How the Eagles' 'crazy' and loud fans can be a nightmare for 49ers rookie QB Brock Purdy

PHILADELPHIA − It's not so much that the Eagles' fans are loud and boisterous.

They are all that, and more.

But the atmosphere could resemble a nonstop party when 70,000 fans pack Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday to watch the Eagles play in the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers, with the winner advancing to the Super Bowl.

And while the fans have nothing to do with the success and precision of Jalen Hurts' passes, or his ability to elude 49ers tacklers, they could have plenty to do with unnerving the 49ers, especially their 23-year-old rookie quarterback Brock Purdy.

The Eagles earned this advantage by having the best record in the NFC, going 14-3.

Sure, Purdy has become an amazing story, the 262nd and last pick of the 2022 NFL draft, the spot dubbed "Mr. Irrelevant." But Purdy has been hardly irrelevant as he worked his way up from third-string quarterback when the season started to lead the 49ers to seven consecutive wins and the conference championship game.

But Purdy has played in only two road games in his brief career, and it's safe to say nothing that will resemble what he'll experience at the Linc.

It's something that Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon saw from the opposing side the last time the Eagles hosted an NFC championship game. That was on Jan. 21, 2018, when the Eagles buried the Minnesota Vikings 38-7.

Gannon, who was the Vikings’ defensive backs coach back then, was asked if he thought the fans affected the game.

"I really did," Gannon said. "In warmups, a guy that I was coaching, he looked at me with a look in his eye like, 'Whoa.' I said, 'Whoa' back. You could feel the energy, and it's awesome. This is one of the best atmospheres that you're going to get in the National Football League, and obviously being the championship game, it'll be heightened.

"It's a big advantage for us."

Philadelphia Eagles fans with a sign "It's a Philly Thing" on it during the NFL divisional round playoff football game against the New York Giants, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Eagles fans with a sign "It's a Philly Thing" on it during the NFL divisional round playoff football game against the New York Giants, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Philadelphia.

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But don't just take Gannon's word for it.

There's also Eagles defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The 36-year-old is in his 13th NFL season after joining the Eagles in late November.

Suh has played in two Super Bowls, meaning that he has been on the winning team in two NFC championship games − both on the road. The first came in the 2018 season when the Los Angeles Rams beat the Saints in New Orleans, a notoriously loud domed stadium. The second was in the 2020 season when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay, one of the most storied venues in pro sports.

Suh said neither compared with what he experienced last Saturday night when the Eagles beat the Giants 38-7 in an NFC Divisional Round game.

In fact, Suh went back to his college days at Nebraska 15 years ago for a comparison, back when the Cornhuskers were still among the elite college football programs.

"The atmosphere here is one of a kind," Suh said. "I equate it very similarly to Nebraska football and one of those special places. You go (to Nebraska) and you know you’re going to get the best from their fans. (Eagles fans are) maybe not as nice as Nebraska fans, but without question, a great group."

Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, one of seven players on the current 53-man roster to have played in the NFC championship game for the Eagles five years ago, said it definitely affected the Vikings.

"Absolutely, especially against their offense," Cox said. "If the crowd is loud, they have to go silent cadence the whole time, and that’s what we want. We want them not to be able to get their calls in, not get their checks in, and that’s the advantage of playing in Philly."

Loud from the start

Safety Anthony Harris, who is on the Eagles' practice squad, was a starting safety for the Vikings in that game. He confirmed that the crowd took the Vikings out of the game.

Minnesota scored first in that game, taking a 7-0 lead. But then the Eagles tied the game on Patrick Robinson's 50-yard interception return for a touchdown later in the first quarter.

The Eagles were leading 14-7 late in the second quarter, and the Vikings were driving, hoping to tie the game before halftime. That's when Derek Barnett sacked quarterback Case Keenum, forcing a fumble that Brandon Graham recovered at the Eagles' 24-yard line.

The Eagles eventually scored off the turnover, taking a 21-7 lead at halftime, and Harris knew the Vikings were done.

"I remember coming into that week, we wanted to try to take the crowd out of the game," Harris said. "I remember we were doing that for a moment, going down and scoring, and kind of taking the air out of the place for a little bit.

An American flag is displayed on the field during the national anthem before the NFC championship game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on Jan. 21, 2018, in Philadelphia.
An American flag is displayed on the field during the national anthem before the NFC championship game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on Jan. 21, 2018, in Philadelphia.

"I remember the Eagles responded with an interception, and as soon as it hit (Robinson's) hands, the place lit up. You understand from that point on, that it's going to be a long day."

It went beyond the fact that the Vikings had to go to a silent count, using either a signal from the quarterback or the offensive guard to tell the center when to snap the ball.

Heck, it can get so loud when the Eagles have the ball that the Eagles have to use a silent count. Eagles center Jason Kelce admitted that was the case at times against the Giants last Saturday night.

"As an offense, you always want the crowd not to be loud, mainly for communication purposes," Kelce said. "There's a lot going on before the snap, and (the noise) hinders the offense quite a bit. But we've used silent cadence even before the divisional round (at home).

"Our fans are known to be pretty loud, and there are certain circumstances where they're going to be extra loud."

For Kelce, he hopes that's especially true when the 49ers have the ball.

Changes coming?

But how much longer will that last?

The NFL was going to move the AFC championship game to a neutral site in Atlanta if the matchup was the Buffalo Bills against the Kansas City Chiefs. That's because the Bills' game against Cincinnati on Dec. 26 was postponed, then canceled, when Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field after suffering cardiac arrest. That prevented Buffalo from having a chance at the best record in the AFC.

More than 50,000 tickets had been sold in the first 24 hours for that potential game − and that was before the Bills lost their Divisional Round game to the Bengals, thus making the switch moot.

Still, the NFL no doubt saw the ticket sales and the potential for neutral site conference championship games in a warm-weather, or domed environment, where fans of one team can sit on one side of the stadium and fans of the other team on the other side.

There are no plans for that scenario as of now, but it could be a matter of time. And that prospect does not please Kelce.

"I would assume they’re doing that because it makes more money," Kelce said. "But I think obviously a big part of the regular season being important is this bye week and the home field that you get. I think one of the really cool things about football is that the regular season is very important. You only get so many opportunities. You don’t get 80 games (82 in the NBA and NHL), or what does baseball get, 162?

"The (weather) plays a difference. Every game shouldn’t be 70 or 80 degrees and sunny. In football, it’s not a series. It’s what team is better on that day."

And that includes having the home-field advantage.

Contact Martin Frank at Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Philadelphia Eagles' crazy fans can be nightmare for 49ers Brock Purdy