49ers, Eagles on defensive collision course in NFC championship … – USA TODAY

The old adage is defense wins championships. The San Francisco 49ers are two wins away from proving that philosophy is still accurate.
San Francisco defense intercepted Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott twice and kept Dallas out of the end zone for the entire second half in a hard-fought physical 19-12 divisional round win to advance to the NFC championship game versus the Philadelphia Eagles.
A week removed from scoring 31 points and producing 425 yards, the Cowboys were held to just one touchdown and 274 yards against a stingy 49ers defense.
“We stopped the run, which was huge. It allowed us to be pretty sound in our coverages,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said postgame. “I think we made them work for everything. When you take away the run game and you don’t have to be too risky in your coverages, it makes it hard to get explosives. Our guys just kept doing it all game. We were able to contain them and keep them out of the end zone except for that drive. They played their ass off today.”
San Francisco’s victory sets up a heavyweight bout Sunday between the NFC’s top two seeded postseason teams.
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“They’ve been as good as anyone since the beginning of this year and all the way to right now,” Shanahan said of the Eagles. “You looked at the beginning of the year and you thought Philly would be the last team right here and that’s the way it’s ended up.”
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Fittingly, the NFC championship game is a battle between the two best defenses in the NFL.
The 49ers boast the top defense in the league. San Francisco led the league in total defense (300.6 yards per game), points allowed (16.3) and were tied with the most interceptions (20) entering the playoffs. Philadelphia had the NFL’s second ranked defense in the regular season. The Eagles defense leads the NFL with 75 sacks this year (including the playoffs), the most since the 1985 Chicago Bears.
Philadelphia stifled the New York Giants to one score in Saturday’s playoff win. The 49ers contained Dallas to one touchdown Sunday’s postseason victory.
While the NFL has transformed into an offensive-centric league, with rules and highlights catered toward the offense, Philly and San Francisco are proving that defense isn’t a lost art. It still matters in today’s game.
“We know we got to play big-time football in the playoffs and have a chance to win this next game,” 49ers All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner said. “Just watching (the Eagles) from afar, they had a great game (Saturday) and really took care of business at home. They got another home game. Obviously, two great football teams going against each other.”
Sunday’s conference title game has the potential to be a defensive slugfest. It might not be sexy to the common fan, but the 49ers and Eagles are providing evidence that defense still does win championships and it’s not just an outdated myth.
The scoreboard operator might not be too busy in Philadelphia. Sunday’s title game has the recipe of a defensive showdown.
“To go into Philly, which is fantastic – the atmosphere,” 49ers tight end George Kittle said. “It’s gonna be wonderful. I know how much the fans love the opposing team. It’s gonna be really fun. It’s gonna be cold and violent and it’s gonna be a blast.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Tyler Dragon on Twitter @TheTylerDragon.


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