By Harry Allison
The Eagles have risen from 30-to-1 to 10-to-1 to win the 2015 Super Bowl, and they have overcome repeated deficits – and substantial offensive line attrition – for their best start in 10 years.
The 49ers have dropped to 16-to-1 to win the SB, and they have opened in disappointing fashion for the second consecutive season.
The Eagles (3-0) are one of three remaining undefeated teams following last Sunday’s 37-34 home win over Washington. They became the first club in league history to win its first three games despite trailing by at least 10 points in each.
“We stick together and there’s a great camaraderie,” said Nick Foles who leads the NFL with 326.0 passing yards per game. “In the locker room during games like that, we lean on each other instead of blaming each other.”
Philly amassed 379 yards of offense against a Redskins defense that had previously given up an NFL-leading average of 234.5. Jeremy Maclin continued his strong start, catching eight passes for 154 yards and a touchdown, and rookie Jordan Matthews scored on two of his eight receptions.
The Eagles are second in the league with 33.7 points per game.
“We can score quick and we can score in bunches,” said Maclin, who is averaging 98.7 receiving yards – fifth-most in the NFL.
Despite being 3-0 for the first time since a 7-0 start in 2004, the Birds have had to deal with a lack of continuity along the offensive line after no starter missed a game in 2013.
Center Jason Kelce is the latest to be hit by injury and will undergo sports hernia surgery, likely sidelining him for at least eight weeks. Right tackle Lane Johnson is serving the last of a four-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance. Allen Barbre, his initial fill-in, broke his ankle in the opener against Jacksonville, and left guard Evan Mathis is set to miss at least six more weeks with a knee injury.
“I don’t have a level of concern,” coach Chip Kelly said. “I just ask who’s available, and let’s play.”
The beleaguered unit hasn’t allowed a sack in back-to-back games but could be making things more difficult for LeSean McCoy, who carried the ball 19 times for 22 yards against the Redskins. The 1.2 yards-per-carry average was the worst of his career in a game in which he ran at least 10 times.
The 49ers (1-2) own the same three-game record for the second straight year after last Sunday’s 23-14 loss at Arizona and are looking to avoid their worst start since going 0-5 in 2010.
They rebounded last year to win 11 of their final 13 games en route to an NFC championship appearance, but it’s not clear if this group has the same resolve after blowing two second-half leads.
The 49ers led 14-6 at halftime against the Cardinals and 20-7 after three quarters of the previous week’s 28-20 defeat to Chicago. They remain the league’s only team yet to score in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve been in this position before where there is an ebb and a flow to the season. We’re in it now,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “That’s the great challenge for our football team and I have great confidence that we’ll attack it.”
San Francisco may want to get back to establishing the run after having just nine carries by its running backs against the Cardinals and 18 against the Bears. The team’s backs ran 25 times for 116 yards in the opener versus Dallas.
Frank Gore’s six carries against Arizona matched his fewest in his last 51 regular-season games. His 276 rushes last year tied for eighth-most in the league.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Gore’s lack of carries was a function of San Francisco’s game plan, which intended to use the pass early to set up the rushing attack later.
“In a perfect world, you’re letting Frank and the offensive line take over the game at the end of the game,” Roman told the team’s official website. “But we weren’t in that situation, so we were never really able to transition into that.”
Foles owns a 127.8 passer rating over his last seven road games with 21 TDs compared to two picks, helping Phily go 6-1.
The 49ers are looking to avoid back-to-back home losses for the first time since 2010.
San Francisco leads the all-time series 17-12-1 and snapped a five-game skid to the Eagles in the last meeting, winning 24-23 in Philadelphia on Oct. 2, 2011. Gore had 127 yards rushing while McCoy was held to 18.