SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Kyle Shanahan was so happy, pure happiness. From his team moments.
Did his 49ers look underwhelmed on Sunday as they beat the Cowboys 19-12 at Levi’s Stadium? Witty? yes. tough? absolutely. Efficient? In many cases. But the team flying out to his epic NFC Championship Game matchup in Philadelphia this weekend is the Eagles.
But Shanahan’s post-game message was mostly like this: his team is ready for it. Everything is ready. After a 12-game winning streak, his team dead For this reason.
“I know we have a pretty good team,” Shanahan said. I know the Eagles do that, and from the beginning of the year to now, they’ve been better than anyone.”
Not at all worried about sending rookie quarterback Brock Purdy into hostile territory for his first road playoff start?
“Like all games, you can’t even listen,” Shanahan said. “We won’t make more than that. We can’t even listen, so we’ll work on Silent Cadence, which he did well when he went on his journey. You’ll be playing against a good team in a tough environment, so It’s fun to travel to
Sometimes what a coach says doesn’t match the atmosphere in the locker room after a game. Sometimes they really do. And on Sunday, as usual for these 49ers, every conversation had a Shanahan theme. The 49ers belong to this game in the same way the Eagles belong to this game. It’s not an easy contest for either side. It’s going to be a game to remember.
Asked about the Eagles, Fred Warner said, “It’s all about the challenge.
The Eagles are the No. 1 seed in the NFC, going 13-1 before Jalen Hartz missed two of the final three games of the regular season to finish 14-3. On Saturday, Hearts looked better than ever. The 49ers are the #2 seed and underdogs. The 49ers have a rookie QB who has been a true roadster during this streak.
But many of the tricky things the 49ers had to deal with Sunday against a talented Dallas team were worked out in a way that showed how the 49ers could solve them against the Eagles. And the 49ers have shown themselves to be the only NFC team capable of solving them at this stage.
Part of that confidence comes from the 49ers’ recent experience. This is his second consecutive trip to the NFC Championship Game and his third in four seasons. They are currently 6-2 in the playoffs during the Shanahan era. And it doesn’t have to be bold and dynamic. In fact, the fearless part might just be the right mindset to beat the Eagles.
Let’s take a look at the most important things that happened on Sunday and how it translates into next weekend at Lincoln Financial Field.
It starts with defense. For his 49ers in the big game, it always starts on defense.
It was clear from the opening minutes of Sunday’s game that the 49ers wouldn’t try to add 41 slots like they did last weekend against Seattle — they were averaging 38.3 points over their last four games, but that’s not enough. There was nothing more. Against a defense as fast and disciplined as a cowboy unit.
The game had to be controlled by the 49ers defense. And they forced two Dak Prescott interceptions in the first half, holding him to just 206 passing yards on 37 attempts in the game, notably leaving tailback Tony Pollard injured in the second half. basically shut down the running game for the Cowboys after the quarter.
After stumbles on recent big plays with the Raiders, Cardinals and Seahawks, the 49ers’ defense didn’t mess around with anything this game. They gave up one touchdown and had only 282 total yards.
“It certainly felt like us,” Warner said. “That one drive[they]did…and gave us the score.…But for the most part it felt like us.
Of course, the Eagles bounced back and forth on the field Saturday in a 38-7 win over the Giants, gaining 416 yards, including 268 from runs. The 49ers defense took pride in stopping runs, and it was worth highlighting that Dallas essentially abandoned the rushing game in the second half.
This was especially noticeable after 49ers punt returner Ray-Ray McCloud lost a fumble early in the third quarter, allowing the Cowboys to reach the 49ers’ 21-yard line. Instead of going through his zone, Dallas threw 3 times in 5 plays, first he picked up a 1 down, and he fielded short to tie the score at 9-9. I had to. Instead, the 49ers gained momentum from that stop.
“I think it changed when I stopped running,” Shanahan said. “That allowed us to be pretty sane with our coverage. … I think we made them work for all.”
The 49ers must be able to run the ball against the Eagles. Must do, must do, must do. Better to
The Eagles recorded 70 sacks in the regular season, 15 more than any other defenseman. They recorded five more against the Giants on Saturday. But Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence were incredibly dangerous rushers and certainly caught the attention of the 49ers.
