Coming off an impressive victory against the Giants, the San Francisco 49ers return home to host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night. The 49ers have won back to back games and are back in contention in the ultra-competitive NFC West. As a result, San Francisco is looking to take advantage of a struggling Eagles team and keep the pressure on the rest of the division. Today we take a look at the three keys to a San Francisco victory on Sunday night.
Make Philly One-Dimensional
The Eagles welcomed running back Miles Sanders to the starting lineup in week two. It is no coincidence then that since Sanders’ return, the Eagles ground game has picked up. Sanders is averaging 95 yards a game on the ground, boasting a five-yards per carry average. The 49ers have been middle-of-the-pack in stopping the run. However, the defense has been able to stiffen up in the red zone and force field goals instead of touchdowns. San Francisco will need to rely heavily on the interior of the defensive line. Rookie defensive tackle, Javon Kinlaw, has progressed nicely through three games. He has become a handful on the inside but will face a tough test in the veteran center, Jason Kelce. Philly will challenge San Francisco on the ground and hope to bully the 49ers defenders upfront.
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San Francisco will need to rely on their depth upfront. The 49ers are without Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, and Dee Ford along the defensive line. With a starting front likely consisting of Arik Armstead, D.J. Jones, Kinlaw, and Kerry Hyder, the 49ers remain a stout bunch. If the 49ers can replicate the type of push they generated against the Giants, the Eagles will find it difficult to get ahead of the chains. Expect the 49ers to pack the box on Sunday and dare the Eagles to throw the football. It could be another big game for linebacker Fred Warner as he’ll be tasked with shadowing Sanders all game.
Philadelphia’s pass rush has routinely been among the best over the last few seasons. The defense boasts Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Derek Barnett. Philly’s defense has 12 sacks on the year and is averaging one sack for every 10 dropbacks. San Francisco has struggled up the middle which could lead to a big game from Cox at defensive tackle. The All-Pro seems to have bounced back from a down year in 2019 and is on pace to double his sack and tackle for loss totals from a year ago. Center Ben Garland will have his hands full as the Eagles also Javon Hargrave and Malik Jackson inside to go along with Cox. On the outside, the Eagles are likely to test the right tackle, Mike McGlinchey. While McGlinchey has not yet been credited with allowing a sack this season, he has struggled in pass protection.
As a result of the danger posed by the Eagles’ pass rush, it would not be a surprise to see the 49ers employ help along the line from tight end George Kittle and someone out of the backfield. Quarterback Nick Mullens has shown how well he can perform in the offense and is coming off a stellar matchup against the Giants. As a result, the Eagles will try their best to put pressure on Mullens and get him out of sync. While sacks are important, if Philly can generate consistent pressure, it could be enough to disrupt the timing of the offense. Conversely, if the 49ers can give Mullens time in the pocket, the San Francisco offense could continue to pick up momentum and put points on the board.
Suffocate Philly Receivers
Philadelphia wide receiver, Greg Ward, has been the only active participant from his position group this week. The Eagles recently added Hakeem Butler to the fold but he is currently listed as a tight end. Butler was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals ahead of the 2019 season but missed the entire year due to injury. Philly is likely without their speedy wide receiver, DeSean Jackson as well as he recovers from a hamstring issue. The lack of Jackson’s speed means a little less worry for the San Francisco secondary. With tight end Dallas Goedert also missing, the Eagles’ biggest threat in the passing game is a fellow tight end, Zach Ertz.
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San Francisco is battling injuries at the cornerback position with K’Waun Williams, Ahkello Witherspoon, and Emmanuel Moseley having been limited or completely missing practice this week. If all three are missing, the starting corners would be Jason Verrett and Dontae Johnson. If Williams is out, we could see Jimmie Ward move from his safety role, into the slot cornerback slot. This would put Tarvarius Moore at free safety. The 49ers should have the talent to stay with the Philadelphia receiving options. Fred Warner will need to monitor Miles Sanders coming out of the backfield but he has shown an ability to play tight coverage and already has an interception this season. If the defense can maintain tight coverage, it could spell disaster for Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia offense.
Sunday Night Lights
At the end of the day, both the Eagles and 49ers are relying on their depth to make plays on Sunday. Thus far, the 49ers have shown just how talented the roster can be and is in a position to win their third straight game. Conversely, the Eagles are suffering injuries in the wrong spots and are again finding it difficult to get things rolling through the passing game. Philly’s defense remains a talented bunch and could slow down the 49ers offense even with a returning Kittle and Deebo Samuel. However, the 49ers are a fired-up group and are looking to make a splash in prime time.
Prediction: 49ers show out on Sunday night, 27-13.
– Ryan Adverderada is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage 49ers. He also covers the Arizona Cardinals for Full Press Coverage. Like and follow on Follow @ryanadverderada