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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports


Kyle Shanahan, 49ers looking forward to challenge of facing Eagles in NFC title game

Jan 22, 2023 at 8:58 PM--



The San Francisco 49ers are advancing to the NFC Championship Game for the third time in four years. They will face the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles at a hostile Lincoln Financial Field.

The Niners got there with a hard-fought 19-12 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, ending the season of a longtime rival. It's a moment worth savoring.

"It is not easy, and it is not guaranteed," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said of reaching the NFC title game again.

Of course, the 49ers can't enjoy the victory too much. There is work to be done. They'll try to shift focus quickly and prepare for what looks to be their most formidable foe since starting a 12-game win streak.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan doesn't plan on changing anything for their upcoming bout in Philadelphia. Instead, the 49ers will address the game like any other this season.

"You do as good as you can every single week, and I think we've got a pretty good team," Shanahan said after the game. "We've got a very talented team. Also, a team that plays well together. I know [the Eagles] do [too]. They've been as good as anyone since the beginning of this year, and all the way to right now.

"If you looked at the beginning of the year, you thought Philly would be the last team right here, and that's the way it's ended up. So we're going down there, hopefully, have a good week of practice, and looking forward to the challenge."

The 49ers are one win away from returning to the Super Bowl. After a devastating loss in the NFC Championship Game last year, the team entered the offseason knowing that anything short of returning to the big game and winning would be a disappointment.

"It's exactly where you want to be, right?" Kittle said. "At the start of the year, back in OTAs, all you're doing is preparing for the Super Bowl. To be one step away from that, it's awesome. To go into Philly, which is a fantastic atmosphere ... it's going to be wonderful. I know how much the fans love the opposing team, and all the fans, so it's going to really fun. It's going to be cold and violent, and it's going to be a blast."

The Eagles dominated the New York Giants on Saturday, running away with a 38-7 win. The 49ers held the Cowboys to 12 points. The NFC title game is shaping up to be an exciting matchup.

"The challenge is everything," linebacker Fred Warner admitted. "Just watching from afar, they had a great game yesterday and really took care of business at home. And they've got another home game. Obviously, two great football teams going against each other. We're going to have to watch the tape hard.

"I think from just watching them all season, I think they have an amazing overall team with their offense. Offensively, they've got a great O-line, great play-makers. [QB] Jalen Hurts is having an MVP-type season. I respect the way he approaches the game and his mindset. So we've got a big challenge on our hands, for sure."

While Warner looks toward facing the Eagles' offense, Kittle is starting to think about going against their defense.

"They've got like six first-rounders on their D-line," Kittle said. "They're fantastic. They're vets. They know how to play the game. They're going to be violent. They're going to talk a lot of crap. That's just something I'm looking forward to because every time we play Philly, it's a great game, and it's going to be really fun."

For running back Christian McCaffrey, who was traded to the 49ers in October, this will be the first trip to an NFC Championship Game. So the star player is eager to get to work.

"It starts now," McCaffrey told reporters. "The prep starts now, getting your body back, ready to go. The most important thing is Sunday. It feels good to win this one. Obviously, we've got more life. The prep for next week starts now."

While this is new to McCaffrey, this will be defensive end Nick Bosa's third NFC title game. That doesn't make it any less special.

"I just know how hard it is and how good these teams are going to be," Bosa said. "You don't want to squander any opportunity like this. Once you get this far, everything just cranks up a notch."

Shanahan wishes his 49ers could briefly exhale and enjoy the moment, enjoy what they have accomplished so far. There is no time for that, though.

"You work so hard to get to these points, to these situations, and all we could think about was winning that game," Shanahan said. "Once we did, it's fun for a little bit, but it's more, once you get in the locker room, it's just, 'All right, now let's move on to the next one.' We know what moment we're in, in our lives right here, our whole team, and we've been here before, and it's very hard to get here.

"So we're not really reflecting on anything yet. We've got a big game this week, and that's not our ultimate goal either. So in order to do that, we've got to make sure we take care of business."

Kirk Larrabee contributed to this article.

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