Game breakdown: 49ers/Eagles

Niners will test Philly's 30th-ranked rush defense

Taking a look deep inside Sunday's game between the 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, with snapshot game details, series history, game plans, matchups to watch, NFL rankings for both teams, personnel updates and a look inside both camps before the battle between NFC rivals who are meeting for the fourth consecutive season.


KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
SITE: Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia
SURFACE: Natural grass
RECORDS: 49ers 2-1, 1-0 in NFC West, 1-1 in NFC; Eagles 1-2, 0-1 in NFC East, 1-2 in NFC
LAST WEEK: 49ers defeated Cincinnati Bengals 13-8; Eagles lost to New York Giants 29-16
NFL RANKINGS: 49ers: No. 32 in total offense, No. 7 in total defense. Eagles: No. 6 in total offense, No. 12 in total defense.
TV: FOX (Ron Pitts, Jim Mora)

SERIES HISTORY: 30th regular-season meeting. 49ers lead series, 16-12-1. San Francisco also has a win against the Eagles in a 1996 wild card playoff game. This will be the fourth consecutive season the teams have met and the sixth time in seven seasons. The 49ers have lost all five of the previous games during that span, including a 27-24 defeat in San Francisco last year. Former coach George Seifert often points to the 40-8 regular-season loss to the Eagles as the moment that galvanized his 1994 title-winning team. In that game, Seifert lifted quarterback Steve Young and Young blasted him on the sidelines with a stream of blue language.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Eagles QB Michael Vick expects to play despite a contusion on his right non-throwing hand. He primarily carries the ball in his left hand, but it does place extra emphasis on his ball-handling – Vick has lost three of seven fumbles already. The biggest culprit is poor pass protection, but RB LeSean McCoy could find it difficult to provide help against a defense allowing 2.9 yards per carry. 49ers QB Alex Smith has been managing the game, but his protection has been poor and getting after the quarterback is Philadelphia's defensive strength. With RB Frank Gore battling a sprained ankle, Kendall Hunter again figures to receive significant carries.

FAST FACTS: Smith has a 127.9 passer rating inside the opponent's 30-yard line. ... McCoy is averaging 7.1 yards per carry on first down.

QUOTES TO NOTE
"Just blocking it out. Like (offensive coordinator) Marty Mornhinweg always tells me, it's all in your mind. I'm trying to take that kind of approach and hopefully it'll work. I think it will. I'm just going to try and go out there and not think about it, and that's what I'm going to do." – Eagles QB Mike Vick on playing with his injured hand.
"The prudent thing would be to rest him this week." – 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh's thinking on whether the Eagles should start Vick with his injured non-throwing hand.

49ERS GAME PLAN: The Eagles' weakness defensively is their linebackers. The 49ers have struggled getting their linemen out to the second level. The 49ers will try to scheme to get their guards out on the Eagles' backers. With QB Michael Vick playing but ailing, the 49ers are likely to go after him with blitzes. Vick is familiar with the 49ers defensive scheme, which is similar to Washington's. The 49ers blitzers will have to be careful because of Vick's recent complaints about referees failing to protect him. It might make the officials eager to throw a flag.

EAGLES GAME PLAN: The Eagles have been running the ball more this season than previous Andy Reid teams, and they hope to continue that on Sunday. LeSean McCoy is second in the league in rushing and has gained a major chunk of his yards out of one-back, two-tight end sets. Last year, most of McCoy's rushing yardage came out of spread formations.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Eagles CB Nnamdi Asomugha vs. 49ers TE Vernon Davis. Davis is the 49ers' most feared receiver. The Eagles must slow him down. Asomugha would be giving up some size, but is the best matchup here.
Eagles coverage units vs. 49ers PR/KR Ted Ginn Jr. Bobby April's units must have their best game of the season to prevent Ted Ginn Jr. from being a game-deciding factor. Ginn had an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown as a Dolphin in 2007 vs. Eagles coverage units, who have not yielded a punt return for a score since Ginn did it.
Eagles C Jason Kelce vs. 49ers NT Isaac Sopoaga. This will be the 280-pound Kelce's first game against a 3-4 scheme and a nose tackle that outweighs him by 60 pounds.
RB Frank Gore, who is thoroughly frustrated, vs. the Eagles LBs, who have been getting scorched with the run.
QB Michael Vick, who has spent an inordinate amount of time on the ground, vs. the 49ers blitzes, which have been relatively infrequent.

