N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (2024)

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Emmanuel Morgan

With pestering defense and a balanced offense, the Eagles get back to the Super Bowl.

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PHILADELPHIA — Fireworks blasted atop Lincoln Financial Field, and Eagles players and coaches careened toward the end zone in ecstatic celebration as running back Boston Scott trotted untouched for a 10-yard rushing touchdown just before halftime.

There were still 30 minutes left to play on Sunday, but with the Eagles holding a two-possession lead and their N.F.L.-best pass rush facing a fourth-string quarterback, the touchdown seemed like an exclamation point. The Eagles held the lead tobeat the San Francisco 49ers, 31-7, to win the N.F.C. championship, earning a trip to Glendale, Ariz., for the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl appearance.

The Eagles have been one of the most complete teams in the league this season, and they showed that again on Sunday. With the win, they will face either Kansas City or Cincinnati in their first Super Bowl since they won it all in the 2017 season.

“You see this city and the passion they have for this team. We’re so appreciative of these fans,” Philadelphia Coach Nick Sirianni said in a postgame news conference. “Look at this place. There’s no place like this in the N.F.L. It’s a hard-working city, it’s a blue-collar city. We think that’s the type of team we have.”

The Eagles’ defense, which during the regular season accumulated the most sacks (70) and allowed the fewest passing yards per game (179.8) in the league, ended a Cinderella-like run for 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy. After the Eagles scored on their opening possession, linebacker Haason Reddick sacked Purdy with about seven minutes remaining in the first quarter, causing a fumble. Purdy injured his right, throwing elbow on the play, and he sat out for the remainder of the first half.

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The 49ers managed one scoring drive in the second quarter, which ended in a 23-yard rushing touchdown by running back Christian McCaffrey, but otherwise their offense sputtered behind Josh Johnson, Purdy’s backup. Johnson left the game early in the second half with a concussion, and Purdy returned, but he was clearly compromised. Purdy finished the game with four pass attempts. He completed them all for 23 yards.

It was a jarring end to the successful run Purdy had orchestrated since December, when he was inserted into the lineup after injuries to the first two quarterbacks on the 49ers’ depth chart, Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo. Purdy, the final pick in the 2022 N.F.L. draft, won seven games as a starter, playing efficiently while throwing for 1,374 yards, 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions in the regular season.

He became just the fifth rookie quarterback to start in a conference championship game, aided by stout coaching and a superb roster. He excelled partly because of the weapons around him — receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk; tight end George Kittle; and the versatile running back McCaffrey, for whom General Manager John Lynch traded in October — and Coach Kyle Shanahan’s scheme of running effectively and allowing passing targets to gain yards after the catch.

But without Purdy, the 49ers’ offense struggled to find a rhythm behind Johnson, an eighth-season pro who has played for seven teams. Johnson, before he exited, completed just 7 of 13 passes for 74 yards and also fumbled on a mishandled snap, which the Eagles recovered. Shanahan’s luck in seamlessly transitioning through quarterbacks was finally over.

Shanahan said the mood in the locker room was particularly downtrodden as players and staff reflected on what could have been.

“We were really excited for today, and we really wanted an opportunity to play that team,” Shanahan said. “They did some good things, but we wish we had a little bit better of an opportunity than we did today.”

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Both San Francisco quarterbacks were terrorized by Reddick, who finished with three tackles and two sacks, and served as an exemplar of the key free-agency signings and trades orchestrated by General Manager Howie Roseman to bring the Eagles back to relevancy.

Reddick signed with the Eagles before the season, joining the team with cornerback James Bradberry, who was released by the Giants last May, and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, for whom Roseman traded in August. Those three led a defense that harassed the 49ers and limited them to only 164 total yards of offense. That put insurmountable pressure on the 49ers’ defense, which had finished the regular season as the league’s top-ranked unit.

“We really felt there was a great opportunity, but you’ve got to get the right players, and we have the right players,” Jeffrey Lurie, the Eagles’ owner, said in a scrum with reporters inside the Eagles’ locker room. “They’re outstanding.”

The Eagles’ offense seemed in sync on Sunday, and it capitalized on inopportune penalties from the 49ers and employed a balanced approach, as it had done all year. Jalen Hurts, the third-year quarterback who blossomed in his second full season as a starter, finished with only 121 passing yards, but he extended plays with his legs, rushing for 39 yards and a touchdown. He also threaded the ball into tight windows, as he did on a pass that receiver DeVonta Smith caught with one hand in the first quarter, though it appeared that Smith did not maintain possession of the ball as he hit the ground. Shanahan said he debated throwing the challenge flag but did not see a conclusive view on replay.

A stable of Eagles running backs — Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell and Scott — combined for 111 rushing yards and three touchdowns against a 49ers defense that had allowed just 77.7 rushing yards per game in the regular season, the second fewest in the league.

The unraveling for the 49ers showed in their players’ actions as well as the stat sheet: Linebacker Dre Greenlaw was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for punching the ball still in the hand of a running back after a play in the fourth quarter, and safety Talanoa Hufanga was flagged for hitting Hurts late out of bounds. San Francisco offensive lineman Trent Williams and Philadelphia safety K’Von Wallace were ejected after sparking a fourth-quarter brawl in which both benches cleared.

