Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Well, that was an old-school football game.
The 49ers’ offense often looked disjointed, but that didn’t matter when the defense continued to shut down the Eagles in key situations. When San Francisco’s offense did come through, it was on draining, 85-plus-yard touchdown drives. When the dust settled, it was 17-11 win which sends the 49ers back home with a 2-0 record.
A grueler, won with clutch defense, exhausting offense, and sneaks
For about 27 of the 30 minutes in the first half, the 49ers’ offense was in a rut, to put it lightly. Jimmy Garoppolo was dreadful, missing the easy back screens and dump passes which he relies on, as well as overthrowing balls towards the boundary.
The Eagles’ defensive line was bullying the interior of the 49ers’ offensive line, with Daniel Brunskill consistently finding himself on the losing end of those battles.
But towards the end of the first half and into the second half, San Francisco won enough battles when it mattered most. The defensive line wasn’t exactly dominant, but it got home on a few key occasions, like when Nick Bosa picked up his second sack of the day and forced the Eagles to punt midway through the fourth quarter, down 14-3.
With Garoppolo looking less than reliable, Shanahan stuck to the ground game and dink-and-dunk passes which kept the clock rolling. It wore on the Eagles, and eventually it became a losing race for them against the clock.
A game of (roughly) four drives
This was effectively a game of three drives; the Eagles’ failure to score after their 91-yard pass, the 49ers’ subsequent touchdown, and the 49ers’ more than eight-minute, 92-yard touchdown drive stretching from the third quarter through the fourth.
Going into the final drive of the first half, the 49ers were being out-gained by a 204-64 margin. But the Eagles failed to convert, which was largely a product of Fred Warner, the safeties, and one outrageous play from Javon Kinlaw.
Kinlaw double-hand swatted the second of the Eagles’ two field goal attempts, and then the 49ers stonewalled the Eagles in the red zone following a 91-yard pass play — something they had to do so twice thanks to one of Josh Norman’s two defensive pass interference calls giving the Eagles another first down.
But impressive work from Fred Warner on a couple back-to-back plays and a touchdown-saving tackle from Jimmie Ward, forced the Eagles into fourth down. They tried to get tricky with it, trying to target Jalen Hurts as a receiver, but Hurts was picked up by K’Waun Williams, leaving the Eagles with just three first-half points.
That drive was followed by a 12-play, 97-yard touchdown drive to end the first half. It was defined by Garoppolo’s best throw of the game, which, despite a mostly poor performance, was monumental, and momentum shifting.
— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) September 19, 2021
The other defining drive was the one which took most of the air out of the stadium.
It was a 16 play, 85 yard touchdown drive which went from the end of the third, and more than four minutes into the fourth quarter, capped off by a Jimmy Garoppolo touchdown on a quarterback sneak.
If there’s anything that Garoppolo is elite at, it’s sneaking; he had four successful sneaks, including an earlier one on a fourth down. He iced the game with a third-and-one sneak with more than two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
It was that last drive, and last sneak, which converted those successful, exhausting touchdown drives into a result.
The Eagles had come back with a touchdown and a quarterback sneak of their own inside of five minutes and converted a two-point conversion, but they burned three timeouts on defense in doing so. It was apropos of the style of this game that it was decided by trench warfare and quarterback sneaks.
Other takeaways: RB worries, lack of Lance
- Trey Sermon’s first snap was disastrous. He was elbowed in the head, then tackled with head-to-head contact, then fell on his head and fumbled. He was down on the ground for a while before getting up and walking off the field. He only made that appearance after Elijah Mitchell sustained a shoulder injury before returning, and JaMycal Hasty sustained an ankle injury.
- Trey Lance didn’t take a single snap in this game, which was interesting considering how much of a ground war it was, and how his explosiveness as a runner could have potentially been used.