Jan 29, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (26) scores a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl-bound Eagles crush QB-challenged 49ers

Miles Sanders rushed for two touchdowns, Haason Reddick delivered a huge performance and the Philadelphia Eagles are headed to the Super Bowl after posting a 31-7 victory over the visiting San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

Jalen Hurts passed for 121 yards and rushed for a touchdown as the top-seeded Eagles advanced to their first Super Bowl in five years and fourth overall. Boston Scott tacked on a rushing score while Reddick had two sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Second-seeded San Francisco was left without firepower after rookie quarterback Brock Purdy injured his right elbow in the first quarter after a blow from Reddick. He later re-entered the game in the third quarter after backup Josh Johnson sustained a concussion.

Purdy was 4-of-4 passing for 23 yards but threw just two short passes after returning despite the 49ers facing a large deficit. Johnson completed 7 of 13 passes for 74 yards and Christian McCaffrey rushed for 84 yards and one score.

Philadelphia outgained San Francisco 269 to 164. The Eagles will face either the Cincinnati Bengals or the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Ariz.

The Eagles drove 66 yards on 11 plays on their first drive with Sanders ending it with a 6-yard scoring run.

On the sixth play after San Francisco took over, Reddick slammed into Purdy’s right arm. The ball slipped out of Purdy’s hand and was knocked up field by his wrist before being recovered by Philadelphia’s Linval Joseph at the Eagles’ 44-yard line.

Johnson took over on San Francisco’s next possession when Purdy determined he couldn’t throw the ball.

The 49ers tied the game in the second quarter when McCaffrey powered his way to a 23-yard touchdown run.

The Eagles regained the lead when Sanders rumbled through a big hole on a 13-yard run with 1:36 left.

On San Francisco’s next possession, Johnson took his eyes off a shotgun snap and dropped the ball, and Reddick recovered at the 49ers’ 30. Three plays later, Scott scored on a 10-yard run to give Philadelphia a 21-7 advantage 16 seconds before halftime.

Early in the third quarter, Johnson threw an incomplete pass and hit his head on the turf after a hit from Philadelphia’s Ndamukong Suh. He exited the game. Purdy finished the drive with a handoff and then returned for San Francisco’s next offensive drive.

The 49ers went three-and-out and punted the ball back to the Eagles. Philadelphia received help from a 15-yard roughing the kicker penalty while driving 91 yards on 15 plays, with Hurts scoring on a 1-yard keeper to make it 28-7 with 43 seconds left in the period.

Jake Elliott added a 31-yard field goal with 5:17 left in the game.

–Field Level Media

Jan 22, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) runs past Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (55) during the third quarter of a NFC divisional round game at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers RB Christian McCaffrey insists he’ll play vs. Eagles

Christian McCaffrey has been a talented yet brittle performer during his NFL career.

But the San Francisco 49ers running back made it clear Thursday that he will play in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the host Philadelphia Eagles.

McCaffrey missed his second straight day of practice due to a right calf injury but had a one-word answer when asked the chances of him missing the game against the top-seeded Eagles.

“Zero,” McCaffrey said.

McCaffrey is focusing on the mental part of the game and studying the possible plays. He also is taking part in walk-through portions of practice.

“It’s the same process for me, just lowering a little bit of the physical load,” McCaffrey said.

McCaffrey has been a solid contributor for the second-seeded 49ers since being acquired from the Carolina Panthers in mid-October.

He rushed for 746 yards and six touchdowns in 11 regular-season games for the team and also caught 52 passes for 464 yards and four scores. He has scored at least one touchdown in the past eight games, the top such streak of his six-year career.

San Francisco has won all 12 games McCaffrey has started, including playoff victories over the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys.

He ripped off 119 yards on 15 carries and had a touchdown reception against the Seahawks in the NFC wild-card round but was limited to 35 rushing yards and one score on 10 carries in last Sunday’s divisional round over the Cowboys.

Adding to the anxiety over the running game is that No. 2 back Elijah Mitchell (groin) also missed his second straight practice on Thursday.

Coach Kyle Shanahan expects Mitchell to be available against the Eagles.

The San Francisco running game will surely be counted on Sunday to help take pressure off rookie quarterback Brock Purdy, who has won all seven of his NFL starts.

The 49ers will want to slow a potent Eagles’ pass rush that is enjoying a historic campaign.

Counting the postseason, the Eagles have racked up 75 sacks, third-most in NFL history. The only two higher outputs came from the mid-1980s Chicago Bears, who had a record 82 in 1984 and 80 in 1985.

Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick (16 sacks), defensive ends Brandon Graham (11) and Josh Sweat (11) and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (11) all established career highs for sacks. The defense also includes tackle Fletcher Cox (seven sacks) and safety C.J. Johnson-Gardner, who tied for the league lead with six interceptions.

“They fly to the ball well. They have a good pass rush,” McCaffrey said. “For us, it’s about executing the play call, though.

“Kyle knows all that stuff, and he knows exactly where he wants to go with the ball. It’s just up to us to be able to do it at full speed and play beyond the X’s and O’s.”

