The Philadelphia Eagles were the favorites heading into last week’s NFC Championship Game, but they still felt disrespected heading into it due to some unintentional bulletin-board material. San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle hinted at the Eagles being the less physical team and those comments got back to Darius Slay who took it personally.
He didn’t like hearing Kittle saying that the 49ers were the more violent team. Slay, perhaps exaggerating the slight a bit, revealed on his podcast that Kittle’s words triggered the Eagles’ defense. They went into the game on a mission to be the more physical team, which manifested itself in an unforeseen way when they knocked quarterbacks Brock Purdy (UCL sprain) and Josh Johnson (concussion) out.
“What triggered us as a team, and as a defense, you know I got a lot of respect for George Kittle, I got a lot of respect. I think he’s one of the best tight ends in in the league but when he said that we look good on paper, in the football world, we know how to take that,” Slay said on The Volume. “That’s basically saying, not too physical, that’s talking about we look talented on paper but are we going to put the paper to the field? So, as a defense, we took that as disrespect.
“I keep seeing things like, the media been saying, if this guy had been playing, if that guy had been playing, they was playing, we just took ’em out. We don’t want no injuries. I don’t like injuries in the game but that shows a lot of physicality.”
Kittle didn’t say anything adversely negative but Slay interpreted it to mean the Eagles couldn’t get into a shoving match with the 49ers. So, they did. Whatever he needed to get the juices flowing, right? Here is what Kittle said:
“Whenever you look at paper, it should be like oh yeah we can match their physicality and stuff like that, and then you get on the field on Sundays and the film after the game will show exactly what you’re asking. I know we’re going to come out and be violent and physical and I’m expecting them to be the same thing, but we’ll see.”
Brandon Graham: ‘We Heard Some Things’
Slay said multiple times on his podcast that the Eagles listen to everything out there in the media. Kittle’s comments didn’t sit well with anyone in the locker room, including veteran pass rusher Brandon Graham who called No. 85 a “baller” before admitting the stuff about not being physical enough bothered him.
“We took a little bit, but we just kept it quiet and kept it casual,” Graham told reporters after Sunday’s win. “Because we heard some things that we didn’t like. People trying to be sarcastic and doing little stuff, which is cool because we have much respect for them. He’s a baller, you know No. 85 [Kittle], he said some stuff but he’s a baller though. Much respect, he had us really making sure we were on our ‘A’ game today. It’s a credit to them because of how they play.”
Haason Reddick was the poster boy for physicality on Sunday. His jarring strip-sack on Brock Purdy in the first quarter changed the momentum. Purdy suffered a right elbow injury and couldn’t throw the ball more than 10 yards. The play kind of sealed the 49ers’ fate.
“You don’t ever want anybody to get dinged or get hurt, and I hope he’s okay, but it definitely did change the game,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “But those guys’ job is to hit the quarterback, affect the game, and they sure did that today.”
Eagles Plan to Practice at Cardinals Facility
The Eagles will conduct a walk-through and two practices this week before heading to Arizona for Super Bowl LVII. They will use the Cardinals’ training facilities in Glendale, Arizona in the days leading up to the big game. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs are planning to practice at Arizona State’s training facilities in Tempe, Arizona.