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31 Jan 2023

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January 31, 2023 Category: Sports Posted by:

With a decisive victory over the San Francisco 49ers, the Philadelphia Eagles will now head to the Super Bowl to take on former coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs.

By Chris Murray

For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Above photo: Philadelphia Eagles players stand on stage after the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Eagles won 31-7. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

In what was probably the ugliest NFC Championship game in recent memory, the Philadelphia Eagles came away with a physical 31-7 victory to advance to their second Super Bowl in six years.

The Birds will take on the Kansas City Chiefs and former coach Andy Reid in Super Bowl LVII at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. On February 12. This will be the third trip to the championship in four years for the Chiefs, who defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20.

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni, center, is doused by defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (91) and teammates during the second half of the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

This year’s Super Bowl will be the first time that two African American quarterbacks will face each other for the NFL Championship.

In a matchup of two of the NFL’s best defenses, it was the Eagles defense that drew first blood. On San Francisco’s first drive of the game, Eagles linebacker Hassan Reddick not only sacked 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy he also stripped the ball at midfield. I

“I just want to go out there early and set the tone, get the defense riled up and get them going,” Reddick said. “That’s how we’ve been all year. Even if I don’t set the tone. If somebody else sets the tone, we just follow suit.”

On second and six from the 50-yard line, Reddick-streaked past 49ers tight end Tyler Kroft and swiped the ball out of Purdy’s hand before his arm moved forward. The ball was pushed forward off Purdy’s arm in through the hands of Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards and Linval Joseph recovered the ball.    

“Man, I just got off the ball. Which we coach here, [Eagles defensive ends/outside linebackers coach Jeremiah] Wash [Washburn] has been coaching ‘get off’ since the day I got here,” Reddick said. “I just got off the ball, man, and I was gone.”

The play was initially ruled an incomplete pass, but it was reversed because replay cameras revealed that the ball was stripped before Purdy moved his arm forward. The play not only thwarted a potential scoring drive, but it also caused an injury to Purdy’s right elbow that knocked him out of the game for the rest of the first half.

Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott, left, runs for a touchdown past San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw during the first half of the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“I was telling [Eagles Head] Coach Nick [Sirianni], ‘Man, throw the flag!’ I knew that was a sack-fumble because I got my hand on the ball,” Reddick said.  

The Eagles defense, which held the 49ers to just 164 yards of total offense, would also knock Josh Johnson, Purdy’s replacement, out of the game early in the third quarter thanks to a hard hit by Eagles defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. That forced the 49ers to bring back a hobbled Purdy back into the game. With Purdy ineffective in the passing game, the Niners passed for just three yards in the second half.

The 49ers, led by Johnson, evened the game midway through the second quarter thanks to a six-play, 46-yard drive, that was capped by a 23-yard touchdown by 49ers running back Christian McCaffery.

But that’s as close as the game would get.

The Eagles ended the first half with two physical touchdown drives that gave them a 14-point lead. The first was a 14-play, 75-yard drive that included two 49er penalties that helped to extend the drive. Miles Sanders finished the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run.

“I think it was big because the game just kind of played out in a unique way,” quarterback Jalen Hurts said. “We had the first [49ers] turnover and we didn’t take advantage of that one, but I think the next one we did. We were able to take advantage of the opportunities that were given to us and at this time of the year, that’s what you want to do. ..That’s the best defense in the league.”

On a day when the Eagles offense struggled to make big plays in the passing game, the running game was effective enough to push the 49ers defense up and down the field. The Birds rushed 148 yards and four touchdowns including two by Miles Sanders (11 carries 42 yards). Both Kenneth Gainwell and Hurts also added rushing touchdowns.

“It was the running game that made the difference,” Eagles left tackle Jordan Mailata said. “It was just a chess game, man. Every time they figured something out on us, we figured out something on them … It was just a bloody chess game today.”

The one thing that this NFC Championship win proved is that the Eagles will be coming into this Super Bowl matchup against the Chiefs with the ability to win in a variety of ways. They can bludgeon teams with a physical running game, or they can beat them in the passing game as well.

It’s an ability that the Chiefs share, which will make this an interesting matchup.

You can catch Super Bowl LVII on Sunday, Feb. 12, beginning at 6:30pm on Fox-29.

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