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49ers-Eagles live updates: Niners' dire QB situation gets worse as Josh Johnson is hurt

San Francisco Chronicle 1/29/2023 Chronicle Staff

The San Francisco 49ers take a 12-game win streak on the road against the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday for a spot in the Super Bowl.

Kickoff is set for noon Pacific at Lincoln Financial Field.

Here are the latest updates:

Purdy stays in

While Josh Johnson is evaluated for a concussion, Brock Purdy will stay in at quarterback for San Francisco's next drive. How will he handle that with a throwing-arm injury of unknown severity? The 49ers' running backs appear to be set for a workout. Christian McCaffrey, who has nine carries for 56 yards and a touchdown, had a trainer working on his right calf on the sideline during the Eagles' last drive.

The 49ers keep it conservative and get stuffed on carries by Deebo Samuel and McCaffrey (of course the Eagles will be zeroed in on the run), and Purdy manages a 3-yard pass to McCaffrey. San Francisco goes three-and-out.

Josh Johnson absorbs hard hit, Purdy returns, but for how long?

Josh Johnson gets hit hard by Eagles defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and Johnson, the 49ers' fourth-string quarterback, is headed to the sideline for further evaluation. Brock Purdy, whose throwing arm was injured in the first quarter, returned for one snap to hand off to Christian McCaffrey. The 49ers punt, and it now it looks as if McCaffrey might come in at QB on the next possession.

Halftime thoughts

Michael Silver, columnist: Well, it's not going to be easy. A Niners team that rode its third-string quarterback to the NFC Championship Game is now on Option 4: Veteran Josh Johnson, a capable player thrown into a daunting situation. The Niners have shown a ton of heart, shutting down the Eagles on three consecutive drives after falling behind 7-0 (and losing Purdy on a hard hit by Haason Reddick, ruled a sack and fumble via a replay challenge) and then tying the game on a 23-yard touchdown run by No. 23, Christian McCaffrey, that will go down as one of the great playoff carries in franchise history, with CMC having left at least four fallen Eagles in his wake.

A flurry of defensive penalties and a fumbled snap by Johnson made things ugly late, leaving the Niners in a 21-7 hole at halftime. It looks bleak. However, this is a proud team brimming with impact players who won't go down easily. If the 49ers can somehow pull this off — even by this season's fairytale standards — it will be one of the most epic triumphs the franchise has ever known. They get the ball first. Huge possession.

Ann Killion, columnist: Jalen Hurts? Right now, San Francisco Hurts. How many things went wrong for the 49ers in the first half Sunday? Just about everything, starting with Fred Warner dropping in pain in the first minute of the game (he ended up being fine). There was the huge fourth-down reception by the Eagles that was not really a reception, but Kyle Shanahan didn’t challenge and the Eagles quick-snapped and were soon up 7-0. On the 49ers' first possession, Nick Sirianni did challenge a call, the 49ers did not quick snap, and an incompletion was ruled a Brock Purdy fumble. Even worse, Purdy’s elbow was hurt on the play.

However, thanks to some strong running by Christian McCaffrey the 49ers were somehow, shockingly, in a 7-7 tie. But things unraveled fast in the final two minutes: Eagles touchdown, 49ers fumble, Eagles touchdown for 21-7 lead and still no Purdy. The 49ers have to think they can come back – hey, the Bengals did it on the road last year in Kansas City. Of course, they weren’t down to their fourth-string quarterback when they did it. The onus is on the 49ers defense to somehow even up the turnover margin, neutralize the flag-happy officiating crew (dreadful) and get the 49ers offense the ball enough for McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel to do some damage. It’s a tall order.

Johnson loses it and Eagles score

Josh Johnson bobbles the snap and Haason Reddick recovers the fumble, continuing his dominant first-half performance, and the Eagles regain possession with about a minute left. Boston Scott makes the 49ers pay for the mistake, rushing for a 10-yard touchdown. Philadelphia increases its lead to 21-7 with 16 seconds remaining before halftime.

Sanders gives Eagles the lead

Miles Sanders caps a 19-play, 67-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown, his second of the day, to give the Eagles a 14-7 lead with 1:36 remaining before halftime. Philadelphia started that possession with 8:29 on the clock.

Philadelphia marching downfield

Eagles are driving as the game reaches the two-minute warning, after Kenneth Gainwell's 17-yard rush got them to the San Francisco 41. Philadelphia's current 6:28 drive has been extended by two 49ers penalties.

McCaffrey can't be stopped

Christian McCaffrey crushes and cruises his way through the Eagles' defense, hurdling one defender and leveling another, for a 23-yard touchdown run to pull the 49ers even with the Eagles, 7-7, with 8:28 left in the second quarter. McCaffrey also caught two nine-yard passes on the seven-play, 46-yard drive. 

49ers defense answers

Nick Bosa seems to be OK, and the 49ers' defense is responding to the team's early adversity. After appearing to get hurt late in the first quarter, the Defensive Player of the Year candidate wrapped up Jalen Hurts just outside the Eagles' end zone for a 3-yard loss. Philadelphia goes three-and-out, and the 49ers have the ball at midfield, trailing 7-0 with 11:15 left in the first quarter.

First-quarter analysis

Eric Branch, 49ers beat writer: The Eagles took the opening kickoff and launched a 66-yard touchdown drive. The 49ers first drive ended with QB Brock Purdy suffering a right elbow injury that knocked him out of the game.

Analysis: The NFC Championship Game has started poorly for the 49ers.

This could be setting up as a blowout loss in which backup Josh Johnson is overwhelmed by the Eagles’ vaunted defensive line. Or it could be the latest improbable chapter in a season in which the 49ers have cycled through three starting QBs – the last of whom was a rookie seventh-round pick with a 7-0 record – and reaches the Super Bowl thanks to a journeyman who has played for 14 teams.

