Quarterback injuries derail 49ers offense in 31-7 loss to Eagles
For the second consecutive year the San Francisco 49ers season came to an end one step short of the Super Bowl. A 31-7 blowout loss sending them into an offseason which will be full of questions, particularly at the quarterback position.
The game was over almost as soon as it began. Brock Purdy was forced to the sideline with an elbow injury at the end of San Francisco’s first possession and an offensive which had averaged over 30 points the previous 12 weeks was unable to move the ball.
Philadelphia will face the winner of the AFC Championship game between Cincinnati and Kansas City on the NFL’s biggest stage in Glendale, Az on February 12.
Here are the answers to the five questions I asked prior to the game:
1.) Is Brock Purdy ready to make history? Who knows?
Purdy looked good, hitting his first two throws. Then disaster struck when Hassan Reddick beat backup Tyler Kroft around the right side on a play action pass play.
As Purdy reared back to throw the ball Reddick hit his right arm jarring the ball loose. Purdy’s arm then hit the ball forward and the fumble was recovered by Philadelphia defensive tackle Linval Joseph.
The fumble ended up not being a big deal when San Francisco’s defense forced a quick three and out.
When Reddick hit Purdy, his arm bent back and full force moving forward, it injured the quarterback’s elbow to the point he couldn’t throw the ball. Purdy left the game, only returning after Josh Johnson was lost to a concussion on the opening possession of the second half.
Unable to really throw, Purdy was limited to handing the ball off and a couple of short throws.
2.) Will the 49ers find success on the ground? YES
Christian McCaffrey finished with 84 yards, 83 of which came following the injury to Purdy.
Trailing by seven midway through the second quarter, McCaffrey scored the lone 49ers touchdown with a 23-yard touchdown run. This was no ordinary run. McCaffrey bounced off at least three Eagles defenders before sprinting into the endzone.
While we are talking about McCaffrey, let’s take a moment to appreciate what his addition near the trade deadline meant for this team. He made play after play to help transform an offense which had struggled to start the season.
The touchdown drive against Philadelphia was a microcosm of McCaffrey’s impact. The running back accounted for 44 of San Francisco’s 46 yards, a pair of receptions garnering 18 yards prior to the scoring burst.
3.) Will the 49ers receivers pile up yards after catch? NO
Without Purdy the 49ers receivers didn’t stand a chance in the first half, and for much of the second their quarterback couldn’t throw. Brandon Aiyuk’s only target came on the first possession of the game.
After Philadelphia scored to make it 14-7, Deebo Samuel opened the ensuing 49ers possession by catching a quick slant from Johnson. It looked like he might go for a big play, but Eagles safety Marcus Epps was able to get just enough of Samuel to bring him down. That’s as close as San Francisco got to making a big play in the passing game.
4.) Can the 49ers defense force Jalen Hurts to beat them? NO
San Francisco’s defense made some plays, but they were their own worst enemy. Six first downs for Philadelphia came off defensive penalties, extending drives.
With the game tied at seven midway through the second quarter, the 49ers gave the Eagles three first downs on a variety of penalties. The drive ultimately ended in a touchdown. Then, after a Josh Johnson fumble, a facemask penalty by Dre Greenlaw wiped out a tackle for loss. Boston Scott ran for a touchdown on the next play to give Philadelphia a 21-7 lead.
Philadelphia pounded the 49ers defense with 148 yards on 44 rushing attempts. Three Eagles, Hurts, Miles Sanders and Boston Scott ran for touchdowns.
5.) Can the 49ers secondary keep everything in front of them? NO
Philadelphia only got behind the 49ers secondary once, but that’s all it took.
Facing fourth and three at the San Francisco 35 on their opening possession, Philadelphia decided to go for it. Pressure from the 49ers front flushed Hurts out to his left and he lofted a deep ball down the left sideline to DeVonta Smith. Smith had gotten behind the coverage of Jimmie Ward and laid out to make the 29-yard reception. Two plays later the Eagles had their first lead of the game.
Bonus Question: Who wins the turnover battle? Philadelphia
San Francisco entered the game having turned the ball over just six times in their previous 12 games. On Sunday, they coughed it up three times. A pair of fumbles by the quarterbacks and a late fumble by Deebo Samuel long after the game had been decided.
Of the three, the only one that proved costly was Josh Johnson’s fumble late in the first half. With under two minutes left before halftime Johnson couldn’t hold onto the shotgun snap. Philadelphia recovered and for all intents and purposes put the game away when Boston Scott scored from ten yards out.
49ers 20 Eagles 16