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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Birds flying high entering NFC Championship Game: A brief preview of the Eagles’ final hurdle to Super Bowl LVII

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GRAPHIC: GABRIELLA GUZZARDO’23

On Jan. 23, 2018, the Philadelphia Eagles routed the Minnesota Vikings 38-7 in the NFC Championship Game, clinching their spot in Super Bowl LII. Five years later, to the day, they beat division rival New York Giants, for a third time by the same score in the Divisional Round. It’s the first time the Birds are entering the NFC Championship Game since that game against the Vikings.

The Birds are one win away from punching their ticket to Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona Feb. 12. In their way stands one of the feel-good stories of the year in the National Football League (NFL), in underdog Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers. 

The 49ers defense is arguably the best unit in football and presents a tall task for Philadelphia’s run game. 

San Francisco is second in the NFL in total yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, takeaways and have allowed the least points in football this season.

That could present a problem for both Eagles quarterback, Jalen Hurts, and running back Miles Sanders, who make up the fifth best ground game in the NFL in terms of yardage. Fortunately for Philadelphia, they’re still a top ten offense through the air, posting the ninth most yards. 

The 49ers could also have an answer for the Birds’ aerial attack as well, considering they were tied for the most interceptions in the league.

The matchup between two of the best units in football should be a fun one to watch, but the real difference could be in how much pressure the Eagles can get defensively on Purdy, who was a rookie drafted with the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. 

Purdy has far exceeded expectations since stepping in for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 13. Including his two playoff starts, the Iowa State product is 7-0 in his seven overall starts and has posted a fantastic 13 touchdowns, four interceptions, and a 107.9 in the 11 games he has appeared in this season.

Even though Purdy has played well, it is hard to see Purdy playing efficient football against an Eagles defense that has allowed the least passing yards, least yards per pass attempt, sacks and are second in quarterback pressure percentage.

To be fair to Purdy, he played well enough to win against the team with the highest quarterback pressure percentage, the Dallas Cowboys, in the Divisional Round.

Philadelphia’s defensive line is a different animal however, as they have 15 more sacks than the team with the second most, the Kansas City Chiefs. Nobody gets to the quarterback like the Eagles do, and that could prove to be problematic for the 49ers.

This game has low-scoring defensive battle written all over it. It will likely come down to which quarterback makes the fewest mistakes against the elite defense they face, and in this matchup, taking the MVP candidate, Jalen Hurts, is the smart bet. The Eagles are in for a fight against an excellent 49ers team, which has won 12 games in a row. But the Birds have been the best team in the NFC when Hurts has played, and they’ll prove it in a 17-14 win on Sunday.

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