Game Preview: Eagles bid for 4-0 start against 49ers

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The Eagles have been the comeback kids. Three strong second-half performances have keyed a 3-0 start for the Eagles in 2014, putting them in the spotlight.

On Sunday, they face another team with prospects of being a Super Bowl contender on a regular basis. With pieces in place that have made them NFC Champions in 2012 and a close loss in the NFC Championship game a year ago, the San Francisco 49ers stand as one of the toughest foes out there in the NFC.

The Eagles look for a 4-0 start against the 49ers, who come in with losses in their previous two games. Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. from Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco.

Since Colin Kaepernick took over at quarterback in the middle of the 2012 season, the 49ers have been wildly successful. Kaepernick has a 22-7-1 as the starting quarterback for the 49ers, however, the Niners are just 1-2 this season, suffering losses to the Bears and Cardinals in the past two weeks.

Those losses may have to do with the running game. The Niners offense as a whole is down so far this season, ranking 18th in the league in both passing and rushing yards per game. In the last two games, Kaepernick has led the team in rushing yards.

Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde can be a dynamic duo for the 49ers if they can sustain a running game. Against an Eagles defense lacking an important piece of the linebacker group, that is definitely a concern.

The secondary could also take a serious beating in this game. The Eagles rank 30th in passing yards allowed, averaging 280.3 yards per game to the opponents. Kaepernick has three prime targets in Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. The Eagles will have their hands full trying to cover all bases.

Defensively, the 49ers have been strong all season. They rank sixth in run defense, holding opposing running backs to 85.7 yards per game, posing a challenge for LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, who struggled to get things going against the Redskins.

They also rank 14th in pass defense. The defense is loaded with talent such as Patrick Willis at linebacker and Tramaine Brock and Antoine Bathea in the secondary.

For the Eagles, the task is simple: get Nick Foles going against the defense by finding a way to get open. It could be another game where Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews trade places in making big plays throughout the game.

It could also be a day where Zach Ertz proves to be a huge impact. And in a 3-4 set, don’t be surprised if the Eagles try to use McCoy, Sproles or any receiver on the bubble screen a lot. It could be the go-to play during today’s game.

Game Notes

  • The Eagles are making their first appearance in the new Levi’s Stadium, the only current NFL stadium where they have not played a game.
  • The Eagles have won five of their last six games against the 49ers in San Francisco, including four straight from 2005 to 2010.
  • The 49ers won the last meeting between the two teams on Oct. 2, 2011 in Philadelphia by a score of 24-23.
  • The Eagles have won 10 of their last 11 regular season games, including six of seven on the road.
  • In each of the last 16 games, the Eagles defense has at least one takeaway. The next longest streak for the Eagles is a streak of 37 games from 1993 to 1995.
  • Milestone Watch
    • Nick Foles can become the first quarterback in Eagles history to throw for 300 or more yards in four straight games on Sunday. With 356 passing yards, Foles will pass Donovan McNabb for the most passing yards in the first four games of a season. McNabb had 1,333 yards in the first four games of 2005.
    • Jeremy Maclin needs two catches to pass Duce Staley for 15th all-time in Eagles history. He also needs 51 receiving yards to pass Brian Westbrook for 12th all-time in team history.
    • With one field goal of 50 yards or more, Cody Parkey will become the first Eagle since 1984 with three field goals of 50 or more yards in a single season.

Injury Report

Eagles
Out

  • LB Mychal Kendricks (calf)
  • C Jason Kelce (hernia)

Questionable

  • WR Josh Huff (shoulder)

Probable

  • DE Fletcher Cox (back)
  • DE Brandon Bair (foot)
  • CB Brandon Boykin (hip)
  • TE James Casey (knee)
  • WR Jordan Matthews (oblique)
  • WR Brad Smith (groin)
  • T Matt Tobin (ankle)
  • CB Jaylen Watkins (hamstring)
  • S Earl Wolff (knee)

49ers
Out

  • C Marcus Martin (knee)

Questionable

  • S Antoine Bathea (ankle)
  • CB Tramaine Brock (toe)
  • T Anthony Davis (hamstring)
  • TE Vernon Davis (ankle)
  • TE Vance McDonald (knee)

Probable

  • WR Michael Crabtree (quad)
  • RB Frank Gore (back)
  • LB Patrick Willis (wrist)

Where to Watch

TV: FOX (Broadcasters: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews)
Radio: 94 WIP (Merrill Reese, Mike Quick, Howard Eskin)
National Radio: Compass Media Networks (Matt Smith, Curtis Conway)

Kevin Durso is a contributor for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.

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