49ers Heading to ‘Rocking’ Venue, Star Eagles Defender Warns

Christian McCaffrey

Getty Christian McCaffrey walks into the end zone on January 22 in Santa Clara.

It didn’t take long for one Philadelphia Eagles defender to sound off on the San Francisco 49ers coming to the City of Brotherly Love for the NFC title game.

Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, the Eagles’ best ball hawk in 2022, took to Twitter immediately after the 49ers knocked the Eagles’ hated rival, the Dallas Cowboys, out of the playoffs with a 19-12 win. He warned San Francisco about what to expect when the teams meet January 29 in the NFC conference championship at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

“The Linc about to be Rocking!!!!” he wrote.

A sold-out crowd at Lincoln Financial Field is imminent as the Eagles will play in their eighth conference title game in franchise history. Philadelphia is also hosting its sixth NFC championship contest and second since 2018. The last time the Eagles hosted the conference deciding game witnessed a 38-7 slaughter of the Minnesota Vikings.

But now, they’ll host a 49ers team that has won 12 straight games. The Eagles are 0-1 all-time in the playoffs versus the Niners, with their last loss, a 14-0 shutout, coming in the 1996 wild-card round at Candlestick Park.

49ers Expecting Heavyweight Battle With Gardner-Johnson

Gardner-Johnson, who’s in his first season with Philly after coming over from the New Orleans Saints via trade on August 30, snatched a league-leading six interceptions during the regular season. Each of them came during a five-week span beginning on October 9. Two of them came on October 16 against the Cowboys, the team the 49ers ran out of the postseason.

After the Eagles knocked the New York Giants out of the postseason on January 21 with a 38-7 win, Gardner-Johnson walked to the locker room with a triumphant air.

“We got two more [wins to go]. I told you that s***,” he said in a video clip tweeted by John Clark of NBC10 in Philadelphia.

Gardner-Johnson will be the best ball-hawking safety 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy will face in the postseason. Purdy was efficient against the Cowboys, averaging 7.4 yards in his 19 completions in 29 attempts. Purdy hasn’t been picked off since the 2:33 mark of the third quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders on New Year’s Day. And when facing safeties, Purdy has had half of his four interceptions picked by that position group.

Purdy isn’t the only one who will account for him. The 49ers are likely to draw coverage matchups with “Ceedy Duce” when Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel or Jauan Jennings are lined up inside. Gardner-Johnson surrendered six receptions for only 38 yards facing the Giants, per Pro Football Focus. He allowed 38 catches for 446 yards and three touchdowns on his side during the regular season, according to Pro Football Reference Advanced Stats.

‘Get Your Popcorn Ready, Man’

The 49ers had a verbose safety of their own chiming in on the game that will decide which NFC team goes to Glendale, Arizona, for the Super Bowl.

Veteran Jimmie Ward, who helped set up the crucial red zone interception made by inside linebacker Fred Warner before halftime, gave his early take on the upcoming battle with the Bay Area media after the Dallas win.

“Get your popcorn ready, man,” Ward said. “Heavyweight fight right there like, what, [Mike] Tyson versus [Evander] Holyfield? Hey man, so get ready man. It’s going to be a good show.”

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