I’m talking to you all. My friends. People of the Jock Blog.
I owe this to you.
You give me 2 minutes worth of your eyeballs once a week. The takes and writing are mediocre at best, and yet you still click and scroll. Bless your hearts.
So, I come to you out of friendship, loyalty and deep trust.
When this week opened, I took a long look in the mirror, looked at a lot of gray hair and said: You gotta be honest with the Jock Blog. You gotta keep it on the level.
The Eagles will beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship.
Now, now. Stay patient. Keep reading.
My thought was, it’s all too much. The bruising, taxing game against the Cowboys draining the Niner battery. The trip to Philadelphia. The hostile and abusive fan base. Oh, and that Eagles team. Jalen Hurts, possible MVP. Speedy wideouts, streaking deep against Niners corners. A monster offensive line, rushing for 268 yards last week. The violent defensive line, racking up 15 more sacks than the nearest team.
I told myself: It’s all too much. A great run ends in Philadelphia. It’s their year. No shame.
And then . . .
The days passed.
We talked to many voices.
We listened to the 49ers and the Eagles.
We read the stats and the rankings.
We checked the 2019 Iowa State-Oklahoma tape.
And things began to build.
Thoughts began to bubble.
History began to come to the forefront .
And the words of the great Dutch soccer legend — that’s right, Dutch football, y’all — Johann Cruyff came to mind:
“Every disadvantage has its advantage.”
And now I say to you all, keeping it completely real and level with the JBM (Jock Blog Mob):
The 49ers can win this game.
It’s not all too much.
And I’m ready for it.
I turn to history: The 49ers, with a wounded Jimmy Garoppolo at QB, won road games at Dallas and Green Bay last year. Further back, Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick won the 2012 NFC Championship at Atlanta, after a road win at Green Bay. Even further back, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott and a sleeveless Tom Rathman won the 1988 NFC Championship at sub-freezing Soldier Field.
Road teams can and do win conference championships. The 2018 Rams at New Orleans. The 2010 Packers at Chicago. The 2007 Giants at Lambeau. The 2018 Patriots at Arrowead. The 2012 Ravens at Foxboro. The 2005 Steelers at Denver. The 2002 Bucs at …. Philadelphia.
The disadvantage of playing on the road, is balanced by the mental advantage of total freedom of pressure.
I turn to coaching: Kyle Shanahan and DeMeco Ryans have proven to be the best duo in the NFL this year. The 49ers have won 12 in a row. Where Shanahan sees a monster pass rush, he might see a chance to counter with his run game. Where Ryans sees a mobile QB, he might see a chance to highlight his brilliant linebackers.
The disadvantage of all that Eagle talent can be countered by the advantage of brilliant coaches seeing holes.
I turn to the mental game: The 49ers are underdogs. Most every expert is taking the Eagles. The Eagles are coming off a 38-7 romp, whereas the 49ers had to tax their bodies in a win over Dallas.
The disadvantage of everything pointing the Eagles way, is the advantage of the 49ers playing possum, pulling a sneak attack, punching the Eagles in the metaphorical face early, and stunning the narrative.
Or, as Bill Romanowski told us this week, Shanahan will use any and all press clippings, quotes and sound bytes that emphasize the Eagle advantage, and burn them into the 49ers’ motivational wall. “He’ll give them nuggets,” Romanowski said, leaning on the word “nuggets” so much that it has already become a staple on the show.
Most of all, the 49ers team is really, really, really, really good. Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Kyle Jusczcyk, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle give those multiple looks that present so many problems. Brock Purdy, the calmest cat in the huddle, only needs to deliver the mail over the middle of the field — after setting it all up with the Shanahan/Bobby Turner run game.
Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw are speedy traffic cops in the middle. The Niners defensive line is deep and ready to force a strip sack or two. Yes, the corners covering vertical routes is an issue. But you have to be able to take a punch or two in a game like this.
I sense the Eagles — and the city of Philadelphia — are feeling a coronation. I sense they feel their turbulence-free season will continue, and have not planned for any counter punches.
I sense the Eagles and the city of Philadelphia feel they have all the advantages.
Just the way the 49ers like it.
Enter Robbie Gould four times.
49ers 26, Eagles 24.
See you Sunday, sports fans.