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The Eagles had foundered in mediocrity after their Super Bowl win, exiting early in the playoffs in the 2018, 2019 and 2021 seasons; in 2020, they won only four games. They fired their coach, Doug Pederson, after that 2020 season and traded their 2016 first-round pick, quarterback Carson Wentz, in a clear move to rebuild.

Sirianni and Hurts made the playoffs in their first year together, in 2021, but Hurts entered this season with questions about whether he could be the franchise’s cornerstone. He made a compelling argument, throwing for 3,701 yards and 22 touchdowns in the regular season while rushing for 760 yards and 13 scores despite missing two games with a shoulder injury.

“I think my character — I’ve been raised to be who I am,” Hurts said in a postgame news conference. “As the times change, the character doesn’t. I always try to never get too high and never get too low and always give my best.”

Hurts also benefited over the season from Roseman’s trade with Tennessee in April for receiver A.J. Brown, who caught 11 touchdown passes and posted 1,496 receiving yards. The Eagles burst to an 8-0 start and finished 14-3, sharing the best record in the league with Kansas City.

Roseman’s roster construction, along with Hurts’s growth, has propelled the Eagles to the Super Bowl after a rapid rebuild. The celebration became official after the two-minute warning, when the players began dancing and the crowd sang in unison to “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty. Green confetti fell, followed by the blaring of the rapper Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares,” which has become an anthem for the city of Philadelphia.

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N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (2)

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:56 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:56 p.m. ET

Jenny Vrentas

Thanks to all for following along. As we wait to see who the Eagles will play in the Super Bowl, join us for updates from the A.F.C. championship game.

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:35 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:35 p.m. ET

Jenny Vrentas

Eagles earned their Super Bowl Berth on the ground against the 49ers.

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The Philadelphia Eagles are heading back to the Super Bowl after a 31-7 win over the San Francisco 49ers that was true to their identity, with a strong ground game, quarterback sneaks and a relentless defensive front.

All four of the Eagles’ touchdowns came on the ground, including two by running back Miles Sanders and one by quarterback Jalen Hurts, who sneaked across the goal line from 1-yard-out near the end of the third quarter.

Haason Reddick, a Temple graduate, led the Eagles defense by having a hand in two turnovers: a strip sack and a fumble recovery in the first half.

The 49ers were not the same formidable opponent they had been during their 12-game winning streak. Quarterback Brock Purdy injured his elbow on Reddick’s strip sack halfway through the first quarter. He was replaced by Josh Johnson, the fourth quarterback to play for the 49ers this season, until Johnson sustained a concussion early in the third quarter.

Purdy later returned but was clearly diminished, and running back Christian McCaffrey went into the wildcat formation to close out the game.

It was a devastating end to the season for the 49ers, who had made it to the brink of the Super Bowl despite repeated injuries at the most important position on the field.

For the Eagles, though, this game was a triumphant return to the Super Bowl five years after their last appearance — though this time, with a different head coach, Nick Sirianni, and a different quarterback, Hurts.

Despite the injury to Purdy, the 49ers stayed in the game for most of the first half. But late in the second quarter, right after Sanders’s second rushing touchdown of the game, Johnson fumbled a snap. Reddick recovered the ball, and the Eagles scored for the second time in less than two minutes, giving them a 21-7 lead heading into halftime.

Hurts’s touchdown extended Philadelphia’s lead to 28-7 at the end of the third quarter. The 49ers only managed 47 yards of offense in the second half, and drew key penalties on defense and special teams that extended the Eagles’ drives and further diminished their chances of mounting a comeback.

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N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (4)

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:16 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:16 p.m. ET

Ben Shpigel

Reporting from Philadelphia

To that excellent point by Jenny: The two most important indicators of franchise stability are coach and quarterback. Five years ago, when the Eagles won the Super Bowl with Doug Pederson and Nick Foles, Jalen Hurts had just been displaced as Alabama’s starting quarterback and Nick Sirianni was still the Chargers' receivers coach.

N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (5)

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:12 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:12 p.m. ET

Jenny Vrentas

Five years later, the Eagles are returning to the Super Bowl, with a different head coach and a different quarterback.

N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (6)

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:09 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:09 p.m. ET

Jenny Vrentas

The N.F.C.’s top seed has advanced to the Super Bowl. If Kansas City also wins, it would be the first time in five years, and the 14th time overall, that both No. 1 seeds made it to the Super Bowl.

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N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (7)

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:08 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:08 p.m. ET

Ben Shpigel

Reporting from Philadelphia

There are a bunch of San Francisco players running off the field without shaking hands near midfield. Which I can’t remember seeing before, though I’m sure it has.

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N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (8)

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:07 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:07 p.m. ET

Ben Shpigel

Reporting from Philadelphia

The top-seeded Eagles are headed to the Super Bowl after walloping what remained of the San Francisco 49ers, 31-7. Philadelphia has outscored opponents this postseason by 69 to 14.

