The Eagles were the best team in the NFC all season. Now, appropriately, they’re going to the Super Bowl.
With the sounds of “E-A-G-L-E-S” roaring throughout the sold-out Linc, the Eagles fulfilled a destiny they created for themselves since training camp.
With a team few expected to get this far, the Eagles stormed their way through the regular season and routed two playoff opponents.
With a quarterback nobody expected to develop this quickly, or even knew if he would be *this* good, the Eagles romped into the Super Bowl for only the fourth time in their history.
With an untested, young coach, the Eagles epitomized teamwork, togetherness and toughness to shock the NFL.
With an enviable combination of experience and youth, the Eagles were a balanced team that could beat you with either a versatile offense or dominating defense.
With leadership coming from their quarterback and many others, the Eagles appeared to be as tough mentally as they obviously were physically.
With a general manager in Howie Roseman, who made all kinds of offseason moves that paid off, the Eagles turned the Delaware Valley into a sea of green.
In a bizarre game that came close to having 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey playing quarterback, the Eagles won the NFC Championship with a 31-7 victory over San Francisco on Sunday.
Next: Super Bowl 57 against Kansas City in two weeks in Glendale, Ariz.
- “He [coach Nick Sirianni] has a group of athletes and coaches that are humble, just team-oriented and grind,” Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said on the field after the victory.
- “If you grind every day, you might win the NFC Championship and maybe one more.
- “This fan base is … unrivaled. It gives you the goosebumps [walking into the stadium]. You feel like you got the best chance to win.
- “It’s such a huge advantage. The players know they have such passionate fans they just want to give the best they can.”
For Sirianni, he reached the Super Bowl in his second season. The only Eagles’ coach to do that was Doug Pederson in 2017, when the Birds won the Super Bowl.
- “This is something you dream about all your life,” Sirianni said.
- “Like I said to the guys, we’ve all been dreaming about it. We’ve been dreaming about it whether you’re 2, 10, 14, 18, or when you got into the NFL.
- “This is something we all dream about and we get to do it because we did it better than anyone else in the NFC this year.
- “So that is pretty special. The fans were awesome. Atmosphere was unbelievable.”
POUNDING THE QUARTERBACKS
For weeks, the quarterback’s health has been the big story around the Eagles. That was the case Sunday, but it was the health of the Niners’ quarterbacks that was the story, not Jalen Hurts’ well-being.
Hurts was fine. The Niners quarterbacks — plural — were not. The Eagles’ second-ranked defense was ferocious — and Niners’ quarterbacks were dropping like flies.
As was the case all season, the Philly defense made life miserable for the offense. First, rookie starter Brock Purdy, then fourth-stringer Josh Johnson were forced to the sideline.
Haason Reddick, who led the Eagles in sacks this season, hammered Purdy on the Niners’ sixth play of the game, forcing a fumble and sending the quarterback out of the game with an elbow injury.
- “You want to try to make the quarterback feel as uncomfortable as possible with everything,” Sirianni said.
- “Whether that’s the fans making it loud, whether that’s disguising the coverages, or whether that’s hitting him — and you never want anybody to get dinged or get hurt and I hope he’s OK.
- “But it definitely did change the game. It’s those guys’ jobs to hit the quarterback and affect the game and they sure did that today.”
DEFENSE ON THE CASE
Into the breach stepped Johnson, the Niners’ fourth-string quarterback who might have thought he was only coming to Philly for the cheesesteaks.
Johnson was flattened by Ndamukong Suh with 12:36 to play in the third quarter. Johnson’s head bounced twice off the turf. He was done for the game with a likely concussion.
Defensive pressure has been Eagles’ trademark all season. They outplayed the error-plagued top-ranked Niners defense in the season’s most important game.
The Eagles finished with three sacks. After the Johnson injury, San Francisco only threw three passes — not for strategic reasons but they simply had no one left who could throw it. Purdy completed a 3-yard and 1-yard pass and McCaffrey threw an incomplete pass.
It’s hard to believe that the enormous crowd was all but silent in the second quarter after Johnson led a touchdown drive to tie the score at 7. But over the next 8:29, the most massive momentum swing of the season changed the game for the Eagles.
First, the Eagles drove 75 yards on 14 plays to go ahead, 14-7. Three Niners penalties gave the Eagles first downs. San Francisco got the ball back with 1:36 to play in the half. On the second play of the drive, Johnson fumbled and Reddick recovered at the Niners’ 30.
Four plays and a face-mask penalty on the Niners later, Boston Scott scored on a 10-yard run. The Niners weren’t coming back.
“We have one more to win,” Lurie said. “This season was always about winning one more.”