Despite 10-1 record, host Eagles are betting underdogs in NFC Championship rematch vs. 49ers

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jalen Hurts sat alone on the bench and shook his head with a mostly blank stare on his face as Jake Elliott boomed a 59-yard-field that kept a shot at a win alive.

His Eagles teammates went as wild as the Philly fans at the Linc — the kicker nicknamed “Jake The Make” had saved a game again. But Hurts could hardly be motivated to leave his seat.

So, what gives?

Hurts doesn’t celebrate with the fiery trademarks of his Philly sports brethren. Think Bryce Harper running his hands across the “Phillies” on his chest after a big hit or Joel Embiid mimicking a pro wrestling chop on a big bucket. Hurts could only think in the moment of all the plays he failed to make, all the penalties and miscommunication that forced the Eagles to have to shoot for OT against a team like the Bills.

“I think in that moment, it was out of my hands, so I could only think about the things that I could have done better to that point,” he said.

At that point, Hurts had only accounted for four touchdowns against the Bills. Yeah, only four.

So when Hurts ran for another TD in overtime, he sent the Eagles to a 10-1 record and Philly into a week of hype overdrive for Sunday's NFC championship game rematch against the San Francisco 49ers (8-3). But most of the build-up — the 49ers were thumped in the game, then oddly talked smack about the Eagles in the offseason — mostly escaped Hurts. Hurts stayed above the fray, his monotone answers the same as always, whether talking about the 49ers, his confidence in Elliott or his meeting this week with LeBron James at a 76ers game.

Hurts wiggled out of questions about his subdued demeanor on the sidelines.

“Sorry if you don’t think I don’t find enjoyment in these moments,” he said, “because I do.”

It’s not always this way, of course. Hurts was all smiles when he snatched the mic and led an off-key rendition of the Eagles’ fight song after they beat the 49ers and advanced to the Super Bowl.

The Eagles aren’t looking for another singalong this time. Just a win in a game that could shape the NFC race.

The 49ers left Philly 10 months ago battered behind injuries to QBs Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson and return as 2½-point favorites, per FanDuel Sportsbook.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I don’t really know how that stuff works,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "I don’t really know why. It is random.”

CBS Sports reported the Eagles are the first team since at least 1970 that holds a 10-1 record or better, has a healthy, starting QB and is a betting home underdog.

“Before I ever stepped foot in the city, all I knew about this city was Rocky versus Apollo Creed and the city plays the underdog well,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said.

Rocky Balboa, of course, lost to Creed (at least in the first fight), so perhaps there's a better mode of inspiration to find.

The 49ers are the favorites in large part because Purdy, who has 2,871 yards passing and 19 touchdowns, is facing an Eagles defense ranked 29th against the pass. the passing game. The 49ers also averaged 10 points allowed the last three games, the kind of defense that might make another Eagles comeback — they've won their last four games while trailing at halftime — tougher to pull off. And while the Eagles are winning, they're not winning big. They haven't had a margin bigger than seven points in any of their last four games.

Should the Eagles pull off the rare home upset, maybe even Hurts might celebrate a bit.

SWITCHING SIDES

Javon Hargrave has switched sides in this rivalry, having signed as a free agent with San Francisco after helping the Eagles beat the Niners a year ago. Hargrave has six sacks already this season and is a key part of a defensive line that has 15 sacks the past three weeks.

“I’m happy he’s on our side and not their side this time around,” Niners linebacker Fred Warner said. “He’s just been so consistent for us in terms of getting just disruption up there in the middle of our defensive line. He has been such a key piece to what we do all season long.”

Hargrave said a few former teammates have reached out this week but there won’t be much talk until after the game, when he gets the opportunity to play against Philadelphia’s stellar offensive line.

“They know me like I know them,” he said. “We went at it for about three years (in practice). I know what to do against them and I guess they know what to do against me.”

TRASH TALK

In the days after the NFC championship game, Niners receiver Deebo Samuel called Eagles cornerback James Bradberry “ trash ” and Philadelphia his “most hated” opponent.

Bradberry was later flagged for a late defensive holding penalty in the Super Bowl that kept a Kansas City drive alive and helped secure the Chiefs' win over the Eagles. Bradberry was a second-team All-Pro pick in 2022 and a Pro Bowler in 2020.

Samuel said this week he had no regrets over ripping Bradberry. Bradberry said he was unsure why Samuel singled him out.

“I don't necessarily like what he said. I wish he used a better word,” Bradberry said. “From the clips that I saw, they felt like they had a good game plan against us. They felt like they had some open routes against us. Yeah, I don’t know. You’ve got to ask him.”

FAST STARTERS

The Niners have been fast starters this season, scoring on the opening drive in eight of their 11 games this season. San Francisco has seven TDs and one field goal for a league-best 52 points on the opening drive -- the fourth-highest total for any team through 11 games since 2000.

Two of the 49ers’ three losses this season came after they failed to score on the opening drive. They have been far more effective playing with the lead than from behind.

___

AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow in Santa Clara, California, contributed to this report.

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL