SANTA CLARA — Football can be a beautiful game, replete with dazzling athletic feats of finesse, improvisation, and grace.

Sunday’s NFC Championship Game between the 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles won’t be that kind of football.

No, the Niners and Birds are set to play a brutal, facemask-to-facemask, mud-and-blood contest in Philadelphia. A trip to the Super Bowl is on the line. If scars are the price to pay for a chance at winning the title, so be it.

This will be football in its cardinal form. The NFL has become a pass-first league, but these two teams didn’t join the trend. The Eagles were second in the NFL in rushing attempts this season, the 49ers were fifth.

So this game will be settled in the trenches by the burly, manhandling offensive and defensive lines, with input only coming from smaller players if they can punch well above their weight.

There’s something beautiful about that kind of football, too.

And here’s the thing about this game in particular: I don’t know who will win.

San Francisco 49ers' Nick Bosa (97) reacts after sacking Arizona Cardinals quarterback David Blough (17) in the second quarter of their NFL game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
(Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 


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