Inside the camps


49ERS

Left tackle Joe Staley had a message from Youngstown, Ohio on Thursday:

"Contrary to everyone's belief, we don't suck," Staley said about his offensive line. "We're good players and we play well. It comes down to everybody executing. It takes all 11 guys. It doesn't take five offensive linemen to make a running play go. It takes fullbacks. It takes tight ends. It takes quarterbacks carrying out the fakes, wide receivers blocking downfield. It takes all 11 guys and we all do our job and we all have to do our part."

A review of running back Frank Gore's runs last Sunday in the win against the Bengals says otherwise.

The Cincinnati defensive line, widely regarded as average at best, often forced the 49ers linemen back on run plays. Gore had nowhere to run, which has been the case all season.

Pass protection hasn't fared much better, with the line surrendering 11 sacks in the last two games, and this week is the 49ers' biggest challenge, at least on paper. The Eagles' 12 sacks is second to Dallas' 13 for the league lead and all of the Eagles sacks come from their defensive line.

Also consider that 10 of the 11 sacks the 49ers have surrendered have come from defensive linemen or rush linebackers. It all means the task ahead of San Francisco is immense.

For the Eagles, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (four sacks), defensive end Jason Babin (four) and defensive end Trent Cole (three) are among the top 10 for sacks in the league. They've had success doing what the 49ers have struggled with and that's beating their opponent through one-on-one matchups.

The Eagles spread their defensive line, particularly their ends out wide, so their pass rushers can't be doubled.

"It's a little different than what they've done; they've changed the scheme up a little bit," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "They play fast, they play hard."

EAGLES

The Eagles are expected to have quarterback Michael Vick for Sunday's game. Whether they'll have his top wide receiver is another matter.

Vick, who suffered a contusion on his non-throwing (right) hand in last week's loss to the New York Giants, practiced for the second straight day Thursday, taking all of the first-team reps. The hand is sore, but the swelling has gone down and he seems to be able to control the football.

Jeremy Maclin, who leads the Eagles with 19 catches for 260 yards and two touchdowns, strained his hamstring in the Giants game. He didn't practice on Wednesday and was a limited participant in Thursday's workout.

Maclin said he thinks he'll be able to play, but the last thing the coaching staff wants to do is send him out there and aggravate the injury and possibly be out for a longer period.

"It's doing all right," Maclin said. "We'll continue to treat it, and ease me in the next couple of days."

Asked if he could play if the game were today, he said, "I think so." Then he added, "I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize the team. If it's feeling good, like it does now and I feel like I can go, I'll go."

Vick and Maclin both were listed as probable on the NFL's official injury report released after Friday's practices.

Personnel news


49ERS

--- RB Frank Gore was again limited in Thursday's practice with his injured ankle. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Gore, rookie Kendall Hunter and second-year man Anthony Dixon are all likely to play.

--- CB Tramaine Brock is wearing a cast and might have a break in his hand according to defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

--- CB Shawntae Spencer is likely to see more action because of the Tramaine Brock injury. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio also said Spencer would be getting more snaps even without the Brock situation.

--- RG Chilo Rachal's ability to hang onto his starting job will be contingent upon who practices better – Rachal or Adam Snyder. No word on who has the inside track. Both have been rotating with Snyder getting more snaps each week.

--- WR Michael Crabtree was on the injury report as participating in only part of practice Wednesday and Thursday. But Crabtree said that problems with his left foot, which underwent surgery in July, are behind him.

EAGLES

--- QB Michael Vick will wear some sort of protection on the back of his right hand against the 49ers.

--- WR Jeremy Maclin, who strained his hamstring in last week's loss to the Giants, was a limited participant in practice this week after not practicing on Wednesday. He remains optimistic that he'll be able to play Sunday.

--- DE Juqua Parker, who has a high ankle sprain, didn't practice again Thursday and will miss his second straight game.

--- DE Darryl Tapp, who has missed the last two games with a pectoral strain, was a limited practice participant Thursday for the second straight day. While he's improving, he isn't expected to play this week.

--- CB Brandon Hughes didn't practice again Thursday. He has a hamstring strain and isn't expected to play Sunday against the 49ers. The Eagles likely will activate rookie Curtis Marsh.

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