Disaster for the 49ers: Lose Brock Purdy, then lose NFC Championship to Eagles

Jan 29, 2023, 5:26 PM
Miles Sanders #26 of the Philadelphia Eagles scores a 13 yard touchdown against the San Francisco 4...
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - JANUARY 29: Miles Sanders #26 of the Philadelphia Eagles scores a 13 yard touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter in the NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 29, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The NFC Championship game was suppose to one for the ages, then disaster struck the 49ers.

The San Francisco 49ers were dominated in the NFC Championship game, losing to the Philadelphia Eagles, 31-7, Sunday afternoon. By the end of the game, the home team had put in their backups as the Red & Gold couldn’t complete a pass downfield.

Here’s what happened.

The controversial day started for San Francisco on the first series of the game. Forcing the Eagles into a fourth down, quarterback Jalen Hurts rolled to his left before finding wide receiver DeVonta Smith for an incredible one-handed catch for the first down. Or was it?

Replay showed that Smith had actually bobbled the catch when he went to the ground, meaning the pass was incomplete. Philadelphia managed to avoid an overrun by rushing to the line of scrimmage and getting a play off. The Eagles scored a few plays later thanks to a Miles Sanders six-yard run into the endzone.

7-0 early in the first quarter.

Then the 49ers’ offense took the field and the clock stuck midnight on rookie QB Brock Purdy.

Going play-action, Purdy is looking to hit WR Brandon Aiyuk downfield. Meanwhile, outside linebacker Haason Reddick runs past a chip block and gets to the QB mid-throw, forcing the ball to pop out awkwardly. Initially ruled an incomplete pass, Eagles’ coach Nick Sirinnani there the challenge flag, getting the call overturned to a fumble.

That’s when the problems started.

Trying to work his arm on the sideline, Purdy went over to coach Kyle Shanahan to inform him that his arm was shot. On the next possession, backup Josh Johnson took the field.

“I told him right there if we run a play, I can’t throw deep. It’s hurting really bad. If we’re going to get a complete, it has to be something short, if that’s alright,” Purdy explained postgame.

Down to their fourth-string QB, Johnson and the offense struggled all day. He finished his first drive of the day with a sack and a delay of game before punting back to Philly. That continued on the next drive, unable to get the snap off  in time for his second delay of game penalty. San Francisco was forced to punt again after a three & out.

San Francisco’s defense was keeping the team in the game though, holding the Eagles’ to two consecutive short drives to force a short punt.

Getting the ball back inside Eagles’ territory, the 49ers scored their lone TD of the game thanks to RB Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey took an inside wham run, moving through and around Eagles to race down the right sideline to the endzone.

7-7 and it’s all tied up.

The Eagles responded with a good drive of their own, going down the field in 15 plays. Taking almost eight minutes off the clock, Philadelphia was kept alive by defensive penalties. One after another as the Eagles marched down the field with free yards, eventually scoring with Sanders again from 13-yards out.

It got worse for San Francisco after that.

Looking to go up-tempo to close the first half, Johnson got one first down before another mistake cost the 49ers. In shotgun formation,  Johnson completely whiffed on the snap, resulting in a fumble recovered by the defense. Now in great field position, the Eagles scored a few plays later, via RB Boston Scott’s 10-yard scamper to pay dirt.

21-7, in favor of Philadelphia.

To cap a bad showing, Johnson got hurt on the first series of the second half.

Looking for options downfield, the backup was hit while throwing the ball, causing an incompletion. Getting off the ground gingerly, Johnson was flagged by the league office for a possible concussion. Coming off the field for evaluation, Johnson’s day was done as he walked to the locker room.

Now down to no healthy QBs, Shanahan threw Purdy back in the huddle. Unable to throw more than five yards, the 49ers were forced to punt it away.

That was general theme for the 49ers’ offense Sunday, unable to operate without passing the ball. San Francisco only managed 47 net yards in the second half of the NFC Championship.

Meanwhile, the Eagles’ offense was helped by the defense committing penalties. Forcing a punt in the third quarter, RB Jordan Mason was pushed into the punter. The official didn’t see the whole play however, calling roughing the punter on the rookie.

Frustrated with the game, Shanahan let the officials know how he felt about the play.

The 49ers were deflated after that, committing dumb penalties to make it easier for Philly to score. A Jalen Hurts QB sneak was scored a few plays later.

28-7, and this one is pretty much over.

The fourth quarter followed a similar pattern: San Francisco was unable to throw the ball, while Philly went through the motions with the game out of hand.

With tempers high, the 49ers finally had enough of the Eagles.

WR Brandon Aiyuk got into a scuffle with a few Eagles’ defensive backs, forcing the officials to have to separate the two sides. It wasn’t enough, as Philly continued the scrum by grabbing Deebo Samuel’s facemask. Jawing back and forth, left tackle Trent Williams came over and slammed K’Von Wallace to the ground by the collar.

That only escalated the fighting further, with benches clearing as Williams had to be restrained by his teammates. He was ejected from the contest, along with Wallace.

Close to the end of the game, the Eagles threw in their backups and ran the ball out to a 31-7 victory.

After a remarkable 2022 season, the end result is the same for 49ers fans: Heartbreak.

San Francisco had a brutal day from the start, having to overcome self-inflicted wounds and unlucky injuries all day. By the end, the players felt shorted, frustrated that they dint have a better opportunity to win the game.

“How does it feel to lose the NFC Championship Game because I don’t have a quarterback? Pretty [expletive], to be honest,” tight end George Kittle stated.

“Guys are pretty down in there. We were really excited for today and we really wanted an opportunity to play that team. They played great. They did good things. But, we wish we had a better opportunity than we did today,” Shanahan added.

The biggest question from the game is the health of Brock Purdy, set to undergo an MRI Monday. Described as an elbow injury, Purdy knew something was off when he got back onto the sideline, fearing a long-term injury.

“No we don’t [know]. We have to get an MRI. He couldn’t throw. He wouldn’t have gone back in if we hadn’t had to. It was that or we were going to have wildcat. We didn’t get long enough drives to show that either,” Shanahan said.

With the emotions still fresh, Purdy was more-so apologetic to his team, sorry that he let his teammates down by getting hurt. His teammates recognized that quickly, reassuring him in the pressers that he was a big part of their success this season.

“He has nothing to be sad about. He’s the reason we got to this game,” linebacker Fred Warner said about the rookie QB.

The 49ers will now start a long offseason of speculation. One of the questions that’ll need to be addressed is at denfeosve coordinator, with DeMeco Ryans expected to take the Houston Texans’ head-coach position. Ryans will meet with Houston sometime this week, and if all goes well, he’ll be the new HC.

A very bittersweet ending though for his 49ers’ tenure, creating a top-tier defensive unit that rivaled the great ones over the last 25 years. It’s sad for the players too, quite possible playing their final game with Ryans as the coach.

“I hadn’t thought about it up to this point because you think you’ll win it all. Seeing him was emotional, the first time it hit me this was the last one with him. I owe everything to him. He’s the reason I’m here today. He’s fully deserving to be head coach,” Warner said about Ryans Sunday.

Now with the 2022 season behind them, the loss of today will resonate within the 49ers organization for some time. While they certainly feel frustrated, at the end of the day, it just wasn’t their game to win.

“Losing feels awful. Yeah, this one was harder. This one was harder. This one was a lot harder I thought,” Shanahan said somberly.

“However you want to draw it up, it just wasn’t our day,” Warner added.


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Disaster for the 49ers: Lose Brock Purdy, then lose NFC Championship to Eagles