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How Philadelphia knocked out San Francisco

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

Unfortunately for the San Francisco 49ers, the quote of former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson was proven true during their 31-7 blowout NFC championship game loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

Philadelphia’s prowess at getting after opposing quarterbacks was a point of discussion throughout the week leading up to the game. On one end of the Eagles defense is Hasson Reddick who entered the game with 17.5 sacks and five forced fumbles including the postseason. Over on the other side you find Josh Sweat with 12.5.

In Philadelphia’s base five man front the end men on the line of scrimmage, Reddick and Sweat, have one job, attack the deepest man in the backfield. San Francisco thought they had a plan to keep them at bay. The following four plays show how wrong they were, and why Philadelphia is the team heading to Super Bowl LVII.

First quarter: First and ten, 49ers 36.

Kyle Shanahan aligns two tight ends outside of right tackle Mike McGlinchey. Doing this forces Hasson Reddick to widen his alignment. McGlinchey does a good job of getting depth in his pass drop and protecting Brock Purdy’s front side.

Purdy takes the snap and fires a quick out to Brandon Aiyuk on the left side. Aiyuk makes the catch for a 49ers first down.

This was second of two quick throws the 49ers used to open the game. Purdy hit both and the protection up front was good. Philadelphia knew they were vulnerable to the quick passing game but bet the 49ers would slip up.

First quarter: First and ten, 49ers 46.

On the next play we see San Francisco aligned once again with two tight ends outside of right tackle Mike McGlinchey.

San Francisco runs counter to the right side, both tight ends block down with the backside guard and tackle pulling to lead Deebo Samuel.

This play is a terrific example of the speed Philadelphia possesses on defense and the aggressiveness with which Philadelphia’s edge players are attacking. Reddick quickly gets into the back field, nearly making the tackle on Samuel who gets by and picks up four yards.

First quarter: Second and six, 50.

San Francisco uses the same two tight end alignment for the third play in a row, and the Eagles bet is about to pay off. 

Kyle Shanahan dials up play action with Christian McCaffrey going into the left flat and Brandon Aiyuk running a rail route on the left side as well.

In an effort to match play action with the run game Shanahan tasks Tyler Kroft with blocking Reddick one-one-one. That’s a massive mismatch. Reddick gets to Purdy, hitting the quarterbacks throwing arm leading to a fumble.

Shanahan tried to give Kroft help by sending Deebo Samuel on orbit motion behind the quarterback towards Reddick. The motion doesn’t slow Reddick down because that’s not his responsibility. Eagles linebacker Kyzir White (#43) is responsible for Samuel here and is in good position.

During his postgame press conference Kyle Shanahan noted having the quarterback step up on this play would be helpful but he was unsure of what the pocket looked like.

The protection on this play puts Purdy in a meat grinder either way. If Purdy steps up it puts him right into the path of Javon Hargrave (#97) who is looping around from his inside position.

Another piece of this play is the timing of the throw. As Purdy hits the top of his drop Aiyuk is still in the vertical stage of his route. Purdy starts his throwing motion just after Aiyuk gets to the outside shoulder of the defensive back.

Using slow developing play action passes against an attacking front like Philadelphia while also asking a backup tight end to block one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the NFL was a poor plan.

It gets worse.

First quarter: Second and six, 49ers 24.

On the 49ers next possession, they again find themselves facing second and six.

Once again Kyle Shanahan goes to a play action. This time he tasks wide receiver Jauan Jennings and tight end George Kittle to keep Reddick off the quarterback. Neither get a hand on Reddick, giving him a free run at Josh Johnson.

San Francisco showed complete lack of respect for their opponent. They went into Sunday thinking they could just go out and run what they have all season and Philadelphia knocked them out in the first round.

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