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Eagles-49ers analysis: Birds crushed, 42-19, as the NFC’s top spot is back in play

The Eagles defense was humbled, as it allowed six straight touchdown drives to the 49ers in the drubbing at Lincoln Financial Field.

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Oren Burks falls on Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts in the third quarter on Sunday. Hurts was shaken up on the play.
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Oren Burks falls on Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts in the third quarter on Sunday. Hurts was shaken up on the play.Read moreDavid Maialetti / Staff Photographer

The Eagles pounced on quarterback Brock Purdy early. The pressure was effective and briefly rattled the second-year signal caller. In San Francisco’s first two drives, the 49ers were minus-6 yards on a pair of three-and-outs.

However, the Eagles failed to capitalize as the offense stalled twice in the red zone to begin Sunday’s contest between the NFC’s top two teams.

The Eagles settled for field goals, then the 49ers hit their stride. Purdy and the Kyle Shanahan-led offense were surgical and the 49ers finished a perfect 4-for-4 in the red zone while the Eagles went 1-for-3. That proved to be the difference as the Eagles lost their second game of the season in a 42-19 drubbing by the 49ers at Lincoln Financial Field.

“I think this is a moment where you go back and reflect on it, learn from it,” quarterback Jalen Hurts said. “We have to be self-critical and analyze everything as it’s supposed to be. It’s about how we respond, how we approach it, how bad we want to grow, how bad we want to better ourselves. That has to be done together as a unit.”

The Eagles still own the conference’s best record at 10-2, but the Niners inched closer to the top spot as they improved to 9-3.

Defense gives up six straight touchdowns

Edge rusher Haason Reddick unleashed his Gladiator celebration on San Francisco’s second offensive play, with Reddick bringing down Purdy for sack No. 9½ this season. Purdy was pressured frequently, but he eventually adjusted and was quick to release the football to negate the Eagles’ pass rush.

Purdy completed 19 of 27 passes for 314 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Those noted red-zone woes haven’t been limited to just the offense, either. Entering Sunday, the Eagles ranked 28th in the league in red-zone defense, with their opponents scoring touchdowns on 64.9% of their red-zone trips.

Purdy might have started slow, but he departed with the last laugh. Following their pair of three-and-outs, the Niners responded with six consecutive touchdown drives. Purdy particularly enjoyed targeting the middle of the field, where the Eagles deployed linebackers Nicholas Morrow and Christian Elliss. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel paced the Niners with 116 receiving yards and two touchdowns, and he also added a rushing touchdown. Running back Christian McCaffrey had a game-high 93 rushing yards and one touchdown.

The Niners wore the Eagles out with an abundance pre-snap motion, which redirected the second and third levels. All of the movement appeared to confuse the defense, which allowed the Niners to convert 8 of 11 (73%) on third down. Despite running 12 more offensive plays than the opposition, the Eagles were out-gained 456 to 333 in total net yards. The Niners averaged a whopping 8 yards per play compared to the Eagles’ 4.8.

“They do such a good job with jets and motions both post- and pre-snap,” cornerback James Bradberry said. “When you play defense, everybody has to see things the same way. If you have jets and motions, [our] reads can get kind of murky. So that’s what they did and that’s what kind of put us in a bind. And then once they ran and got the ball in their hands, they did a good job at getting yards after the catch.

“It’s very tough to play this team with [man-to-man] defense across the board because they have a dynamic running back [McCaffrey], who can get mismatches against linebackers and safeties. We want to do a good job of mixing our zones in there. They won with the mismatches and whatnot.

“They’re a tough team to play and hopefully we see them again.”

Offense struggles vs. 49ers defense

Eagles running backs D’Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell, and Boston Scott managed just 20 rushing yards across nine attempts. With the running game a nonfactor and the Eagles also playing behind from the second quarter on, the offense became one-dimensional.

Hurts, who briefly exited during the fourth quarter to be checked for a concussion, completed 26 of 45 passes for 298 yards with only one touchdown. With the Eagles failing to establish the running game, wideouts A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith finished with a combined 17 catches and 210 receiving yards.

Hurts missed just four offensive plays while he was evaluated for a concussion. He was replaced by backup Marcus Mariota, who completed two passes for 16 yards. After he went indoors, Hurts emerged from the tunnel and resumed his place under center. When questioned about his injury, Hurts replied it wasn’t a self-serving moment for him to return to the game, but rather him trying to rally his team.

“It wasn’t about showing anybody anything...We were just trying to keep fighting,” Hurts said.

He was most upset about the team’s lack of execution, particularly in the red zone. Team captain and center Jason Kelce echoed Hurts’ sentiments as the Eagles fell to 5-1 when trailing at halftime.

“It was particularly difficult because we started the game with the ball ... games in which we’ve come back in the second half, a lot of the times we’ve started the second half with the ball,” Kelce said. “The two starting drives, not coming away with touchdowns there, that would have been a huge starting point for us offensively, and we just didn’t get it done. Credit to them. That would’ve been huge to start off with 14 points there.

“We’ve been good in the red zone before this game. We’ve made that improvement throughout the season. But [it’s] obviously not great not finishing there at the start of the game.”

When multiple players were asked whether or not fatigue played a factor in their performance, they deflected the notion. It’s worth noting the 49ers were beneficiaries from a mini-bye after they last played on Thanksgiving, marking their first game in 10 days. Meanwhile, the Eagles played in overtime against the Bills last Sunday at home.

“We feel like we’re a good team,” Bradberry said. “We just didn’t execute and be physical. At the end of the day, we have to get those guys down. Whether or not they had extended rest, we are professional athletes, and we are expected to make those plays.”