The 2021 Eagles are a mosaic of youthful potential and veteran presence.  The problem on Sunday was the coaching staff led by Nick Sirianni is also in the “youthful potential” category.

This was a winnable game based on the defensive side of the Eagles putting up a solid effort despite the season-ending injury (Achilles tendon) suffered by their top veteran defensive end Brandon Graham.

They say an unproven mixture of youthful potential and veteran presence has to “learn how to win” these kinds of games.  What makes it even more difficult is when your new head coach calls the plays on key downs and they turn into duds. He’s got to learn how to win, too.

Sirianni left a ton of offensive meat on the bone in this tough loss. His play-calling was not taking advantage of a first quarter in which they outgained the 49ers 114-15 in total yards — yet only led 3-0. Philadelphia ran 27 plays for 196 yards, but only netted three points. The defense then allowed two long drives of 97 and 85 yards that gave the 49ers a 14-3 lead from which the Birds couldn’t recover.

A special teams block and turnover on downs deep in 49ers territory led to San Francisco taking over the game. The Eagles offense struggled losing Brandon Brooks on the offensive line (chest) and their pass rush took a hit when Brandon Graham injured his Achilles and was done for the game (and possibly the year). Just too much to overcome against a very good 49ers team…

According to Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports and also the majority of us who were watching, the turning point was when the 49ers stopped the Eagles on a fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line, a play on which Nick Sirianni tried to recreate the “Philly Special.” Hurts took the ball and handed it off to DeVonta Smith, who reversed the ball back to Greg Ward — and Ward attempted to throw it downfield to Hurts. San Francisco sniffed out the play and Ward tried to complete the throw to Hurts, but the pass wasn’t even close.

San Francisco followed with a 12-play, 97-yard drive to close the half, capped by Garoppolo’s 11-yard touchdown to Jennings to give the 49ers the lead for good. If the Eagles score on that fourth-down play, they are up 10-0 and the game may have had a different outcome. Dumb call by Sirianni, who appeared to be catering to the hometown crowd instead of sending in the smarter play of turning Hurts loose on a QB roll option.

Garoppolo’s ensuing 40-yard pass to Deebo Samuel set the stage for the 49ers to take the lead one play later. On Garoppolo’s best throw of the day, the 49ers quarterback threaded the needle between two Eagles defenders and found Samuel down the seam for a 40-yard completion — the longest pass play of the day for San Francisco.

That pass put the 49ers in field goal range — and set up Garoppolo to find Jennings on the next play for the score with 12 seconds remaining in the first half. Garoppolo was 7-for-7 for 77 yards on that touchdown drive, which is what the 49ers needed to take control of the game.

The quote

“I don’t think I called good plays in that area (the red zone). My fault.” — Sirianni after the loss to the 49ers.

Sirianni owned up to the series of plays in the red zone in the second quarter where the Eagles got no points. The Eagles had the ball at the 49ers’ 1-yard line with a 3-0 lead, and the Eagles plays went like this:

  • 1st-and-goal: Incomplete pass to Zach Ertz
  • 2nd-and-goal: Miles Sanders 3-yard loss
  • 3rd-and-goal: Hurts outside run for 1 yard
  • 4th-and-goal: “Philly Special” incomplete pass from Ward intended for Hurts

Once they have the lead, the 49ers just gas teams with their zone run. The better football team was winning.

A dominant first half by the Philadelphia Eagles led to a halftime deficit, as Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers offense managed to weather the storm and control the second half in a 17-11 victory at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. Garoppolo was efficient in the victory, finishing 22 of 30 for 189 yards and a touchdown — finding momentum late in the first half to spark San Francisco to the win.

Garoppolo led the 49ers on a 12-play, 97-yard drive late in the first half to give San Francisco a surprising 7-3 halftime lead, capped by an 11-yard pass to Jauan Jennings just 12 seconds before halftime. Philadelphia had 203 total yards to San Francisco’s 64 before the backbreaking drive that gave San Francisco the lead for good.

Garoppolo also rushed for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, which capped a 16-play, 85-yard drive that took 8:59 off the clock and gave San Francisco a 14-3 lead. The touchdown ended up being the deciding score in a game that was controlled by Philadelphia for the first 26 minutes.

Nick Bosa had two sacks and San Francisco’s stingy defense went on to shut down Jalen Hurts a week after Philadelphia dominated Atlanta in a 32-6 win.

Hurts finished 12 of 23 for 190 yards and led the Eagles with 10 carries for 82 yards and rushed for a score — the lone touchdown for the Eagles that came with 4:02 to play.

A sellout crowd greeted the Eagles for the first time since a playoff loss to Seattle on Jan. 5, 2020. With COVID-19 restrictions lifted, fans were tailgating six hours before kickoff. One guy brought a 49ers helmet and walked it around a parking lot on a dog leash. White “Go Birds” T-shirts were placed on every seat inside the Linc, though it was a sea of green once the stadium filled up.

They had little to cheer after the defense held the 49ers to three straight three-and-out possessions to start the game.

“We had a lot of opportunities we didn’t capitalize on,” Hurts said. “We have to be consistent in our execution. I have to be consistent in my execution as field general. A lot to learn.”


49ers: RB Trey Sermon (head), RB JaMycal Hasty (ankle) and FB Kyle Juszczyk (lower body) left in the fourth quarter. … DL Kevin Givens (ankle) exited in the first but returned.

Eagles: Pro Bowl DE Brandon Graham (Achilles) was carted off the field in the second quarter. Graham had missed only one game since 2011. He said on Twitter that he’ll miss the rest of the season. … Three-time Pro Bowl RG Brandon Brooks (chest) also left in the second quarter. … LB Davion Taylor (calf) left in the third quarter.

Up next:

The 49ers (2-0) play their first home game of the year at Levi’s Stadium against the Green Bay Packers on “Sunday Night Football”. The Eagles (1-1) have an NFC East showdown against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on “Monday Night Football”.


1st Downs 23 18 Passing 1st downs 9 7 Rushing 1st downs 10 8 1st downs from penalties 4 3 3rd down efficiency 6-14 5-12 4th down efficiency 1-1 0-1 Total Plays 68 55 Total Yards 306 328 Total Drives 9 9 Yards per Play 4.5 6.0 Passing 189 177 Comp-Att 22-30 12-24 Yards per pass 6.3 6.8 Interceptions thrown 0 0 Sacks-Yards Lost 0-0 2-13 Rushing 117 151 Rushing Attempts 38 29 Yards per rush 3.1 5.2 Red Zone (Made-Att) 2-2 1-2 Penalties 5-60 8-57 Turnovers 0 0 Fumbles lost 0 0 Interceptions thrown 0 0 Defensive / Special Teams TDs 0 0 Possession 34:54 25:06

Game Leaders

Passing Yards

SF J. Garoppolo22-30, 189 YDS, 1 TD

PHI J. Hurts12-23, 190 YDS

Rushing Yards

SF E. Mitchell17 CAR, 42 YDS

PHI J. Hurts10 CAR, 82 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving Yards

SF D. Samuel6 REC, 93 YDS

PHI Q. Watkins2 REC, 117 YDS Full Box Score

This article first appeared on The Sports Daily and was syndicated with permission.

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