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Week 4 Preview: 49ers Present A Big Test

Posted Jul 2, 2014

Eagles fans would love to forget the last time these two teams met. In Week 4 of the 2011 season, the Eagles looked to be back on the winning track after a 1-2 start to the regular season. Early on in the third quarter, an Alex Henery field goal pushed the Eagles' lead to 23-3. What should have been smooth sailing the rest of the way turned out to be disastrous for the Eagles, as the 49ers stormed back to score 21 unanswered points to win the game.

That game was one of the lowest points of a 4-8 start for the Eagles. They went on to win their last four games to salvage an 8-8 record, but there is no doubt that the incredibly deflating loss to San Francisco left its stamp on the Eagles' campaign.

Of course, the teams are very different now as compared to three years ago. Both teams now feature rising stars at the quarterback position in Nick Foles and Colin Kaepernick, as Michael Vick and Alex Smith have each moved on to new teams. The Eagles also have a completely different offensive system under Chip Kelly, something that 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh hasn't yet faced at the professional level. Kelly and Harbaugh did meet four times while coaching at the college level. Kelly, Oregon's offensive coordinator for two of those meetings, won three of the four matchups.

The 49ers are clearly among the class of the NFC. They've played in the last three NFC Championship Games and came just a few yards away from taking home Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens. They have a prolific offense, led by Kaepernick and his playmaking wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin and dynamic tight end Vernon Davis. Frank Gore remains a staple of San Francisco's backfield, and though the 49ers are still a “ground and pound”-type team, Kaepernick's ability to extend plays and stretch the field has given them an added dimension that has become increasingly more difficult to stop.

While the offense has steadily increased over the last few seasons, the defense has not taken a back seat. The 49ers ranked fifth in the NFL in yards per game allowed at 316.9, and they were even better at keeping teams out of the end zone, allowing just 17.0 points per game, the third-lowest average in the league. NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis are two of the top linebackers in the game, and Aldon Smith is one of the league's top edge rushers, when he is on the field. Bowman, however, is coming off of a torn ACL and MCL that he suffered during the 49ers' loss to Seattle in the NFC Championship Game. There is no definite timetable for when Bowman will return, but it's certain that his presence will be missed in the middle of the 49ers' defense.

The Eagles, on the other hand, are a team on the rise. Coming off of a remarkable playoff run under first-year head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles look to join the ranks of San Francisco and Seattle among the NFC's elite. When the Eagles and 49ers meet face-to-face, everyone will be able to see exactly how the Eagles stack up to the NFC's top teams.

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