The wire

A lot is happening at the end of the first quarter:

  • The Eagles are contesting that Brett Kern's 34-punt hit a wire, causing it to fall short, but officials said there is no conclusive evidence.
  • Nick Bosa was slow getting up on the third-down play before that.
  • Meanwhile, Brock Purdy made some throws on the sideline, but Josh Johnson will be returning for a second drive.

Rough start for Johnson

Josh Johnson gets sacked for a nine-yard loss on his second snap after entering for Brock Purdy and the 49ers go three-and-out.

Josh Johnson enters for injured Brock Purdy

With Brock Purdy questionable to return with pain in his right elbow after getting hit on the 49ers' last drive, backup quarterback Josh Johnson is entering the game. Johnson, a 36-year-old West Oakland native, has played for a record 15 NFL teams.

Purdy gets rocked and turns it over

Brock Purdy's arm was nailed by Haason Reddick while releasing his last throw, causing the ball to float wildly in the air and nearly get intercepted. The Eagles challenged the play and officials overturned it, ruling it a fumble and giving Philadelphia the ball at its own 44.

Huge 4th-down play sets up Eagles TD

On 4th-and-3, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts throws a bomb to Devonta Smith, who makes a sensational one-handed catch for a 29-yard gain to the S.F. 6-yard line. Two plays later, Miles Sanders rushes for the touchdown. Eagles lead 7-0 with 9:48 left in the first.

Replay showed that the ball hit the ground on Smith's big reception.

Fred Warner scare

Nervous moment for the 49ers on the Eagles' second play of the game, with All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner going down in pain after tackling Eagles running back Miles Sanders on a 6-yard gain. Warner returned two plays later from what the team called a shoulder stinger.

49ers win coin toss

San Francisco linebacker Fred Warner called tails and won the toss, deferring to the second half. With that, we're moments away from the Eagles receiving the kickoff.

49ers fans out in force

The time our columnist caught a pass from Brock Purdy

Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers didn’t realize what they had in Brock Purdy, until Purdy and I hooked up on the opening day of training camp.

Early in practice, the offense was going through passing/receiving drills, the equivalent of a basketball layup line. Many writers pick up valuable information by watching practices, even the drills. They assess Trey Lance’s throwing mechanics and spot problems in the pass protection. That’s not my jam. I was thinking about lunch, when a flying football caught my eye.

Read Scott Ostler's account of what it's like to (inadvertently) catch a Purdy pass.

49ers' RB Elijah Mitchell is out

San Francisco will be without Elijah Mitchell, who rushed for 51 yards on 14 carries in last week's divisional playoff win over Dallas, and caught a TD pass in the wild-card victory over Seattle.

Eric Branch reports that the 49ers will also have undrafted rookie running back Jordan Mason and Tevin Coleman, 29, who was promoted from the practice squad Saturday. Coleman hasn’t played an offensive snap since Oct. 16.

Who you got, 49ers or Eagles in NFC title game?

Ann Killion, columnist: Eagles 21, 49ers 18. In theory the Eagles have everything going for them, hence this prediction, which is purely theoretical. Jalen Hurts, their MVP candidate quarterback, is healthy, their defense is monstrous, they earned homefield advantage and it’s a wild, raucous advantage.

Michael Silver, columnist: 49ers 23, Eagles 21. Each team has some clear advantages. The Eagles had 70 sacks in the regular season and their fearsome front should make the Cowboys’ menacing pass rush from a week ago look like a warm-up act — meaning Brock Purdy needs to go easy on the spin moves and get the ball out quickly. The Niners have better coaches, though when it comes to getting in character and endearing himself to the fan base, Nick Sirianni is peerless. Most of all, this game will come down to will — and that’s something the Niners have in abundance. 

Scott Ostler, columnist: 49ers 33, Eagles 20. America’s will be done. I like to think that in big games like this, the football world gets a cosmic vote, and everyone wants to see Purdy in the Super Bowl. Against a healthy Patrick Mahomes. Magic vs. Magic. That’s also a good way to bet, I’m betting.

Eric Branch, 49ers beat writer: Eagles 23, 49ers 16. Nick Bosa acknowledged this week that mobile QBs can be the “kryptonite” of the NFL’s top-ranked defense and the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts is well-suited to use the 49ers’ aggressiveness against them. Purdy won’t crumble on the big stage, but the Cowboys’ ferocious front made him look mortal at Levi’s. And another just-OK performance seems likely in a hostile environment against an even more hellacious defensive line. The 49ers figure to lean on their running game against Philadelphia’s only obvious semi-weakness.

Ron Kroichick, staff writer: 49ers 16, Eagles 13. Philadelphia’s defensive front will present problems for the 49ers, but they will find a way to scratch out enough points (see their win over Dallas). Shanahan’s creativity, his deep well of offensive playmakers, the reliable right leg of Robbie Gould and a tenacious, determined defense will send the 49ers back to the Super Bowl. Barely.

Smashmouth Bowl before the Super Bowl

On Sunday, 16 months after the 49ers’ 17-11 win at Lincoln Financial Field, they return to face Philadelphia in the NFC Championship Game. And it figures to double as the type of slobber-knocker that tight end George Kittle has previously termed a “body-bag game.”

The top-seeded Eagles are far better and perhaps even more bruising than their 2021 edition that went 9-8 and lost in the wild-card round of the playoffs. And the second-seeded 49ers will arrive on a 12-game winning streak in which they’ve taken their brand of bully ball to new levels.

— Eric Branch, 49ers beat writer

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