PHILADELPHIA -- Behind a stifling defensive performance, the Philadelphia Eagles punched their ticket to Super Bowl LVII after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 31-7 in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.
Quarterback and penalty woes marred San Francisco throughout the game. The Niners were forced to largely rely on the ground game, with running back Christian McCaffrey accounting for their touchdown. All four of the Eagles' touchdowns were rushing TDs -- including two by running back Miles Sanders.
It is the Eagles' fourth trip to the Super Bowl in their history -- their most recent coming in the 2017 season when they won their first Lombardi Trophy. That year, they weren't favored in any of their playoff games and played the underdog card so hard that players donned dog masks in the wake of each victory. This team, in contrast, has been the class of the conference from start to finish, fully comfortable in the alpha role.
The Eagles leaned into their strengths against the 49ers. The team that had 32 rushing touchdowns in the regular season -- third most in NFL history -- scored on the ground four times against San Francisco. And a defensive unit that paced the league with 70 sacks had three and seven QB hits despite limited dropbacks because of the injuries to 49ers quarterbacks Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson.
They roll into Glendale, Arizona, knowing they're at least as good as any team in the league.
Pivotal play: Coach Nick Sirianni's decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from Philly's own 34-yard line midway through the second quarter. Philadelphia has been aggressive on fourth down all season, but to go for it against this 49ers defense in its own territory took some guts. Jalen Hurts picked up the first down on a QB sneak, and the Eagles went on to complete a 14-play, 75-yard drive, with a Sanders touchdown -- his second of the day -- putting Philly up 14-7.
QB breakdown: It was tough sledding against one of the best defenses in the league. Hurts finished the first half with minus-1 rushing yards, which marked the lowest first-half total of his career as a starting QB. He ended up 15-of-25 for 121 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions through the air but got things going on the ground in the second half, including a 1-yard score late in the third quarter to ice the game.
Describe the game in two words: Punishing defense. Edge rusher Haason Reddick led the way. In the first half alone, when this game was won, Reddick had two sacks, three pressures, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Purdy suffered an elbow injury and Johnson left the game with a concussion, forcing Purdy back in and McCaffrey to handle some quarterback snaps.
Underrated stat to know: Entering this year, the Eagles had rushed for three or more touchdowns in a playoff game only once in their history. They've done it twice this year, rushing for four touchdowns Sunday (three in the first half) after running for three scores last week in their divisional round victory over the Giants. -- Tim McManus