Jalen Hurts, Eagles soar into Super Bowl, rout 49ers for NFC title
Jalen Hurts can conduct a singalong about as well as he can orchestrate the kind of punishing scoring drives that sent the Eagles into the Super Bowl.
At the end of one more triumph, Hurts stood on the stage on the field — as his Eagles teammates passed around the NFC championship trophy — and clutched a microphone in front of what was suddenly Philadelphia's largest karaoke joint. His rendition of the team fight song was a tad off-key.
Hurts may not sing as well as he can score, but it was another memorable moment in a season full of them. And the Eagles don't believe they're done yet.
“We’ve got new moments,” Hurts said. “New moments and new times.”
Hurts had one of Philadelphia's four rushing touchdowns and the Eagles soared into the Super Bowl, forcing both of San Francisco's quarterbacks out of the game with injuries and beating the wounded 49ers 31-7 in the NFC championship game on Sunday.
The Eagles, who won the Super Bowl five years ago with a different coach and quarterback, will try to do it again behind the formidable duo of Hurts and coach Nick Sirianni. Philadelphia will play former Eagles coach Andy Reid's Kansas City Chiefs.
“We get to do it because we did it better than anyone in the NFC this year,” Sirianni said.
Hurts had a modest game by his standards after a season in which he was a finalist for MVP. He was 15-of-25 passing for 121 yards and ran for 39, improving to 16-1 as a starter this season. The Eagles (16-3) lost two games that he missed with a sprained right shoulder.
Hurts sat alone at his locker dressed all in purple and he took a few puffs of a cigar as the Eagles celebrated around him. He understood there was one more game to win.
“I never knew how far we’d go,” Hurts said, “but I never said it couldn’t be done.”
Miles Sanders ran for two touchdowns and linebacker Haason Reddick made the hit that forced 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy out of the game with an elbow injury. Reddick also recovered a fumble by Purdy's replacement, Josh Johnson, who later suffered a concussion.
That forced Purdy back into the game, but his injury was clearly a factor as the 49ers all but gave up on the passing game, even while trailing by multiple scores. Purdy said he was unable to throw the ball more than 10 yards after his elbow got hurt.
San Francisco's bad luck at quarterback was finally too much to overcome as its 12-game win streak ended. The Niners (15-5) lost both Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo to season-ending injuries, and Purdy — the final pick in April's draft — lost as a starter for the first time.
Philadelphia police greased traffic and light poles in what proved again to be a futile attempt to slow the postgame revelry. The city now has its beloved Birds in the Super Bowl just three months after the Philadelphia Phillies reached the World Series.
“When you guys go into our indoor (practice facility), there’s always that picture in the back part of it of the 2017 NFC championship game, and it’s just the electricity of the stadium,” said Sirianni, who was hired two years ago to replace the Eagles' Super Bowl-winning coach, Doug Pederson. “We’re looking forward to getting another picture up there of this special moment that we had."
The game disintegrated in the waning minutes and Philadelphia’s K’Von Wallace and San Francisco’s Trent Williams were ejected for their roles in a brawl. Williams yanked Wallace from behind and slammed him to the ground.
The moment only seemed to rile up Eagles fans even more as they soon waved their green towels and went wild as confetti fluttered around them.
“We’ve got one more game for the rest of our lives,” Sanders said.
The Eagles broke the game open in the final two minutes of the first half, getting a rise out of a crowd that had been quiet with nervous energy since a touchdown on the opening drive.
Sanders broke free for a 13-yard run for a 14-7 lead, concluding a 14-play, 75-yard drive extended by three 49ers penalties.
Johnson bobbled a shotgun snap and fumbled on the next drive, and Reddick — the free-agent pickup from Carolina having one of the great defensive seasons in franchise history — recovered at the San Francisco 30. Boston Scott scooted 10 yards for a touchdown and 21-7 lead.
Even with Hurts almost a non-factor — he had 97 yards passing in the first half — the Eagles were firmly in control. His 1-yard rushing touchdown on Philadelphia's signature rugby-style QB sneak made it 28-7 late in the third quarter.
“We've got a chance to go out there and win it all,” Hurts said. “So we want to go prepare to go do that.”
The Eagles used quick thinking as they scored on their opening drive for the second straight playoff game. DeVonta Smith made a sensational one-handed grab for 29 yards, but replays showed he appeared to lose control of the ball as he hit the ground. Smith popped up and frantically waved the Eagles to the line. Niners coach Kyle Shanahan did not challenge the call and the Eagles got off the next play. Sanders scored on a 6-yard run.
“Smart players do smart things," Sirianni said. "He did a smart thing right there. I’m going to say he caught it, though.”
Purdy left the game with an elbow injury after he was drilled in the arm by Reddick on San Francisco’s first drive. The play was initially ruled an incomplete pass, but replays confirmed it was a fumble.
“I knew that was a sack-fumble because I got my hand on the ball,” Reddick said.
He also got his hand on Purdy's arm, changing the course of the game. The 23-year-old Purdy’s improbable rise from “Mr. Irrelevant” to playoff starter ended with a whimper as he failed to become the first rookie QB to lead a team to the Super Bowl.
He was improbably needed again in the third quarter after Johnson, a journeyman backup signed in December, was also injured.
“I hurt for these guys,” Shanahan said. “We felt really good about this game. It was tough circumstances.”
With little hope they could get anything going behind Johnson, the 49ers turned to Christian McCaffrey, a midseason acquisition who led the team with 13 TDs in the regular season and playoffs, to get on the board. He broke three tackles on a 23-yard touchdown run that made it 7-7 in the second quarter.
That turned out to be the only moment of hope for Shanahan's Niners, who managed 164 yards of offence and 11 first downs.
“You’re never out of the fight,” McCaffrey said. “We believed it and it just didn’t turn out our way. We got beat and wish we had another shot at it with everybody.”
IN THE HOUSE
First lady Jill Biden, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, actor Bradley Cooper, comedian Kevin Hart, Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout and several 76ers, including Joel Embiid, attended the game.
The Eagles will play in the fourth Super Bowl in franchise history when they face the Chiefs on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will be making their third Super Bowl appearance in four seasons; they won it all three years ago.