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NFL playoffs: 49ers try to avoid another near-miss against Eagles

Deebo Samuel and the San Francisco 49ers will try to get over a recent heartbreak in championship games when they travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles in Sunday’s NFC Finals. Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle via AP

PHILADELPHIA – Late game meltdowns remain in San Francisco.

Get the Super Bowl against Kansas City after the 2019 season. The 49ers became the third team in Super Bowl history to build a 10-point lead in the second half and lose to the Chiefs. Or last season’s NFC title game, when a 17-7 lead was unraveled due to a discarded interception, a conservative fourth-down call and a last-drive interception. Winner, Rams.

Another missed opportunity in a championship hard to forget.

“If you look back over the last year, we were a few games away from making it back to the Super Bowl,” said wide receiver Deebo Samuel. “What do we really need to get there? We just have to minimize the mistakes and everyone has to do their job.”

Near perfection.

That’s quite an exhilarating task for any team, let alone one heading to Philadelphia where the cold, an MVP finalist and the NFC’s top seed await. It’s getting crazy loud – or is it crazy and loud? – at Lincoln Financial Field.

The 49ers say they are ready. They have won 12 straight games, including seven straight since rookie Brock Purdy, a seventh-round draft pick, took over as quarterback after injuring Jimmy Garoppolo.

The second-ranked 49ers have been close to adding a sixth Super Bowl for years, and their appearance in Sunday’s NFC Championship game is their third in four seasons. The Eagles might not have been favorites last season, but a series of bold moves — most notably the acquisitions of wide receiver AJ Brown, linebacker Haason Reddick, cornerback James Bradberry and safety CJ Gardner-Johnson — have made them a team a Super Bowl—or -Bust prospect.

Do you want near perfection? The Eagles know some of that in the starts of Pro Bowl QB Jalen Hurts with a 14-1 regular season record and last week’s playoff win over the New York Giants. Hurts is playing through the lingering effects of a sprained right shoulder that cost him two games. He’s working overtime ahead of his biggest Test of the season against the 49ers’ No. 1 defense.

“It’s in his DNA to always be here and work at his craft,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “Whether it’s in the weight room, the gym, or the movie room, this guy is obsessed with getting better.”

Hurts had some doubts that he was the Real Deal franchise QB going to training camp. He pretty much erased any concerns after the opening week win over Detroit, and kept piling up big numbers and wins until he was an NFL MVP finalist.

All that’s stopping Hurts from a Super Bowl, the Eagles’ second in six seasons, is the draft’s final pick.

Perhaps it’s more than just Purdy’s game — he’s had a meteoric rise from “Mr. Irrelevant” to undefeated rookie QB in the NFC title game this season — that’s helping the 49ers. He has no memory of the Super Bowl collapse. He played no role in the debacle against the Rams.

Purdy just knows how to win.

“He has a natural ability to play the position and that’s why it’s fun to coach him because when he makes mistakes and does things, he can see it, he knows why, we can see it and we can all understand it ‘ 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said.

He’s giving them a chance, a reason odds makers list the 49ers as just 2 1/2 point underdogs according to FanDuel Sportsbook.


Purdy didn’t have much experience playing in a hostile environment during his short NFL career with only two road starts. The first in the notoriously noisy Seattle should have provided a good test of what Purdy will face in Philadelphia on Sunday. Purdy gained experience this week with the silent count, which Shanahan said at the time would be beneficial going forward.

“He said it was good preparation for what we have to play in terms of the playoffs, the road for road games and of course Philadelphia,” Purdy said. “This type of game is all about communication. How do you work smoothly, getting in and out of the scrum, getting the game going right, and making sure everyone is on the same page? So that’s definitely a big focus this week.”


The 49ers’ aggressive defense didn’t stand many chances against mobile quarterbacks this season, with only six teams facing fewer running attempts from QBs than the 50 did against San Francisco. That’s set to change against Hurts and the Eagles, who use designed quarterback runs and scrambles as a big part of their offense. Hurts rushed for 760 yards and 13 TDs this season.

“Any time you face a quarterback that has that kind of skill, you just have to be at your duties a full 60 minutes, which is a lot easier said than done,” All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner said. “There are times in a game where you might be part of a long drive, the guys get tired and suddenly the first thing that goes is your wits and you forget where you have to fit in a certain piece. It’s about being detailed and getting everyone swarming to the ball when they do (run).


The Niners have had great success, ending the first half on a high note since Purdy took over. In the eight games since moving in, San Francisco has had four TDs and two field goals in the last 2 minutes of the first half for a league-best 34 points. The Eagles have conceded just three points in the last 2 minutes of the first half in their last eight games.

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