HEADLINE

49ers, Eagles brace for rematch of NFC title game

Field Level Media

December 02, 2023 at 3:51 am.

The San Francisco 49ers return to the scene of last season’s NFC Championship Game, and Sunday’s rematch with the host Philadelphia Eagles should include many fireworks.

Last year’s matchup was marred by an elbow injury to 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy as the Eagles cruised to the 31-7 win that elevated them into the Super Bowl.

Come Sunday, Purdy is healthy and teammate Christian McCaffrey is flourishing, while Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is once again enjoying a solid season.

Philadelphia (10-1) owns the best record in the NFL after posting four straight comeback wins and recording five consecutive overall wins. San Francisco (8-3) leads the NFC West after winning its last three games.

The 49ers would like to deliver some payback but star tight end George Kittle said he isn’t holding a grudge.

“It’s a fantastic football team, a team who doesn’t lose,” Kittle said of the Eagles. “They find every single way to win. Whether it’s overtime, whether it’s grimy weather, their players are making plays, and this is going to be our toughest challenge, in my opinion, so far this season, and also probably one of the most hostile environments.”

Last season, Purdy injured his passing elbow eight minutes into the contest. When fill-in Josh Johnson sustained a concussion later in the contest, Purdy re-entered in the third quarter but could not throw the ball more than a few yards. He later underwent major elbow surgery.

Purdy said Thursday that he is not dwelling on the rough day in Philadelphia.

“I got hurt there and everything, but for me it’s Week 13,” Purdy told reporters. “We’re going on the road in a hostile environment. We’re late in season, so every game is obviously big for us. And so that’s where I’m at with my mindset. It’s a new year, two new teams, slightly different in different ways. So that’s how I look at it.”

Philadelphia’s Haason Reddick had a field day with two sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery and also delivered the blow on Purdy’s right arm.

Ten months later, Reddick is tired of San Francisco players claiming the club would have won if not for Purdy’s injury.

“It was a lot of boo hoos last year, a lot of crying, a lot of what if, a lot of this, a lot of that,” Reddick said. “They get a chance to come back in here, line that (bleep) up and prove it again.”

The biggest surprise to 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was hearing his team is favored to win the clash in Philadelphia.

“I mean, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I don’t really know how that stuff works,” Shanahan said. “So, I don’t really know why. It is random.”

Hurts is coming off a performance in which he accounted for five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) while rallying the Eagles to Sunday’s 37-34 overtime victory over the Buffalo Bills.

Hurts has passed for 2,697 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while also rushing for 410 yards and 11 scores. He is the first NFL quarterback to rush for 10 or more touchdowns in three straight seasons.

Meanwhile, Purdy is showing his strong second half of last season is not a fluke.

The second-year pro has completed 70.2 percent of his passes for 2,871 yards, 19 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Eagles defensive coordinator Sean Desai is impressed with Purdy’s effectiveness.

“Brock’s playing at a high level. Really efficient with the ball,” Desai told NFL Network. “Getting the ball out with rhythm and timing to his receivers. I think they do a good job mixing the run and pass. And Brock runs that offense really well.”

McCaffrey is having a banner season for the 49ers with an NFL-best 939 rushing yards. He is tied for second with 11 rushing scores.

Also of note is the presence of defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (six sacks) on the San Francisco defensive line. He spent the previous three seasons with the Eagles.

“They know me like I know them,” Hargrave said of the Eagles’ offensive line. “We went at it for three years. I know what to do against them, and they know what to do against me.”

San Francisco defensive end Arik Armstead (foot), running back Jordan Mason (hamstring) and receiver Ray-Ray McCloud (rib) sat out practices on Wednesday and Thursday, then did limited work on Friday. All three were listed as questionable for Sunday.

For the Eagles, linebacker Zach Cunningham (hamstring) and safety Justin Adams (knee) won’t play against the 49ers. Tight end Dallas Goedert (forearm) was listed as doubtful, while defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (groin) and Grant Calcaterra (ankle) were considered questionable.