The 49ers gave up two sacks, but Purdy held on well, creating several plays with his feet and hitting downfield shots that were there. How were those plays opened? The Cowboys had to worry about the 49ers’ running game, even in the first half when they only managed 11 runs for 27 yards.
“I felt like I really had to run the ball to counteract their pass rush,” Shanahan said. “That’s what makes their pass rush special.”
The 49ers had a hard drive on their second possession of the third quarter, with Kyle Jaszczyk slamming it to the 2-yard line and Christian McCaffrey’s TD run to make it 16-9. The 49ers went on another time-consuming drive after Dallas scored a field goal to make him 16-12. This time, it featured a short Robbie Gould field goal and a 26-yard Elijah Mitchell 7 hard run to set up the final score.
And this season, the Eagles gave up some rushing yards. His opponent was on the ground and he got 120+ yards 10 times.
The 49ers need to get a turnover margin against the Eagles, but they need to do so while holding it down when the ball is downfield.
The 49ers extended their winning streak by winning the turnover margin 2-1 on Sunday. This season, he’s 15-0 if he wins or draws the turnover margin, and 0-4 if he loses. Purdy went through his first two playoff games without turning over himself.
But being safe and sane isn’t enough against the Eagles. It was nearly enough against Dallas, but the 49ers needed a big 30-yard Purdy his pass to George Kittle to start his TD drive, and Jauan he had a 21-yard pass to Jennings at the end of the first. A play on Gould’s field set up his goal. half.
Kittle pass really wasn’t supposed to happen.
“[Brandon Ayuk]was running into the field,” Purdy said when asked what his first option would be. “I was trying to see if the windows would open late, but I think the corners are under it. Kittle, he wasn’t supposed to run down the field like that, but he felt the space, and that’s what he likes.
Purdy also made some quiet big plays. Fitted with back-to-back important short third-down passes to Ayuk and McCaffrey on the final field gold live.
“Brock is the quarterback who keeps an eye on when plays fall apart,” Kittle said. “His his No. 1, his his No. 2 wasn’t open. He turned inside and saw the white glove flying and throw me the ball. It’s really It’s a good quarterback play.”
The game has to fit the image Shanahan sees.
Let’s repeat this. Shanahan has gone 6-2 in the postseason and has advanced to his game of the NFC Championship every time the 49ers make the playoffs. You can criticize him for some of his decisions in the Super Bowl in February 2020, or for losing to the Rams in his NFC Championship game last year. But he’s a consistent playoff winner. period.
When he sets out the game plan for these games, he has a pretty specific sense of how he thinks it should be done and what he wants to avoid. He wants to control the tempo on defense. He doesn’t want to give his opponent an extra shot, and he wants his QB to execute his scheme wisely. And he hopes his attack will finally unleash it.
So they got to the situation at the end of the first half on Sunday. The match ended in a 6-6 draw. Despite struggling, the 49ers appeared to be on track. they started driving. But then Shanahan ticked his 26 seconds on a third-and-one at his 37-yard line, causing groans from the home crowd until he broke 30 seconds.
What happened, Kyle?
It’s hard for me. I know it’s hard for our fans to see,’ Shanahan said.
He didn’t want to short third down and punt to the Cowboys with timeouts and time remaining. And he knew the Cowboys had the ball to start the second half. he didn’t want to be rapped. Even if it limited his team’s ability to get into the end his zone, he was fine. Instead, the 49ers converted his third down, scored the Jennings play, and scored a field goal.
But yeah, Shanahan understands the complaints.
“It would have been very frustrating, not just because I hear it, but because I’m a fan too,” Shanahan said. “But I’m pretty confident in what I’ve done there. That’s one of the reasons he’s holding them down to 12 points when you play against such a good team. And that has something to do with it.
It’s a photo he has. It’s a plan he sticks to. If the 49ers are going to beat arguably the most talented team in the league, the Eagles, they’ll have to play as much as they did against the Cowboys on Sunday. That’s the photo. we just saw it. It may work, it may not work.
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(Photo: Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)