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49ers vs. Eagles: 5 Crucial Questions to Answer

Marc Adams
Dec 2, 2023 at 6:00 AM--

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It's the matchup of the season in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers are traveling to the East Coast to take on the NFC-leading Philadelphia Eagles. The outcome of this game could have major implications on who ends up with the number one seed in the NFC. Should the Eagles win this game, they will be well on their way to home-field advantage in the NFC. But if the 49ers can pull this one off, they will have a real chance of having the number-one seed.

The 49ers, of course, are returning to "the scene of the crime" for the first time since the 2022 NFC Championship Game. In that 31-7 loss, 49ers' QB Brock Purdy tore his UCL when his arm was struck by Haason Reddick. After Purdy left the game, backup quarterback Josh Johnson came in but ultimately left the game due to a concussion.

That left the 49ers without a quarterback who could throw a pass. Winning, in the NFL, without being able to throw a forward pass has shown to be quite challenging. The players say it's just another game, but this one just feels different.

For the 49ers to return to the Bay Area with a win over the Eagles, San Francisco will need to answer these five questions:

1, Can the offensive line protect Brock Purdy?

The strength of the Eagles' defense is their defensive line, particularly the pass rush. Though they're not quite as good as they were last season, the Eagles' pass rush is still formidable. But they've played a lot of snaps recently, which could be a factor. Can Colton McKivitz, Jon Feliciano, Spencer Burford, and Jake Brendel hold up? Trent Williams and Aaron Banks should be fine on the left side. But the center and the right side of the line are more of a concern.

If the 49ers can give Brock Purdy time to throw, he should have some success finding open receivers. And once the 49ers begin having some success in the passing game, it will loosen up the defense and open things up in the run game, as well.

2. Can the defense stop the Eagles' run game?

The Eagles run the ball as well as any team the 49ers have faced this season. With Jalen Hurts and the Eagles RPO attack (run-pass option), it can be a challenge slowing down the Philadelphia run game.

When Hurts isn't taking off and running himself, he's handing it to D'Andre Swift. The two have already combined for 1,180 yards rushing this season. Swift is averaging 4.8 yards per carry on the season.

Stopping this rushing attack is critical for the 49ers to escape Philadelphia with a win on Sunday. Other than protecting Purdy, this is the biggest question the 49ers will have to answer on Sunday.

3. Can the 49ers dominate the time of possession?

The Eagles defense has been on the field for a lot of plays in recent weeks. This past Sunday, the Eagles defense logged over 90 snaps. The week before that, the defense was on the field for over 70 snaps. That's a lot of snaps in two weeks, against two tough opponents.

If the Philadelphia defense comes into this game a little tired from all the snaps they've played the last two weeks, will the 49ers be able to take advantage of it? If San Francisco can move the ball effectively, and dominate the time of possession, they should be able to wear down the Eagles' defense.

The Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs were unable to wear them down. They didn't take advantage of the time of possession and ultimately ended up losing to the Eagles. The 49ers have a chance to change that.

4. Can the 49ers protect the ball in the rain?

Earlier in the season, the 49ers played the Cleveland Browns in the rain. It was Purdy's worst game. He had multiple issues with holding onto and throwing the ball.

With rain possible in Philadelphia on Sunday, the 49ers may have to play another game in the rain. The Eagles played in the rain last Sunday and pulled out the win. Can the 49ers play better in the rain than they did in Cleveland?

And can they protect the ball in a potentially wet game? Turnovers very well could be the deciding factor.

5. Can the offense take advantage of the Eagles linebackers and secondary?

The Eagles' linebackers and secondary can be beaten in the passing game. In the game against the Bills, the Eagles' secondary continued to allow open receivers. And no one schemes receivers open better than Kyle Shanahan.

With the Philadelphia linebackers not being very good in coverage. The Eagles defense is one of the worst in the NFL at covering the tight ends, so it could be a big day for George Kittle, as well as Christian McCaffrey out of the backfield.

And with the secondary being susceptible to getting beat, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel could also have big games. But it starts with giving Purdy time to throw.

How these five questions are answered will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game. The Eagles will be a very difficult out, especially considering their propensity for come-from-behind victories. But the 49ers have what it takes to go into Philadelphia and knock off the defending NFC Champions.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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