At the end of the fourth quarter of Sunday’s NFC Championship game, the jumbotron zeroed in on Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts at Lincoln Financial Field. First off, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback had a giant smile on his face. Then he caught himself. “One more,” Hurts said to the camera, returning to his usual serious expression. The crowd erupted.
The Eagles beat the 49ers 31-7 on Sunday and are headed to the Super Bowl to face the Chiefs. The actual game itself was a bit rougher, with 49ers undone by quarterback injuries. Brock Purdy suffered an elbow injury on San Francisco’s first possession, and Josh Johnson suffered an injury in the third quarter. For a brief period in the first half, it looked like the 49ers would still be able to put up a fight, thanks to their strong defense and a stellar second quarter performance from Christian McCaffrey. But a takeaway on defense capped by a couple of Eagles touchdown drives gave the Eagles a 21–7 halftime lead, and they never looked back.
The ingredients that have contributed to the Eagles’ success all season were on display once again: Hurts really showed an understanding of the moment, with Nick Siriani managing the game offensively and giving the Eagles the lead with his in-game decision-making. Gave. , the offense pulled away and finally found the answer, and the defense took advantage of an inferior opponent.
It wasn’t the Eagles’ cleanest game, and it wasn’t meant to be. Hurts threw for a season-low 121 yards, but he did not turn the ball over and was accounted for in the run game, especially in the second half, and the Eagles improved to 16–1 on the season. starter.
After the game, Hurts joined his teammates for a victory cigar in his locker. Smoke filled the room, and coughing interrupted the players’ sentences as they spoke to reporters. As Hurts told the crowd at the Lynk in the fourth quarter, this wasn’t the final step, but it was certainly something worth celebrating.
Siriani went over the defensive backs, found cornerback Avonte Maddox and safety Marcus Eppes, and hugged them. Siriani coached this game like he has coached every other game this season: without fear. On the Eagles’ first drive of the game, with the offense facing fourth down and 3, Siriani went for it. The offense converted (thanks to the 49ers not challenging a Devonta Smith catch) and went on to score a touchdown. Later, with six minutes and 39 seconds left in the second quarter, the Eagles faced fourth-and-1 from their 34. Siriani went on the offensive again, keeping the offense on the field. Hurts converted on a QB sneak, and the Eagles would eventually end that drive with a touchdown to take a 14–7 lead.
Left tackle Jordan Malata said after the game, “I don’t know how Siriani runs with his set of cojones, bro.” “That’s crazy. How’s the guy walking around like that? Fourth down in a big playoff game? Man, kudos to him. But big cojones, that guy.
On the other side of the locker room from Melta stood Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, who has long been an advocate for incorporating analytics into in-game decision-making. They think Data could give the Eagles an edge. In Siriani, they have found a coach who is willing to be aggressive even when the stakes are high.
“He’s outstanding,” Lurie said of Siriani. “Spent a lot of the off-season on all of those positions, and he’s not fazed by what he needs to do. He knows exactly what he’s going to do, and he does it from third down.” knows first so he can plan for third downs. That’s a huge advantage. But again, it’s not the kind of thing you want to talk a lot about. Same with Doug [Pederson], There are certain things that are embedded in our culture, and Nick is very bright. He’s comfortable being aggressive, and I think that’s what you need to be in today’s NFL.
When Lurie hired Siriani two years ago, he told him he was excited about becoming a coach. The message was clear: The Eagles weren’t expecting Siriani to be a finished product. They were ready to ride with a coach who could grow into the job. But now, in his second season, Siriani has the Eagles in the Super Bowl earlier than anyone could have expected.
The truth is that NFL organizations don’t always know when their championship windows open and close, and that’s understandable. There’s a lot of randomness involved. You make decisions that give your team a chance and hope to get a little lucky. That’s what happened for the Eagles this season. All 22 of their regular starters were healthy and available on Sunday against a Niners team whose depth at quarterback was severely tested.
Outside of Hearts, there could not have been a more important Eagle on Sunday than Hassan Reddick. General manager Howie Rosman, architect of one of the NFL’s most talented rosters, signed Reddick in free agency last season, following an organizational philosophy to invest in the offensive and defensive lines. Against the 49ers, Reddick forced a sack fumble on the 49ers’ first offensive possession, raising his season total 19.5 sacks in 19 games, Reddick did not make the playoffs during his first five years with Arizona and Carolina and is on his third different team in six NFL seasons. He is now one win away from a Super Bowl ring.
“I would say the biggest thing I’m preaching is, ‘Enjoy this opportunity. Enjoy this moment,'” Redick said of his interactions with young teammates. “Because it’s so rare. You don’t get these very often.
Offensively, this game was a grind for the Eagles. He opened the game with a touchdown drive and then hit a cold spell. But as they’ve done all season, they finally got their answers. The Eagles finished with 25 first downs – the second most by an opposing offense against the 49ers in a game this season.
According to Melata, Demeko Ryan’s top-order defense proved to be a chess match. The Eagles would return to the sidelines after each of their drives, communicate about what the 49ers were doing, and try to come up with a solution. The key, Mylata said, was to lean on the message offensive line coach and run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland preached consistently.
“How many plays can we play in one look that we want?” Mailta asked. “Never run a play in bad form.”
The Eagles used run-pass options to achieve that goal, putting the decision-making in Hearts’ hands. Malata called Stoutland “a hot mess” during the week. Stoutland was more intense than usual, shouting at the players and calling them into meetings. The Eagles knew they were facing a tough defense, and Stoutland wanted to make sure the players were ready. Yet during Sunday’s game, Melata saw a different person. Stoutland was calm and composed, focused on finding ways to help his players solve problems on the fly.
“He comes in, takes all the information, and we change the script, try to change the technique that we’re doing, change the calls, man,” Malata said. “We have one hell of a coach, man. I don’t know what else to say.”
The Eagles ended up running for all four of their touchdowns. Miles Sanders scored from 6 yards out and from 13 yards out. Boston Scott added a 10-yard touchdown. The Eagles could not count on explosive plays against the 49ers. Instead, they strung together three drives of no more than 10 plays.
At the start of the fourth quarter, large screens in the stadium scanned the crowd and showed a fan a homemade “We’re talkin’ about cactus” sign, a nod to the team’s next destination, Glendale, Arizona. Eagles fans were unusually confident going into this game. They seem to know this team well, and the coach and quarterback have earned their trust. The supporting cast always seems to give him a chance.
Next up is a trip to the desert to pick up the chiefs. The challenge on defense will be different with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes on the other side—and not a combination of Josh Johnson and a much limited Brock Purdy. But the Eagles will go into that game with the same recipe they’ve used all season long. They would lean on their offensive line to control the Chiefs’ front. They will rely on their near crowd to get to Mahomes. They will know that this moment will not be too big for Hearts. And Syriani would say play with a fearless mindset.
If they check the same boxes they have checked 16 times in 19 games, they will have a good chance of hoisting Lombardi for the second time in five years.
“I know we’re not done yet, and those boys are still hungry,” said defensive end Brandon Graham. “Jalen said, we are starving. We are starving for this.