beer expert.”