Sputtering Eagles search for first win in visit to 49ers
Two teams take their issues to the national stage on Sunday night when the Philadelphia Eagles visit the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif.
A matchup of injury-plagued recent Super Bowl participants pits an Eagles offense that has targeted eight different wide receivers/tight ends in three weeks against a 49ers club that has used two quarterbacks in constructing a two-game winning streak.
The home team has won each of the last two meetings between the foes, with the 49ers (2-1) taking the only previous clash at Levi’s Stadium with a 26-21 victory in 2014. Philadelphia evened the score with a 33-10 win at home three years later.
The Eagles (0-2-1) hope to have DeSean Jackson (hamstring) and fellow wideout Alshon Jeffery (foot) back from injuries to face a 49ers defense that has allowed just one touchdown in the last two weeks.
Even with the injuries to the receiving corps, the focal point for the Eagles’ offensive woes so far has been quarterback Carson Wentz. He has thrown twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdown passes (three).
An offensive line that allowed Wentz to be sacked 11 times surely has contributed to his slow start, and don’t forget about a patchwork collection of pass-catchers that last week prominently featured a former college quarterback, Greg Ward.
“Some of the guys he’s used to throwing to might not be available, so it becomes a little harder,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “That’s where confidence comes in. And then when you execute and execute well, you begin to eliminate the turnovers and the mistakes that have been plaguing us in the first three games.”
Thanks mostly to the six interceptions that are tied with Kirk Cousins for the most in the NFL, Wentz ranks dead-last in the league in quarterback rating (63.9).
Interestingly, three of Wentz’s primary targets this week will all be celebrating San Francisco Bay Area homecomings. Star tight end Zach Ertz will be playing about 15 miles east of his collegiate home at Stanford, while Jackson and new backup tight end Richard Rodgers are University of California products.
The 49ers open a three-game homestand with a much different look than they displayed in a season-opening 24-20 loss to Arizona.
Tight end George Kittle (knee) and cornerback Richard Sherman (calf) sustained injuries in that win and haven’t returned to action. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle), running backs Raheem Mostert (knee) and Tevin Coleman (knee), defensive end Nick Bosa (leg) and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (knee) all got hurt during the 49ers’ two-week road sweep of the New York teams.
Nick Mullens led last week’s 36-9 thumping of the New York Giants with 343 passing yards, with running backs Jerick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson Jr. combining for three touchdowns and wideout Brandon Aiyuk recorded his first pro score.
All were on standby again this week as 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan sorted through injuries at practice. Shanahan had an optimistic outlook on Kittle while keeping a keen eye on Garoppolo.
“Anytime you’re dealing with an ankle, you might feel all right when you’re standing there,” Shanahan said of Garoppolo, “but can you move around and get into the awkward positions without hurting yourself? That’s really what we’d have to see.”
–Field Level Media