While the Eagles ranked second in total defense (301.5 yards per game) during the regular season, San Francisco was even better as it led the NFL in total defense (300.6 yards per game) and scoring defense (16.3 points per game).

Defensive end Nick Bosa (NFL-high 18.5 sacks) is a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year honors, while linebacker Fred Warner (130 tackles) topped 100 stops for the fifth straight season.

Warner is also known as one of the NFL’s better on-field talkers and that includes barbs directed toward his teammates.

“Fred is always going to talk because he’s a true leader,” Shanahan said. “Fred should be the guy who talks because of the way he carries himself every day. Everyone knows how good of a player he is but when it comes to what he does day-in, day-out since he’s been here … he’s ahead of everybody.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 3, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Trent Williams (71) blocks Seattle Seahawks defensive end Alton Robinson (98) during the first quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

49ers LT Trent Williams (ankle) preparing to face Rams

San Francisco 49ers star left tackle Trent Williams plans to play in Sunday’s NFC title game against the Los Angeles Rams despite not practicing all week due to an injured right ankle.

The 49ers listed Williams as questionable on Friday’s injury report but coach Kyle Shanahan is expecting to see the nine-time Pro Bowler on the field. He partly based that sentiment on the fact that Williams was nursing an elbow injury before a Week 18 contest against Los Angeles and still played in the game.

“I feel the same way that I did at the beginning the week,” Shanahan said of Williams’ availability. “He came out for walkthrough today. Trent’s adamant that he’s going. He was last time, too. I believe Trent when he says that he’s going to do everything he can to play. So, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t.

“But I was surprised last time. I was also surprised he was able to finish the game versus Green Bay. So hopefully, his mindset will be how his body reacts on Sunday and we know it’ll help us a lot. But if not, we’ll deal with it.”

Williams injured his ankle on multiple occasions during the victory over the host Packers in a contest played on a frigid field. He limped off the field after San Francisco’s last offensive play, immediately before Robbie Gould kicked the winning field goal.

The 49ers also listed running back Jeff Wilson Jr. (ankle) as questionable. He was a limited practice participant on Friday after missing workouts the previous two days.

Starting running back Elijah Mitchell (knee) was a full practice participant on Friday and is set to play.

The Rams are expecting to get safety Taylor Rapp (concussion) back after a two-game absence. He was injured in the regular-season finale against San Francisco and is listed as questionable for Sunday.

Receiver Van Jefferson (knee) is questionable while offensive tackle Joseph Noteboom (chest) is doubtful after not practicing at all this week.

Veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) is slated to play after missing last week’s victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Notebook played well in place of Whitworth in Sunday’s divisional-round victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Rams lost both regular-season meetings with San Francisco this season and have lost six consecutive times overall to their division rival. They are hoping for a different outcome this time behind quarterback Matthew Stafford, who never won a playoff game in 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions (0-3) before recording two so far this postseason.

“He believes in himself, he believes in the player that he is and the people that we have on this team,” Rams star receiver Cooper Kupp said of Stafford. “That mindset’s never really changed, and I think that’s a great quality to have as a quarterback.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA;  San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) sets to pass the ball in the first half of the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

49ers streak into NFC Championship Game vs. Rams

The San Francisco 49ers have won six straight games against the Los Angeles Rams and seek to maintain that mastery in the postseason when they travel to Inglewood, Calif., to face the fourth-seeded Rams in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

Sixth-seeded San Francisco recorded wins of 31-10 at home and 27-24 in overtime on the road in this season’s two regular-season meetings with the Rams. The latter meeting, in Week 18, saw the 49ers overcome a 17-0 deficit to clinch a playoff spot at SoFi Stadium.

The stakes are higher now with San Francisco in its fifth NFC title game in the past 11 seasons and Los Angeles in its second in the past four.

The Rams reached the title game despite blowing a 24-point lead against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round. Matthew Stafford’s crucial 44-yard pass to Cooper Kupp led to Matt Gay’s decisive 30-yard game-ending field goal in a 30-27 victory.

The 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers 13-10 in the divisional round Saturday without scoring an offensive touchdown, and Robbie Gould’s game-ending 45-yard field goal elevated San Francisco.

As for the Rams’ issues with the 49ers, Kupp said it will be a non-factor on Sunday.

“The Niners have done a great job against us the past few years,” Kupp said after Wednesday’s practice. “You learn from the past and you have to be ready to move forward. We don’t live in a world where we need past motivations.”

San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t see the streak giving his team an advantage.

“Every game’s different,” Garoppolo said. “So the feel of it, the flow of it, last time we played the Rams when we were down (and) it didn’t feel like we were in control of that one. So I think each one has its own flavor to it.”

Stafford is aiming to give the Rams a better showing after throwing two interceptions in each of the losses to the 49ers.

Stafford was picked off eight times over the Rams’ final four regular-season contests. He has turned that around in the postseason by not tossing any during wins over the Arizona Cardinals and Bucs.

