NFC TITLE GAME PREVIEW: Green playoff QBs, grizzled defences

NFC TITLE GAME PREVIEW: Green playoff QBs, grizzled defences


How hot are the San Francisco 49ers?

Their current 12-game winning streak is the NFL’s longest winning streak in a conference championship game since the New England Patriots won all 17 wins before the 2007 AFC title game.

But this Patriots juggernaut had Tom Brady as quarterback in the first period — at age 30 in his seventh starting season — and no 23-year-old with less than two months of pro experience.

Yet hot rookie Brock Purdy is actually leading the 49ers against the host Philadelphia Eagles in this season’s NFC Championship game on Sunday (3 p.m. EST, CTV via FOX).

The winner advances to Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona, two weeks from Sunday.

If the game scores low, no one should be surprised. It’s not like the weather in Philadelphia is likely to be an issue. Rather, the two starting quarterbacks have little postseason experience — four games combined — and, even more impactfully, this is a matchup of the NFL’s two tightest defenses.

In the 2022 regular season, the 49ers surrendered just 301 yards per game, the Eagles 302. Only twice before have the two best teams in the NFL met in a conference title game – in 1978 when Dallas defeated the LA Rams and in 2008 when Pittsburgh beat Baltimore.

It starts up front for both defenses and, in fact, applies to every offense as well, Eagles head coach Nick Siranni said.

“I was taught from a young age that it’s O-line, D-line; O line, D line; O line, D line,” he said on Thursday. “It doesn’t matter if it’s my son’s peewee game… a high school game… a college game… a pro game — O-Line, D-Line wins games and sets the tone.

“We have a great defensive line. We have a great offensive line… We know that about San Francisco too.”

Purdy is just 23 years old. His Eagles counterpart, Jalen Hurts, is 24 years old. This is the first NFL Conference Championship game in which both QBs will start under the age of 25. Three years ago, the two actually faced each other in a Big 12 collegiate thriller that saw Purdy and the Iowa State Cyclones narrowly start in a late furious comeback, losing 42-41 to Hurts and the Oklahoma Sooners .

Don’t expect anything close to such a rating.

Here is the basic information you need about the NFC Championship game:

49ers at EAGLES

NFC: #2 seed at #1 seed.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 3 p.m. EST.

Television: CTV via FOX.

LINE: Eagles through 5/2.

WEATHER: Mild. 11ºC, cloudy, 16% chance of rain, wind 15-25 km/h.

PLAYOFF RESULTS SO FAR: The 49ers beat the Seattle visit by 41-23 and then the Dallas visit by 19-12. The Eagles had a bye in the first round and then penalized the New York Giants 38-7.

ROAD QB: Brock Purdy. First season, third playoff start, two playoff wins. Is 7-0 as a starter. Still unbelievable that this kid never took a significant pro snap before mid-December. So far in the playoffs, he has completed 63% on three TDs, an excellent 9.3 yards per attempt and a 109.9 passer rating, against no picks and just three sacks, while also rushing for a TD. Hoping to become the first-ever rookie QB to win a conference title game and start in a Super Bowl.

HOME QB: Jalen hurts. Third season, third playoff start, one playoff win. Is 15-1 this season. In the last three starts, more TDs (six) have been produced than sacks taken (five). First QB in NFL history to surpass 10 rush TDs in consecutive years. Last year against the 49ers, he ran for 82 yards and a TD and threw for 190 yards in the win. His completion rate has skyrocketed between each of those three NFL seasons, from 52.0% to 61.3% to 66.5%.

49ers FYI: DE Nick Bosa had two sacks and a forced fumble against the Eagles last season…Bosa became the first Niner in 40 years to lead the NFL in sacks (18.5)…Head Coach Kyle Shanahan now at 6-2 in the playoffs, with only losses to this season’s Super Bowl champion… Since DeMeco Ryans became defensive coordinator two years ago, the Niners have only allowed two 100-yard rushers in 39 games and none this season… Deebo Samuel has his playoff -Totals 2019 and 2021 already reached with 10 catches.

EAGLES FYI: With three more rushing TDs in the playoffs, they had set a new NFL record for a single season, including playoffs, at 38 to break the Green Bay Packers’ 1962 60-year milestone…Philly’s defense had the fourth-most interceptions ( 17) …Eagles added five sacks to their NFL-best 70 during the regular season last Sunday and kept the Giants’ Daniel Jones at a low passer rating of 53.8 …RB Miles Sanders is good. He had 90 yards against Giants after posting career bests of 1,269 yards and 11 rush TDs in the regular season.

MAJOR INJURIES: Hurts revealed to the FOX broadcast crew a week ago that his throwing right shoulder, which he sprained in mid-December, is still nowhere near 100%. How much does it limit him? Otherwise, only CB Avonte Maddox (Toe) was limited for Philly on both Wednesday and Thursday. Shanahan said he expects all of his active 49ers players to play, aside from Jimmy Garoppolo, who is still in rehab, including RB Christian McCaffrey, who was in practice Wednesday and Thursday with the calf injury he carefully nursed sat.

KEY QUESTION: Can the Eagles and their vaunted pass rush do what no other team has been able to do in the last two months – upset the Niners’ rookie passer? That seems like the surest route to victory, but if the Cowboys and their almost-as-good passing rush couldn’t pull it off, you have something to worry about if you’re an Eagles fan with all the elite talent surrounding Purdy.

KRYK PICK: 49ers 19, Eagles 13.

John Kryk now writes a weekly newsletter on NFL matters. The content is exclusive to this platform. You can have it automatically delivered to your email inbox on Wednesdays by simply subscribing – for free – at

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