A Philly Preview

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The 49ers will host their second home game in a row this weekend when the Philadelphia Eagles pay a visit to Candlestick Park.

Like head coach Mike Nolan and his 2-3 49ers, Andy Reid's 2-3 Eagles are similarly hoping to snap a two-game losing streak.

The similarities don't stop there.

Reid expressed his disappointment in the limited snaps for his offense and the gross amount of time that his defense spent on the field in a 23-17 loss to the Washington Redskins.

The Eagles offense had 47 offensive plays while their defense played 75 downs with the Redskins possessing the ball 34:45 in comparison to 25:15 for Philly.

"The obvious is that we need to be more consistent as a football team (on) both sides of the ball," Reid said. "The effort is there. We have to do a better job in football games. You're going to have some highs and lows, and you have to do a better job working through some of the lows. That directly comes back to me, making sure that that happens. We just have to do a better job."

The 49ers can commiserate with Reid's lament with the Patriots offense enjoying 80 snaps in comparison to 48 snaps for San Francisco's offense. The 49ers time of possession was even more skewed with the Patriots holding onto the ball for almost 40 minutes.

The 49ers aim to right the wrongs from their last two losses, but it won't be easy. The Eagles bring to town their 9th ranked offense, and their 6th ranked defense.

On offense, quarterback Donovan McNabb looks to be back in true form after a disappointing 2007 season. McNabb has completed 112 of 175 passes for 1,296 yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions, and has a 92.9 QB Rating on the year.

McNabb has a host of targets to choose from as the Eagles are deep at wide receiver.
Rookie DeSean Jackson, a familiar face for Bay Area fans after a successful career at Cal, leap-frogged his way up the depth chart, becoming the first rookie receiver ever to start under Reid. The youngster currently leads Philadelphia with 23 catches for 336 yards. He's got a long reception of 60 yards and one touchdown on the season, and certainly has the speed to stretch a defense vertically. Jackson has also been used out of the backfield with 5 rushing attempts for 49 yards, including a long pickup of 21 yards.

Jackson starts opposite Reggie Brown, a four-year veteran who also has big-play ability. Brown has the highest average yards per catch on the team with 16.3. Hank Basset is close on his heels with a 15.9 average, and holds the longest play from scrimmage on the year with a 90-yard touchdown in week one against the Rams.

Jason Avant starts as their slot receiver and has 12 catches for 129 yards on the year.
Wide receiver Kevin Curtis, who has yet to play this season after having off-season surgery to repair a sports hernia could potentially be seeing his first action of the year. The former Rams receiver was initially expected to return to action last week against Washington, but wound up on the team's inactive list once again.

An additional passing threat not to be overlooked is tight end LJ Smith. Smith has 9 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown.

Running back Brian Westbrook returned to action against the Redskins after missing the Chicago game with an ankle injury, only to fracture two ribs. Despite the injury, Westbrook finished with 12 carries for 33 yards and six catches for 51 yards.

Westbrook will likely be day to day, and his absence could be costly for the Eagles. The versatile running back is the Eagles best offensive weapon, and leads the team with 54 carries for 194 yards, and is second on the team in receptions with 14 for 97 yards. He's also the team's leading scorer with six touchdowns on the season.

His backup on the ground is Correll Buckhalter, who has 30 carries for 114 yards and a 3.8 average.

The Eagles offense hasn't been able to establish much balance between their passing and rushing offense. They are averaging 260.2 yards passing and only 82.4 yards on the ground. Part of their problems running the ball stem from the absence of starting right guard Shawn Andrews, who has been out with back spasms. A two-time Pro Bowler, Andrews is their best lineman, and one of their more talented and dominating offensive players.

Defensively, the Eagles have had the same coordinator for ten years in Jimmy Johnson, who is one of the masterminds in getting after opposing quarterbacks with his pressure oriented, attack-style of defense. The Eagles unit currently has 18 sacks, tied for first in the NFL with the Steelers.

49ers fans might remember one of the Eagles front linemen in particular in defensive tackle Mike Patterson, who returned a fumble on the goal line 98-yards for a touchdown in the last meeting between these two teams. Patterson, along with defensive end Trent Cole both notched 100 tackles in 2007, indicative of their run stuffing ability. So far, Patterson has 16 total tackles, while Cole has 21 stops, 2 sacks and one forced fumble. Opposite Cole is the Eagles sack leader in defensive end Juqua Parker, who has four sacks and a forced fumble. Brodrick Bunkley starts inside at the other tackle position and has 13 tackles and a sack.

The Eagles linebacking corps is a young, but solid group that can run and cover ground. Middle linebacker Stewart Bradley is in his first year as a starter for the Eagles defense and leads the squad with 33 tackles and a sack. Omar Gaither is in his second season as a starter, over on the weakside, and has 28 tackles and two sacks. Chris Gocong is also in his second season as a starter at the strongside linebacker and has nine tackles and sack.

Although youth might be the theme at linebacker, it's a different story for the Eagles secondary which hosts one of the elite cover corners in the NFL in Asante Samuel, a free agent pickup from the Eagles this off-season. Samuel already has two interceptions on the season, and is the new cornerstone of an extremely solid secondary. Seven-year veteran Sheldon Brown has been a full-time starter for Philly since 2007, and is on a 101 consecutive starting game streak.
That's second among active cornerbacks only to the 49ers own Nate Clements.

Cornerback Lito Sheppard, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, also sees significant action in the Eagles secondary as their starting nickel back. Veterans Brian Dawkins and Quintin Mikell start at the two safety positions. Dawkins is a six-time Pro Bowl safety and has been a starter since his rookie year in 1996. Mikell meanwhile moved into a starting role in 2007 due to injuries and finished the year with a career-high 98 tackles, which led the entire secondary. He's second on the defense in tackles currently with 33 stops, and also has been disruptive with a sack, a forced fumble, and an interception.

Ten-year veteran kicker David Akers is 9 of 12 on field goals with two misses coming from 50 yards out and a third coming in the 40-49 yard range. The three-time Pro Bowler is one of the league's most reliable kickers, and is the Eagles all-time leader in points.

Sav Rocca, a former standout in the Australian Football League, is in his second season in the NFL. Rocca has a 47 average, a long punt of 65 yards, and 9 punts downed inside the 20.

The Eagles feature a pair of rookies as their returners, and both are explosive.

As well as leading the Eagles receiving efforts, Jackson is the team's featured punt returner and took one to the house from 68 yards out last week against the Redskins.

Safety Quintin Demps has a long kickoff return of 47 yards in the regular season after busting one for a 101-yard touchdown in the preseason.

The Eagles have posed an extremely tough challenge for the 49ers in recent years, notching lopsided victories over Nolan's 2005 squad 42-3, and his 2006 squad, 38-24.

Stay tuned this Sunday to see which of these two teams can snap their two-game slide. Kickoff from Candlestick Park is at 1:15pm PST.

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