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Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Fred Warner, Nick Bosa expect 49ers-Eagles to be ‘a battle’

Jan 25, 2023 at 2:30 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers know Sunday might be the toughest test of the season. The team will face the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field. A win means returning to the Super Bowl for the second time in four years.

"I expect it to be a battle all the way through," linebacker Fred Warner told reporters on Wednesday. "Both the Cowboys and Eagles are physical and talented teams who are really fast and have a lot of talent. Just like it was a battle this past week (against Dallas), I'm expecting that, if not more, this week, them being in their home stadium, home crowd behind them. They're going to be juiced up, ready to go."

The 49ers finished the season with the top-ranked defense. The Eagles defense wasn't far behind. San Francisco ranked No. 2 against the run but No. 21 against the pass. Philadelphia was the best against the pass but No. 17 against the run.

"Every team at this point is going to be playing physical and giving everything they've got," defensive end Nick Bosa said. "I think Dallas did a good job of that. But yeah, we've been tested a lot this year, and I think this will be as big of a test as there is.

The 49ers have a potent run game, averaging nearly 139 rushing yards per game this season. The Eagles fared better, averaging nearly 148 yards per game.

"I think [they're] really well-coached on the O-line," Bosa explained. "Smart, savvy, and obviously the running quarterback component is an extra piece."

Mobile quarterbacks have had some success against the 49ers defense. On Sunday, they'll face another good one in Jalen Hurts, who racked up 760 rushing yards and a career-high 13 rushing touchdowns, the most among quarterbacks this season.

"I think we got tested in that Raiders game, kind of unexpectedly," Bosa admitted. "That kind of reminded us of what a kryptonite could be of the way we play."

The defensive end admits that the 49ers need to play smarter against such opponents, playing within the scheme and resisting the urge to make a big play at the cost of staying with their assignments.

"That's how you win at this time of year," Bosa added.

On September 19, 2021, San Francisco emerged with a 17-11 win at Lincoln Financial Field, the last time the 49ers and Eagles met. How has Philadelphia improved since then?

"I think, obviously, just the addition of some of their playmakers," Warner answered. "I guess, most noticeably, A.J. Brown, All-Pro receiver, and I guess the evolution of all the other guys who have been on their team, as in Jalen Hurts, [RB] Miles Sanders, [WR] DeVonta Smith, all those guys that they use, [TE] Dallas Goedert. I go down the list, all of them have gotten better this season, so that's equaled a more complete offense. Their O-line is even better this season."

Bosa admits that he hasn't gotten to the deep film study on Hurts just yet. Instead, he's been focused on the rushing attack to this point. Still, it's obvious that the squads have improved since that 2021 meeting.

"I think both of us are a lot better teams than we were in that matchup," Bosa shared.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan has been impressed with Hurts' improvement since the 49ers last saw him and knows the quarterback will offer a unique challenge.

"He's just gotten more consistent," Shanahan said. "You can see in that game, the ability that he has, and what he was close to doing a number of times. He made some big throws in that game, and we contained fairly well. But I think we were up 17-3 with like five minutes to go, and then he started getting going again, and they brought it into a one-score game.

"So you could see the ability that he had real early on, and I know towards the end of that year, he started getting on a roll ... and that's why they ended up making [the playoffs last year], because of how good he got after that. But we could see signs of that in that game. Now just watching him this year, hearing about it, he's borderline NFL MVP."

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