The stats tell a very favorable story, but they don’t tell the whole story. Behind allowing just 22 rushing yards and no points against the Eagles was a week of preparation that got them ready for not just the Eagles’ tempo, but their playbook as well. The result was a game-saving, and possibly season-saving, performance punctuated by two goal-line calls.
First, let’s go back to Friday, when Fangio pressed fast-forward.
“It was crazy. There was a couple plays, (Fangio would) send us on a deep post, and on the very next play they’d already have another set of receivers lined up,” said Perrish Cox, who was tasked with containing Jeremy Maclin and finished the game with two takeaways.
“It was very loud,” said Antoine Bethea, who had an interception, forced Zach Ertz’s fumble that landed in Cox’s hands, and tackled LeSean McCoy to set up the goal-line situation. “He was calling in calls real late so the players would have to kind of scramble to get the plays and communicate. Made it real easy for us today on Sunday. I think that was a great coaching move by coach Vic.”
The defense never looked out of breath or disjointed during the game, but the Eagles aren’t just a gimmicky team that relies on no-huddle. Nick Foles is one of the better downfield passers in the league and the weapons in Philadelphia are plentiful. The Eagles didn’t even get 18 minutes of possession time, but they were finally able to put together a long drive in the fourth quarter.
“At the end of the game there, I thought we played good when they drove it down to the 2-yard line,” said Fangio.
“The guy sticks a hell of a throw and a hell of a catch in there, one other one very similar. I don’t think we played bad in that drive. That’s just NFL football. A quarterback makes perfect throws, receivers make great catches. Why did it happen then and not earlier in the game? I don’t know, nobody knows that.”
But according to the players, Fangio knows a lot.
“He’s a great coach. He always puts the defense in a good situation,” Eric Reid said.
“I think he does more studying than we probably do as players. I think y’all got Pat (Willis) quoted as saying that you don’t even really have to watch film if you just read his tips that he gives every week.”
The two defensive calls you saw at the goal-line were the only ones Fangio had the team run in practice.
“Throughout the week, we kind of knew when they get into certain formations, what type of plays they will run,” said Bethea.
“They have some plays that they like. So, some plays that we prepared for, they ended up running, which worked out great for us. Antoine made a huge play on that stretch that they ran,” said Reid, who said Fangio had the players ready for the plays the Eagles would run at the game’s must crucial juncture.
“I know for a fact one of (the plays) was. They like to do this little inline goal-line play. They work a receiver along the back line. That worked for them against a couple teams last year, so we were ready for that one.”
Fangio didn’t even want to come up to the podium, saying he was coerced into doing so by a member of the PR staff.
“Our players played great. They deserve all the credit. I really didn’t want to come up here. I told Mike Chasanoff to send players in here to you, but he twisted my arm. The players played great.”
True, but the players had some help. On a day that the 49ers gave away two touchdowns while punting, and the offense gave away seven points and made numerous mistakes, the defense saved the entire operation and played football that was nearly mistake-free.
“I tell you what stands out today,” said Fangio with a rare grin as he ended yesterday’s media seassion. “We had no penalties on defense.”