The 2002 NFC Championship Game remains one of the most brutal losses of the Andy Reid era. Twenty-one years later, the image of Ronde Barber racing down the sideline after picking off Donovan McNabb for a 92-yard touchdown with 3:11 left still stings. Philadelphia Eagles fans hate Barber. And they hate that Tampa Bay Buccaneers team.
So, naturally, San Franisco head coach Kyle Shanahan decided to show the clip to his 49ers ahead of their visit to Lincoln Financial Field. Tampa Bay’s bruising defense set the tone in that one, something Shanahan hopes to channel on Sunday. Limiting splash plays and knocking Jalen Hurts down is the blueprint. Then, the 49ers can ride Christian McCaffrey and their punishing ground game to victory.
“Tampa Bay’s defense was awesome in that game and Ronde Barber, I always knew how great Ronde was, but that game was as good as it gets,” Shanahan said, via 49ers Webzone. “That’s why my mind will be blown if he’s not in the Hall of Fame soon.”
Shanahan added more insulting color on the Barber play, which ended with the Buccaneers cornerback pointing up to the Philly stands: “Yep, running it back like this, pointing at Barber, it was cool.” (Expert troll job by him).
Following that script would be music to 49ers general manager’s John Lynch’s ears. Remember, he was a starting safety on that 2002 Buccaneers team. And he was watching the film from that game this week in Shanahan’s office.
“He sat down and enjoyed watching it for about 10 seconds and he got up and was pacing the room,” Shanahan said, via 49ers Webzone. “He didn’t even realize it. I’m like, what’s going on with you right now? And he is like, what? What do you mean? And then he goes, oh yeah, this brings back some feelings.”
George Kittle Challenges Eagles ‘Physicality’
The Eagles’ defense led the NFL this season with 70 sacks, which set a new franchise record for a single season and tied the 1987 Chicago Bears for third place in NFL history. They played with a mean, nasty steak best exemplified by C.J. Gardner-Johnson’s loud mouth and Haason Reddick’s menacing stare.
It was a body bag type of year. But, despite a highlight-reel full of bangers, one playmaker on the 49ers was only mildly impressed. All-Pro tight end George Kittle doesn’t think the Eagles are ready for the kind of physicality he is about to unleash on them this weekend.
When asked if the Eagles could match the violent style with which the 49ers play, Kittle said: “We’ll see on Sunday, won’t we? I know we’re going to come out and be violent and physical. I’m excepting them to be the same thing. But, we’ll see.”
San Francisco Releases Final Injury Report
The Eagles are 100% healthy heading into the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, with all 22 starters good to go. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers could be missing backup running back Elijah Mitchell (groin) and third-string cornerback Ambry Thomas (ankle). Both players are listed questionable and game-time decisions. Mitchell would be a significant loss for them on offense as he usually splits carries with starter Christian McCaffrey who has been nursing a calf injury.
McCaffrey doesn’t carry an injury designation on the final injury report. The only player officially ruled out for the 49ers is Jimmy Garoppolo (foot), the backup quarterback who started 10 games this season. Brock Purdy took over for Garoppolo and he’s looking to become the first rookie quarterback to ever win a conference championship game. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m. on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.