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Against all odds, young quarterback Brock Purdy continues to lead the Niners offensive unit with the poise of a seasoned veteran. Far from being flamboyant like the other three quarterbacks of the weekend, Purdy plays inside the system and does not force things. He displays great precision and good decision-making, but above all an Olympian calm under the eliminatory spotlight. In total this year, he threw 16 touchdown passes against just 4 interceptions. If he continues to protect the ball this way, the Niners will have a chance to win.
The performances of the young pivot are impressive, but the identity of the 49ers is first to establish the attack on the ground. Led by Christian McCaffrey, who has scored a touchdown in his last 8 games, Kyle Shanahan’s ground offense is varied and explosive. In fact, in San Francisco’s 12-game winning streak, the team reached 100 rushing yards 11 times!
Unsurprisingly, Purdy and the Niners offense will face their biggest challenge of the year on Sunday as the pressure mounts with each playoff round. Against San Francisco, the Seattle Seahawks defense held on for a half and the Dallas Cowboys managed to limit the damage. Now, the Philadelphia unit poses a whole different challenge. She ranked first in the NFL this season in passing yards allowed (179.8 yards/game) and sacks (70). So it will be a big term for Purdy. The key will be to produce the ground game while the defense has been more vulnerable in this phase of the game (121.6 yds/game – 16th place).
A puzzle for the defense of the Niners
Like the Niners, the Eagles offense begins with the ground game. In the regular season, she ranked fifth in the league (147.6 yards/game) and won against the New York Giants last week with 268 rushing yards. It was the fifth time this year that the team amassed more than 200 rushing yards during a game, it’s solid! It all starts with the offensive line, possibly the best in the NFL. Moreover, if the Eagles are so successful, both in attack and defense, it is because their lines are dominant.
Behind this line on offense, we find Jalen Hurts who had an exceptional season. A real double threat in the backfield, he attracts a lot of attention, which opens up gaps for his carriers. When you force a defense to play 11v11, the ground game becomes very difficult to defend. That’s what the Eagles do well.
Want to stop the ground attack? No problem, the Eagles can beat you through the air. Receivers AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith finished in the top 10 in the league for receiving yards this year. Not to mention tight end Dallas Goedert who can give you trouble in midfield or provide you with hard-hitting blocks to open up gaps for his teammates.
It is therefore quite a puzzle that awaits the defense of the Niners who will stop at nothing. Considered by many to be the best defensive unit in the NFL, it is equipped to face a challenge of this size. The line is anchored by Nick Bosa, the league leader in quarterback sacks in 2022 (18.5). We must identify him before each game and take advantage of the rare moments when he will be on the sidelines to try games with longer development.
If the offense succeeds in neutralizing Bosa, it will then have to find a plan to counter the best linebacker in the circuit, Fred Warner. Warner has given the Cowboys a clinic and he can bring on the kind of play that changes the look of a game at any time. The DeMeco Ryans squad will certainly have a good game plan for the Eagles. The question will be who will perform better?