49ers Over The Moon As They Get Ready For Jalen Hurts

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SANTA CLARA – Let’s get to the bottom of the issue.

Jalen Hurts is a load and so are Philadelphia Eagles fans. San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw has witnessed it.

“Oh yeah, he don’t try to slide, he’s trying to run you over,” Kinlaw said as his mind wandered from the joy of San Francisco’s NFC Divisional Round win over Dallas to the task ahead in the conference championship game. “He’s definitely physical …. It’s funny, it’s kind of like their fans.”

Last year, before the 49ers took on Hurts and the Eagles in the second week of the regular season, they got the Full Monty from the Philly fans. As the 49ers team bus was pulling into Lincoln Financial Field, Eagles fans were dropping trou and giving the San Francisco players a look at their rear ends.

“Even some of the women,” Kinlaw said with a chuckle. “They’re hostile.”

After the San Francisco 49ers were done exposing the mediocrity of Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott on Sunday, the questions turned quickly to the task of handling Hurts and the powerful Philadelphia run game. Much of that revolves around the discipline of reading keys and blocking schemes and all the usual stuff that goes with football.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts presents a massive challenge for the 49ers. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

But at its core, this is a matchup of power. The power of Hurts’ rugged style against the power of San Francisco’s mauling defense. The 49ers put that on display Sunday as they limited Dallas to 12 points, intercepted Prescott twice, and nearly nabbed him a third time.

Within that, the 49ers did an exceptional job of preventing Prescott from hurting them with scrambles or designed runs. Aside from one time that Prescott got away from the pass rush and picked up a first down and another time when he galloped for 11 yards, his running ability to neutralized.

49ers Should Be Ready For The Challenge

Not that Prescott is a great runner, but he is good enough and the 49ers kept him under control without having to spy on him with one defender and leave parts of the field exposed. Against Philadelphia and Hurts, that task is likely to be much tougher.

“Oh, we’re going to have to spy on him,” linebacker Dre Greenlaw said before admitting that the spy will likely have to be him. “I’m up for that, but he’s definitely a guy who likes to mix it up. I played him a couple of times at Arkansas when he was at Alabama. He likes to get into it.”

From that perspective, the NFC title game figures to be quite the show. The Eagles and Hurts have come a long way from early last year when the 49ers contained them in a 17-11 San Francisco victory. The development of Hurts’ overall game has been helped by the development of second-year wide receiver Devonta Smith and the addition of veteran receiver A.J. Brown.

San Francisco Returns To The NFC Championship Sunday

This is power on power, which the 49ers really love on both sides. On Sunday, the 49ers offense was kept under control for the most part as out-of-nowhere quarterback Brock Purdy played a more reserved role. Purdy did his part by not screwing up even as Dallas’ defensive front took their shots at him.

Instead, the 49ers kept grinding through this game. They eventually wore down the Dallas defensive line and rushed for 113 yards on 32 carries and Christian McCaffrey provided a rushing touchdown up the gut. The challenge for the 49ers will be to see if they can do that against the Eagles big defensive line next week.

Jalen Hurts and the Eagles are up next for the 49ers defense. (Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

But the bigger challenge will be Hurts, a man who has elevated his status around the league from interesting dual threat prospect to a guy who received MVP discussion. On Saturday after the Eagles dismantled the New York Giants, Philly coach Nick Sirianni had the temerity to compare Hurts to Michael Jordan.

For their part, the 49ers didn’t quite buy into that bit of overstatement, but they also gave Hurts his just due.

“There aren’t a lot of guys who want to run into contact like that,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “He’s special that way. He wants to challenge you. He wants to give you everything he has.”

It’s kind of the Philly way.

Written by Jason Cole

Jason Cole has covered or written about pro football since 1992. He is one of 49 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and has served as a selector since 2013. Cole has worked for publications such as Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports, The Miami Herald, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, and started his career with the Peninsula Times-Tribune in Palo Alto. Cole’s five-year investigation of Reggie Bush and the University of Southern California resulted in Bush becoming the only player to ever relinquish his Heisman Trophy and USC losing its 2004 national championship.

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