Stafford engineered his 43rd career winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime of his 13-year career against Tampa Bay, but it was his first in the postseason. He went 0-3 in the playoffs with the Detroit Lions before being dealt to the Rams last offseason.

“It means a lot,” Stafford said of the game-winning drive that began with 42 seconds remaining. “That’s a lot of hard work for a lot of years going into a short amount of time. A lot of hard work this year, too, with some great teammates.

“That’s the thing I’ve loved, and I’ve really appreciated in being a part of this team is how many guys we have pulling the rope in the right direction, doing everything they can to be prepared for those moments.”

Kupp has put together a wide receiver season for the ages. He led the NFL in receptions (145), receiving yardage (1,947) and touchdown receptions (16) and has tacked on 14 catches for 244 yards and two scores in the playoffs.

But San Francisco star defensive end Nick Bosa and his mates shut down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last weekend after beating the Dallas Cowboys in the opening round of the playoffs.

The 49ers also have top-level confidence after recovering from a shaky 3-5 start, while observing the manner Garoppolo handled things when there were calls for him to be replaced by rookie Trey Lance.

“Jimmy G, you can’t say enough about that guy,” San Francisco tight end George Kittle said. “The (bleep) that he takes, excuse my language, consistently, people just try to pull him down, and all he does is try to deliver. He leads this team, he has a sense of calm in the huddle, he has a sense of calm in the storm, and he allows us to play football at a high level.”

Garoppolo is still dealing with a thumb injury on his throwing (right) hand, but 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said his QB’s previous shoulder injury is no longer an issue. Left tackle Trent Williams (ankle) and running back Elijah Mitchell (knee) were among the players who missed practice on Wednesday.

For Los Angeles, safety Taylor Rapp (concussion) and left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) were limited practice participants. Rapp has missed both postseason games and Whitworth sat out versus the Buccaneers, but both appear in line to play Sunday.

The teams have met in the NFC title game once before when the Joe Montana-led 49ers routed the Rams 30-3 in the 1989 conference championship game at San Francisco.

–Field Level Media

Jan 24, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws the ball during the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Buccaneers head to Super Bowl with NFC title win over Packers

Tom Brady passed for three touchdown passes and will be returning to the Super Bowl for the 10th time after helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeat the host Green Bay Packers 31-26 in the NFC Championship on Sunday afternoon.

Shaquil Barrett recorded three sacks and Jason Pierre-Paul added two as the Buccaneers built a 17-point lead en route to reaching the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history. Tampa Bay also reached the big game in the 2002 season and walloped the then-Oakland Raiders 48-21 for its only Super Bowl title.

The Buccaneers will become the first team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium with the game set for Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla.

Brady completed 20 of 36 passes for 280 yards and survived three second-half interceptions. Cameron Brate, Mike Evans and Scotty Miller caught touchdown passes, Leonard Fournette rushed for a score and Jordan Whitehead forced two fumbles before departing with a left shoulder injury.

Aaron Rodgers completed 33 of 48 passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns and one interception for the Packers. Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Robert Tonyan caught touchdown passes and Jaire Alexander had two interceptions.

Green Bay reached the Tampa Bay 8-yard line late in the game but questionably settled for Mason Crosby’s 26-yard field goal with 2:05 left to move within five points. The Buccaneers got the ball back and picked up three first downs while running out the clock.

Brady improved to 10-4 in conference championship games, while Rodgers dropped his fourth straight to fall to 1-4.

Green Bay experienced a devastating sequence over the final 34 seconds of the first half to trail 21-10 at the break.

The Packers were down four and facing second-and-18 from their own 32-yard line when Rodgers was intercepted by Sean Murphy-Bunting.

The turnover became costly when Miller sped past Green Bay’s Kevin King and Brady connected with him from 39 yards out with one second left to account for the 11-point halftime advantage.

More misfortune occurred on the Packers’ initial possession of the third quarter. Aaron Jones caught a short pass, but Whitehead dislodged the ball at the Green Bay 32 and teammate Devin White (15 tackles) recovered it at the 29 and ran 21 yards to the 8.

On the ensuing play, Brady tossed an 8-yard scoring pass to Brate to make it 28-10 just 66 seconds into the second half.

Rodgers threw an 8-yard scoring pass to Tonyan with 9:28 left to cut the Tampa Bay lead to 11. Adrian Amos then intercepted Brady and the Packers cashed in with Rodgers hitting Adams on a 2-yard scoring pass to pull within 28-23 with 24 seconds left in the stanza.

Alexander picked off Brady twice in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, but the Packers were forced to punt on both occasions.

Ryan Succop booted a 46-yard field goal to give Tampa Bay a 31-23 lead with 4:42 remaining.

The Buccaneers started strong by taking the opening kickoff 66 yards on nine plays with Brady tossing a 15-yard scoring pass to Evans. Green Bay tied the score in the opening minute of the second quarter when Rodgers threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Valdes-Scantling.

Tampa Bay moved ahead on Fournette’s 20-yard run with 12:24 left in the half. The Packers crept within 14-10 on Crosby’s 24-yard field goal with 4:59 left.

–Field Level Media