N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (9)

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:05 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:05 p.m. ET

Ben Shpigel

Reporting from Philadelphia

Vibe check: The crowd is singing (screaming?) “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty.

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N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (10)

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:02 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:02 p.m. ET

Ben Shpigel

Reporting from Philadelphia

Gardner Minshew is in at quarterback for Philadelphia. Jalen Hurts, best we can tell, has not contracted leprosy or a staph infection or had his fingers dislocated. This is just to ensure Hurts’s health.

N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (11)

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:00 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 6:00 p.m. ET

Elena Bergeron

49ers lineman Trent Williams and Eagles safety K’Von Wallace both ejected.

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N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (12)

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:59 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:59 p.m. ET

Ben Shpigel

Reporting from Philadelphia

Let me be the first to say: I would not like to be shoved by anyone on the field. But! I definitely do not want to be shoved by Trent Williams.

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N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (13)

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:59 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:59 p.m. ET

Elena Bergeron

This one is ending with the tried and true “if we’re not gonna win the game, we’re at least gonna win the fight after” play call.

N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (14)

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:57 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:57 p.m. ET

Ben Shpigel

Reporting from Philadelphia

Full-on melee. Punches thrown. What. Is. Going. On.

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N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (15)

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:57 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:57 p.m. ET

Ben Shpigel

Reporting from Philadelphia

Sigh, there has been an incident.

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N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (16)

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:56 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:56 p.m. ET

Jenny Vrentas

Disappointing everyone, particularly Ben Shpigel, this game will not end “without incident.”

N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (17)

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:56 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:56 p.m. ET

Jenny Vrentas

We were prepared for this one: Entering this game, McCaffrey was 2 for 4 passing in the N.F.L. with two touchdown passes. At Stanford, he completed 2 of 3 passes for two TDs.

N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (18)

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:54 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:54 p.m. ET

Ben Shpigel

Reporting from Philadelphia

Brock Purdy just ran to the sideline. Christian McCaffrey is at quarterback. Why not?

N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (19)

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:54 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:54 p.m. ET

Jenny Vrentas

This is a brutal end to the season for the 49ers. All year, they found ways to win despite injuries at the most important position on the field, only to see both their third- and fourth-string quarterbacks injured in the last game before the Super Bowl.

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N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (20)

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:53 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:53 p.m. ET

Ben Shpigel

Reporting from Philadelphia

I just hope that the final five minutes are played without incident and that everyone has fun.

N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (21)

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:52 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:52 p.m. ET

Ben Shpigel

Reporting from Philadelphia

I covered the N.F.C. championship game five years ago, when the Eagles beat the Vikings to advance to their first Super Bowl in 13 seasons, and the atmosphere was intoxicating — a full-on cathartic celebration for the entire second half. It is loud here. It is raucous. I hope my car is still where I left it. But Eagles fans have been expecting this.

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Philadelphia 31, San Francisco 7, 5:17 4th Quarter

Philadelphia field goal

Jake Elliott’s 31-yard field goal attempt is good.

N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (22)

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:49 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:49 p.m. ET

Ben Shpigel

Reporting from Philadelphia

As my sharp-eyed (and -eared) colleague Emmanuel mentioned earlier, the press box at Lincoln Financial Field is remarkably insulated. You can’t hear the crowd noise as much as in places like Seattle. But sources close to the crowd have indicated that it is still hella loud.

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N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (23)

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:47 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:47 p.m. ET

Ben Shpigel

Reporting from Philadelphia

If the 49ers hadn’t already unraveled, that was just Dre Greenlaw punching at the ball nestled in Kenneth Gainwell’s hands — after the play had been whistled dead. Another penalty for unnecessary roughness.

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:42 p.m. ET

Jan. 29, 2023, 5:42 p.m. ET

Jenny Vrentas

Jalen Hurts’s runs powered the Eagles’ scoring drive.

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The Eagles took a 28-7 lead near the end of the third quarter of the N.F.C. championship game, as the 49ers’ frustrations continued to mount.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run on a quarterback sneak, a play call that has proved to be both predictable and nearly unstoppable for the Eagles. It was Hurts’s 15th rushing touchdown, including the regular season, and completed a drive in which he ran on seven plays.

QB1 😮‍💨🔥@Eagles | via @NFLpic.twitter.com/3vT1mSaEfB

— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) January 29, 2023

The 15-play, 91-yard drive was the Eagles’ longest of the game. It was extended by a 49ers penalty for roughing punter Brett Kern at midfield, which gave the Eagles a first down. Later in the drive, the 49ers also picked up an unnecessary roughness penalty, when 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga pushed Hurts after the quarterback had given himself up on a run to the 7-yard line. The call gave the Eagles a new set of downs from the San Francisco 3-yard line.

Very little has gone right in this game for the 49ers, who have seen both of their quarterbacks get injured.

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N.F.C. Championship Game: N.F.C. Championship: Eagles Beat 49ers, 31-7, to Claim Spot in the Super Bowl (Published 2023) (2024)
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