Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni, left, talks with San...

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni, left, talks with San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan after the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Eagles won 31-7.  Credit: AP/Matt Slocum

PHILADELPHIA — Kyle Shanahan has been on the sour end of some of the most epic and heartbreaking losses in recent postseason lore. It’s sort of what he has become known for, guiding teams that can get so close to monumental victories they can smell the victory cigars, only to wind up in the ashtray of history.

This 31-7 loss to the Eagles in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game?

“This one was harder,” he said after briefly reflecting on his catalog of collapses. “This one was a lot harder.”

It wasn’t because his 49ers team crumbled or fell apart under pressure. It wasn’t even because they were beaten by a clearly better roster as the score would indicate at first glance.

It was because they never really had a chance.

Not after their starting quarterback Brock Purdy left the game with an elbow injury at the end of the first drive of the game. Not when backup Josh Johnson — the fourth option of the season after injuries during the year had befallen starters Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo — left the game with a concussion after the first drive of the second half.

And certainly not when Purdy had to return to the field physically unable to throw the ball more than just the few feet required of him on his two pass attempts over the final three possessions of the game. Both were designed checkdowns sniffed out by an Eagles defense which knew it needn’t worry about anything going over its head and crashed toward the line of scrimmage on each and every down.

The 49ers, who had their 12-game win streak snapped, ran 14 offensive plays with the injured Purdy at quarterback for a total of 23 offensive yards and two first downs.

“Guys are pretty down,” Shanahan said of the postgame locker room and a team that, if healthy at the one critical position, thought it could have beaten the top-seeded Eagles. “Wish we had a little better opportunity than we had today.”

Purdy’s injury came on a sack when Haason Reddick hit his throwing arm and forced a fumble.

“It just felt like it stretched out,” Purdy said of his elbow. “I felt like shocks from my elbow down to my wrist, front and back. Just pain, really, all over.”

He said he will undergo an MRI on Monday to evaluate the injury. At the time on Sunday, all that mattered was he was unable to throw effectively. He made a few tosses on the sideline but “even in those throws it was painful,” he said.

Shanahan said the 49ers had a package of Wildcat plays that would have included direct snaps to McCaffrey after Johnson was knocked out, his head hitting the turn after a hit from Ndamukong Suh. They ran one of them and McCaffrey threw it incomplete. They never had a chance to run the rest of them, he said, because none of their drives lasted long enough to get to them.

“We had an emergency package,” Shanahan said, “but we wanted to keep our quarterback in to at least use our normal running game.”

The quarterback situation wasn’t the only element of the game in which Shanahan felt somewhat helpless. On the opening possession, the Eagles completed a key fourth-down pass to DeVonta Smith, who made an acrobatic one-handed catch along the sideline. Although Smith was suspicious of his own catch and urged his fellow Eagles to quickly run the next play before it could be challenged, initial replays on TV and in the stadium seemed to indicate it was a secured grab and the 49ers did not challenge. It wasn’t until later in the drive that the broadcast showed new angles with the ball moving.

Shanahan was asked if he thought the angle that would likely have overturned the catch should have been shown sooner than it was.

“I wish,” he said.

It probably wasn’t the first one he would have made on Sunday, though.

Shanahan had praise for his defense, saying they were “out there pretty much alone in the second half.” When it was still a two-score game he was hoping for a turnover but the Eagles scored their only second-half touchdown on a drive extended by a roughing-the-punter penalty against Jordan Mason that made it 28-7 late in the third quarter.

Without a functional quarterback available, that lead became insurmountable.

“There’s not much to say right now,” Shanahan said. “We were dealt a pretty tough card today, a tough hand. They were tough circumstances.”

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