Not so fast on anointing the Philadelphia Eagles the team to beat in the NFC East.
Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field provided a reminder that the Eagles (1-1) have plenty of work to do, falling 17-11 to the San Francisco 49ers in a disappointing home opener.
After torching the Atlanta Falcons, Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense was pedestrian against a 49ers team that had been bitten by the injury bug yet again, specifically in their secondary with cornerbacks Jason Verrett, Emmanuel Mosely, and Ambry Thomas out on Sunday. It forced San Francisco to start veteran former Pro Bowler Josh Norman — whose better days are behind him — after he signed with the team less than two weeks ago.
Hurts, though, completed just 12-of-23 passes for 190 yards while adding 82 more on the ground, stalling late as the 49ers scored 10 of their points in the fourth quarter to improve to 2-0 on the season.
The Eagles’ defense held strong for a majority of the afternoon, allowing just 14 total yards on the 49ers’ first three drives of the day, carrying over the momentum gained by limiting the Atlanta Falcons to just six points in Week 1.
After taking a 3-0 lead late in the first quarter, the Eagles had a second attempt early in the second blocked.
The Niners responded with their best drive up to that point, gaining 35 yards on 11 plays. But it still ended in another punt that pinned the Eagles deep in their own territory.
From the Eagles’ six-yard-line with 5:59 left in the half, Hurts hooked up with Quez Watkins deep down the right sideline for what turned into a 91-yard gain. It brought Philadelphia down to the Niners’ 6-yard-line while helping dispel the notion that Hurts can’t throw the deep ball — because the completion to Watkins was a dime right in the breadbasket roughly 42 yards downfield.
It was also the longest play in Eagles history that did not result in a touchdown.
The offense stalled, however, and could not punch it in to take full advantage. Instead, first-year coach Nick Sirianni opted to go for it from the Niners’ three-yard-line, but in an attempt to re-create the “Philly Special,” wide receiver Greg Ward’s pass off a reverse to Hurts sailed incomplete.
The blows continued for the Eagles when veteran defensive end Brandon Graham suffered a leg injury just after the two-minute warning and was carted off the field.
A 40-yard completion from Jimmy Garoppolo to Deebo Samuel set the Niners up for an easy 11-yard touchdown pass to Jauan Jennings with 13 seconds to go in the half, putting San Francisco up at the break.
It was the first touchdown allowed by the Eagles’ defense this season.
While the Eagles punted three times to start the second half, the defense’s troubles continued in the second half as the Niners grew their lead to 11. A methodical 16-play, 92-yard drive that ate up 8:59 of game clock and was capped off by Garoppolo, who took himself with a one-yard keeper, put the visitors in the driver’s seat.
Philadelphia looked as though it received a lifeline when a low hit injured 49ers running back Trey Sermon but also jarred the ball loose with 5:44 to go in the game, recovered by Darius Slay. But an unnecessary roughness penalty on K’Von Wallace in which he lowered the helmet allowed the Niners to keep possession.
It was important insurance for the 49ers as another field goal with 5:12 to go made it a 14-point game — which prompted an immediate Eagles response.
Philadelphia went 75 yards in 1:05 — fueled by a 43-yard scramble by Hurts — ending with a one-yard keeper from the quarterback to pull the Eagles within six after a successful two-point conversion with four minutes to go. It was as close as they’d get, though, as the 49ers ran out the clock to secure the victory.