Week 13 NFL Takeaways: A Byemaggedon Sunday still had lots of spice

Week 13 NFL Takeaways: A Byemaggedon Sunday still had lots of spice

There is no committee in the NFL that votes on the best team. In the pros, every result actually does matter. To qualify for the NFL’s 14 playoff spots, teams either have to finish atop a division or win enough games to get in as a wild card. While every game counts, there are some, even on the regular-season schedule, that stand out more than all of the others. In Week 13, that game was San Francisco 49ers vs. Philadelphia Eagles.

With the NFL in its second Byemageddon of the season — six teams not in action — it was likely that Week 13 would be a dud. I certainly was not pacing around my apartment trying to avoid going to the bathroom during the RedZone Witching Hour.

I enjoyed the goofiness of the Tennessee Titans getting consecutive punts blocked and also them taking an Indianapolis Colts 2-point conversion attempt to the house for a score. The Denver Broncos and Houston Texans kept a key game in the AFC Wild-Card picture close for four quarters. Also, the Los Angeles Rams leaped into the playoff conversation with a win against the Cleveland Browns, only to fall back out after Sunday Night Football. The final game of the day between the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers was highlighted by a poor performance from the referees.

While there is no denying the cultural significance of a night that Simone Biles and Taylor Swift both chose to spend in Green Bay, the NFL playoff landscape went through its most significant shift at 4:25 p.m. EST at Lincoln Financial Field. This NFC Championship rematch — with an actual healthy quarterback behind center for the 49ers — was either going to solidify the Eagles as the best team in the conference or bring to light winning so many games this season by one score victories is a sign of weakness.

The 49ers were dominant in a 42-19 victory. While the Eagles have dynamic playmakers, theirs do not put defenses in as many compromising positions as the Niners’ — when all healthy. A.J. Brown is arguably one of the two best wide receivers in the NFL. Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk may not be in that group, but alongside Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle, with Trent Williams protecting the blind side, the 49ers might be too much to handle as long as there is a functioning elbow behind center.

Even the Eagles’ tush push might not be able to fight that off come January.

Pass defense is a problem for Philly

The Eagles entered Week 13 with 129 pressures — the most in the league. Unfortunately for them, a truly effective defense needs to be able to do more than create pressure on nearly 25 percent of dropbacks. The secondary and linebackers, must also be able to regularly keep up with top pass catchers.

For all the havoc the Eagles wreak in offensive backfields, they went into their matchup against the 49ers with their defense ranked 29th in passing yards allowed and 31st in passing touchdowns. They were able to eke past the Buffalo Bills and Chiefs, but their pass defense was exposed on Sunday.

Brock Purdys’ elbow was literally unavailable in last season’s NFC Championship Game, but in Week 13 he put the ball wherever it needed to go on his way to 314 passing yards and four touchdowns.

The 49ers scored their first touchdown of the game with just over seven minutes remaining in the second quarter. They scored again before the end of the half. That was a 90-yard drive that ran three and a half minutes off of the clock and ended with a touchdown.

Beginning with that first second-quarter TD drive, the 49ers reached the end zone on six consecutive drives. They punted near the end of the first quarter and none of their drives ended without a touchdown until they ran out the clock on the final drive of the game.

Deebo Samuel is still one of the best offensive players in the NFL

If Jimmy Garoppolo does not throw that interception deep in 49ers territory late in the fourth quarter of their NFC Championship matchup against the Rams two seasons ago, he might still be their starting quarterback.

Instead, they were done with him during 2022 training camp, but could not find a trade partner. Garoppolo was practicing on a different field from the rest of the team, until Trey Lance broke his leg. Samuel’s fantastic 2021 season was the spark that fired up his team’s offense that season

When the 2021 49ers entered the NFC Championship Game, Samuel was considered unstoppable. During the regular season, he totaled 1,770 yards from scrimmage, scored 14 touchdowns, eight of which were rushing, which led the team, and he also gained more yards after contact than any player in the NFL. He did all of this while playing wide receiver, averaging 18.2 yards per reception on the way to first-team All-Pro honors.

In 2022 and 2023, Samuel has missed a lot of time due to injury. His 2023 year-end totals will not be amongst the top wide receivers in the league, but against the Eagles Samuel showed that any conversation about top NFL skill-position talent must include him. He caught four passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 22 yards on three attempts with a score.

All of Samuel’s scores against the Eagles were big plays. The least of which was his 12-yard TD run. His two receiving touchdowns both went for 40-plus yards, most of which came after the catch. His second receiving TD came off of a screen pass.

Tempers flaring is always appreciated in sports

Truthfully, Philadelphia’s favorite security guard — Dom DiSandro — was put in a tough spot. The entire altercation between Dre Greenlaw and DeVonta Smith happened right in front of him. Greenlaw had already been flagged for suplexing the wide receiver, who was not happy about the act. They were in each other’s faces when DiSandro turned around and tried to separate the two. He did not run several yards to seek conflict. It was literally brought to his face.

Per Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, the job of NFL team security is not to break up fights between game participants. DiSandro was absolutely in the wrong when he put his hands on Greenlaw, but it would have been physically difficult for him to walk away from that fracas.

As a viewer, a little spice is always nice when watching sports. There were altercations the rest of that drive, however, tempers were warm from the start as Eagles coach Nick Sirianni got into a verbal altercation with members of the 49ers’ staff prior to kickoff.

In professional sports, the best athletic specimens in the world compete against each other in front of a throng. That energy is sometimes going to spill over after the whistle is blown and not only players will be subject to it.

The NFL, and all pro sports, are selling conflict. Two opponents physically battle each other in chase of victory. That is how these people earn a living. When the participants are not fond of each other, skirmishes take place, which, most of the time, enhances the viewing experience.

Sunday’s game set up a potential thrilling NFC Championship rematch in January. The 49ers and Eagles are clearly not fond of each other. That fact presented itself long before DiSandro was ejected. He probably should not be on the sidelines for a postseason rematch between these two teams, but his presence would have a limited impact on how contentious a rubber match would be.

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.