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'This is my city!' How local product Haason Reddick helped send Eagles to 2023 Super Bowl

PHILADELPHIA - Christian McCaffrey hurdled one tackler, sidestepped another and then bowled over a third.

His tough 23-yard scamper into the end zone with 8:29 left in the second quarter Sunday had the makings of a momentum-shifting moment for the San Francisco 49ers.

They’d already lost their quarterback, unbeaten rookie third-stringer Brock Purdy, to an elbow injury. Now, with 36-year-old journeyman Josh Johnson at the controls, the 49ers moved six plays in 46 yards – all but two gained by McCaffrey – to tie the game 7-7.

NFC championship game: Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick (7) celebrates after a sack during the first quarter.
NFC championship game: Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick (7) celebrates after a sack during the first quarter.

Confident and colorful Eagles fans, whose rousing pregame “Fly Eagles Fly” anthem made Lincoln Financial Field swirl with sound and sentiment Sunday, could be forgiven for beginning to fret. That rascal McCaffrey, his speedy legs rejuvenated since the October trade from Carolina, seemed poised to unleash his precocious talents on the home team.

But another Carolina Panthers refugee had already made his presence felt and would continue to, ensuring McCaffrey and the 49ers’ next trip to Glendale, Arizona, will be for an NFC West game against the Cardinals this fall.

The Eagles will go there to play Kansas City in the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 because of a stellar defensive effort sparked by Haason Reddick, the edge rusher from Camden, New Jersey, and Haddon Heights High who hardly seemed destined for NFL stardom when he walked on at Temple.

NFC championship game: San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) leaps over Philadelphia Eagles safety Marcus Epps (22) on way to a 23-yard touchdown run during the second quarter.
NFC championship game: San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) leaps over Philadelphia Eagles safety Marcus Epps (22) on way to a 23-yard touchdown run during the second quarter.

He walked off from Temple as a first-round NFL draft pick who spent his first four seasons in Arizona. But it wasn’t until this year, his sixth in the NFL, third as a defensive end and first with the Eagles, that Reddick truly flourished.

The second-team All-Pro showed why Sunday in the biggest game of his career.

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It was his strip sack that sidelined Purdy in the first quarter — "This is my city!" sideline cameras caught Reddick saying as he celebrated — and his fumble recovery that led to a touchdown putting the Eagles up 21-7 at halftime.

Of the strip sack, which was ruled an incomplete pass before a replay reversal, "I just got off the ball and I was just gone. … I knew that was a sack fumble," Reddick said.

McCaffrey and the 49ers offered little in the way of subsequent firepower. Purdy, his ability to throw compromised, was back at quarterback in the second half after Johnson suffered a concussion.

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick, right, causes a fumble by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy during the first half of the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick, right, causes a fumble by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy during the first half of the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

But after the Eagles went up 31-7, which became the final score, McCaffrey briefly even stepped in as a wildcat quarterback and threw a pass.

Talk about desperation. By that time, the frightening foreshadowing of the 49ers' game-tying TD drive had been transformed into futility for the visitors.

"Just being calm, composed," Reddick said of how the Eagles' defense responded to the Niners' touchdown. "It's a long game at the end of the day and it's about who can sustain it for the longest."

Reddick finished the game with three tackles, two of them sacks, and a ticket to his first Super Bowl. His three QB pressures each resulted in sacks.

"Best defensive player in the game right here," Eagles linebacker Kyzir White said of Reddick after they'd puffed on victory cigars in the locker room. "Can't nobody block him in this league."

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Reddick finished the regular season tied for second in the NFL with 16 sacks and has a league-best 3½ in the postseason.

McCaffrey ended up with a rather harmless 84 yards rushing and 22 receiving, the major chunk of it coming on the touchdown drive that amounted to the 49ers’ only real offensive threat of the game.

NFC championship game: Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick (7) sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Josh Johnson (17) during the first quarter.
NFC championship game: Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick (7) sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Josh Johnson (17) during the first quarter.

Ten possessions netted a mere 164 yards as the 49ers, who certainly missed the quarterback they lost because they couldn’t block Reddick.

“Yeah, it’s not ideal; it sucks," McCaffrey said of the quarterbacks being sidelined. "You never want to see any of your teammates get hurt let alone the quarterback position; it’s tough. You’re never out of the fight, though. We believed it and it just didn’t turn out our way."

With victory imminent and two minutes left, those same fans unleashed another very appropriate chorus, belting out, “Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out,” as Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” blared on the public address.

The Eagles’ defense, with Reddick setting the tone, had lived up to those lyrics. Now he'll be going with his hometown team to its fourth Super Bowl.

Have an idea for a compelling local sports story or is there an issue that needs public scrutiny? Contact Kevin Tresolini at ktresolini@delawareonline.com and follow on Twitter @kevintresolini. Support local journalism by subscribing to delawareonline.com

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Haason Reddick leads Eagles past 49ers to reach 2023 Super Bowl