PHILADELPHIA — Nick Sirianni rocked a Meek Mill “Dream Chasers” chain in the midst of a raucous locker room celebration. Jalen Hurts sported a silver chain that read “Breed of One.”
The Eagles have a penchant for dangling their mottos on sparkling jewelry. There’s one more piece of bling they’re chasing: a Super Bowl ring.
The Eagles could have put NFC championship game tickets on sale at halftime of their blowout win over the Giants. The game seemed to be in hand on the first drive when Hurts put concerns about his banged-up right shoulder to rest and led a touchdown drive. The Linc was rocking. The Giants were reeling. Hurts and the Eagles looked every bit the Super Bowl contender they were when they raced to a 13-1 start. The outcome was a formality.
The 49ers, the only NFC team that has never played a postseason game in Philadelphia, are the next Super Bowl roadblock.
San Francisco has rallied behind rookie quarterback Brock Purdy and won 12 straight games, hardly playing like a team that would be intimidated by the hostile Philly crowd. Or one that wouldn’t feel confident it could slow Hurts and a running game that finished with 268 yards against the Giants. Philadelphia’s offensive line opened big holes for Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell.
Gainwell finished with 112 yards on 12 carries, including a late 35-yard touchdown. Sanders carried 17 times for 90 yards, but center Jason Kelce said he suffered a quad injury against the Giants.
The NFC title game pits the No. 1 vs. No. 2 seeds in the conference. The 49ers are playing in their third NFC title game in the past four seasons; the Eagles are playing in their first since 2018, when the beat the Vikings 38-7 and ultimately beat New England in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“Our focus is, hey, we’re climbing this mountain,” Sirianni said. “We’re close to the top. Don’t look at the top yet, though.”
The Eagles can see the peak — and it’s in Glendale, Arizona.
Hurts proved he wouldn’t be limited by whatever still aches in the right shoulder he sprained late in the season when he delivered another fantastic all-around effort. He lofted a deep pass on the second play of the game and completed his first seven pass attempts. The Eagles called running plays for their fleet-footed QB and he never seemed rattled by any hard licks, especially when the shoulder was drilled on one hard sack. The Eagles improved to a whopping 15-1 in Hurts’ starts this season.
But they have been heavy favorites in most games this season, and are just 2½-point favorites at home against the 49ers, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. That should say something about the stiffest challenge the Eagles will face in weeks.
There’s no question that the Eagles will go as far as their Pro Bowl QB will take them. He’ll have to be nimble against the 49ers. Rush end Nick Bosa led the NFL with 18½ sacks, safety Tashaun Gipson had five interceptions and safety Talanoa Hufanga four. Hurts threw two interceptions only once this season, in a win against the Bears, but hasn’t really faced a defense as stout and hungry as the 49ers this season.
Hurts completed just 12 of 23 passes for 190 yards when the Eagles lost to San Francisco in their last meeting on Sept. 19, 2021. Hurts was still adjusting to his role as a starter and Jimmy Garoppolo started at QB for San Francisco, so it’s hard to draw much out of that matchup — although Bosa sacked Hurts twice.
All that matters now is what’s ahead.
“You work really hard for these opportunities. They’re not a dime a dozen,” Hurts said.
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