The San Francisco 49ers had plenty to say after they lost the NFC title game last season to the Philadelphia Eagles while playing much of the game without a functioning quarterback.
They are much quieter headed into the highly anticipated rematch on Sunday in Philadelphia, maintaining that the bitterness from not having a real chance last January had subsided and the focus was entirely on winning this year’s game.
“People try to blow it up because of the weight of it. However, it’s the biggest one just because it’s the next one,” linebacker Fred Warner said Wednesday. “There are a lot of implications down the line for this game. But is that going to help you focusing on those things going into this game? Not at all. You got to focus on playing smart and smart football and execute at a high level in order to go into somebody’s house who is a 10-1 football team and one of the best teams in the league and get a win.”
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The Niners entered last season’s NFC title game meeting on a 13-game winning streak and with high hopes of making it back to the Super Bowl.
But that chance was quickly extinguished on San Francisco’s first drive of the game when Haason Reddick hit quarterback Brock Purdy so hard that Purdy tore a ligament in his throwing elbow. Backup Josh Johnson came in but struggled before leaving with a concussion early in the third quarter.
That forced the Niners to play most of the second half with Purdy at quarterback and unable to throw the ball more than a few yards.
The Eagles won the game easily, beating San Francisco 31-7 to advance to the Super Bowl where they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs.
“Last year is over with,” defensive end Nick Bosa said. “Neither team finished the job so it’s not like they’re looking back and reminiscing on an NFC Championship win, either. We were both sad at the end of the year. We both have aspirations to win Super Bowls so it’s a new year and this is a big step for both of us to get to that aspiration.”
In the days after the game, Niners receiver Deebo Samuel called Eagles cornerback James Bradberry “trash” and Philadelphia his “most hated” opponent.
Teammate Brandon Aiyuk said the Eagles were “extremely lucky” to win and would get exposed in the Super Bowl against Kansas City.
Samuel said he had no regrets about anything he said last year, but maintained that the rematch had no special meaning.
“It’s not about revenge,” he said. “It’s another game on the schedule. We’re going to treat it like any other game.”
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Aiyuk said the bitterness from last season will have no impact on the game Sunday and the focus is on winning a game that could have a big impact on playoff seeding.
“We definitely know what happened last season — a lot of words going back and forth,” he said. “But despite that, we got another opportunity [and] they have another opportunity to play football. I think most of the guys are excited for that.”
There’s one Niners player sitting out any discussion of last season’s game with defensive tackle Javon Hargrave now in San Francisco after playing for the Eagles last season.
“I just stay out of it,” he said. “I really don’t say much to it. I just keep the main thing.”
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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