As evenly matched as the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles are, Coaching decisions will play a huge role in NFC Championship
Kyle Shanahan has to use his playoff experience to outwit his adversary Nick Sirianni in tomorrow’s NFC Championship game.
A tale of the tape between the coaches would start with playoff records. Shanahan has a clear advantage with a 6-2 record compared to Sirianni’s 1-1. That is a huge factor Shanahan needs to exploit in those critical moments that are bound to occur tomorrow afternoon.
While Sirianni led his Eagles to a better regular season record, the playoffs tend to be a different animal. Timeouts, challenges, and 4th down decisions matter in deciding a playoff game. Shanahan has been there before, Sirianni has not.
There were plenty of lessons the Niners can take from Saturday’s victory.
Against the Dallas Cowboys, Shanahan went up against a familiar face in defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Quinn had his number in the first half as the 49ers held a slim 9-6 lead. The 49ers couldn’t get the running game going and Brock Purdy had limited decision time in the pocket, thanks to a ferocious Cowboys pass rush. Turnovers ultimately were the deciding factor in the win for the Niners.
The 49ers need to make a statement and get back to their identity of a smash-mouth, tough-running team that won’t be swayed by an opposing defense. The multitude of runners and creative plays Shanahan has in his arsenal should keep the Eagles guessing where the ball is going.
In the regular season, Shanahan made it a priority to allow everyone an opportunity to feast. Sometimes, the hot hand needs to stay fed. The 49ers have too many talented offensive players not to succeed in the run game on Sunday.
Nick Sirianni had a masterful game plan against the inexperienced New York Giants, cruising to a 38-7 victory. Sirianni was facing another coaching finalist of the year, Brian Daboll, and Sirianni had his team better prepared.
The Eagles started fast, avoided mistakes, and applied pressure on quarterback Daniel Jones, making him uncomfortable throughout the game. The Giants couldn’t establish their running game either, falling behind too soon to make it a factor.
Both teams relied on their defense to win their divisional-round games.
Eagles will employ a similar strategy to pressure 49ers QB Brock Purdy
Sirianni and the Eagles will surely try and make Brock Purdy’s life miserable on Sunday, with their plethora of pass rushers and swarming defense. Shifting more players up front to stop the run and forcing Purdy to beat them with his arm will be their mission.
Purdy has proven, he can protect the football and throw the ball away when no one is open. He has not made that boneheaded “Garoppolo interception” we are accustomed to seeing over the last few years. Still, Shanahan needs to put the game in the hands of his rushers and not make this about Purdy.
Shanahan must alter the way his team starts this week, as opposed to last week. The running game didn’t take off until late in the third quarter, which will not be a winning formula against the Eagles. He is a difference-maker when he is locked in with his play-calling. There have been times when Shanahan takes his foot off the gas and coasts to the finish. I don’t believe he will have a chance to coast in this game.
Related story: 49ers must exploit this glaring Eagles weakness
Stars will be all over the field in both uniforms tomorrow. The 49ers and Eagles have a combined six first-team all-pros.
The players will line up to decide who earns the chance to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Kyle Shanahan and Nick Sirianni have been lauded with praise throughout the course of the year. The playoff coaching experience in that matchup will be key in the NFC Championship.