The Eagles kicked off the 2021 season with a dominant victory over the Falcons in Atlanta on Sunday. Other than Atlanta’s first two drives of the game, the Eagles were in control the entire time and never seemed to have much trouble handling Atlanta. Although the Falcons aren’t the NFL’s most talented team, I expected them to put up a better fight in a week one home opener with a new head coach. Here are some things that surprised me during the Eagles win.
1. Jalen Hurts
Jalen deserves an entire article about his performance on Sunday. He played exactly how you want your captain starting quarterback to play. Hurts was the youngest quarterback to start an Eagles opener. I had high expectations for Hurts this year and expected him to be solid for the Eagles, but Sunday was far and above expectations. Hurts just looked so composed and comfortable all game. A young guy opening the season with a new coach on the road – I expected some shaky moments and maybe a few drives for the Birds to get in rhythm, but they ended up scoring on the very first drive. Jalen Hurts was 27/35 and threw for 264 yards and 3 touchdowns. The first of course being to rookie Devonta Smith (hopefully many more of these to come!). Hurts was only sacked once which is a testament to the offensive line and his scramble ability. Also key, Jalen didn’t turn the ball over once. I was most impressed with Hurts on the two minute drill to end the half. The Eagles put a great drive together and had to score twice because of a penalty. It was a great throw to Goddert. The whole game Jalen Hurts was calm and cool, and truly led the Eagles to victory.
2. Limit Big Plays
My second surprise from this game was the defense’s ability to hold Atlanta to small/medium plays. They were the only team in the NFL not to allow a play of over 20 yards. The Eagles forced three sacks on the day, all coming in a dominant second half. Ryan also had two intentional grounding penalties on Sunday. Atlanta looked like they could move the ball at will early on but the defense settled into the game and was just too much for the ATL offense. The Falcons run game was solid, but wasn’t enough to truly impact the game. The depth of the Eagles defensive line has been well documented and we saw them start to wear out that Atlanta front in the second half. Hopefully the Eagles can continue to play solid D and not let up big plays.
3. Nick Sirianni
Nick Sirianni joined both Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson in winning their opening games as head coach. I thought Sirianni did a fantastic job on Sunday. I can’t say I have any complaints from the play calling. The offense always looked ready. Last year it seemed like there were so many drives where the Eagles offense looked like a complete mess. Hurts and the offense always seemed to be in the right spots and were able to execute the game plan. During the game I didn’t say Sirianni’s name too much, which I think shows how successful he was this week. No “what the heck is he doing” or “what was that play call” or “why wouldn’t you challenge that” moments. The only time I was bothered by the play calling was in third and short and then not converting on fourth. I liked that they went for it on fourth down, but if it is 3rd and short, I would run the ball on 3rd if you already know you are going to go for it. I also loved the decision to go for 2 after the penalty. Nick Sirianni is off to a good start as the head coach of the Eagles and I am excited to see what week two brings against a better San Francisco squad.
4. No Uh-Oh Moments
Oh did the Eagles have plenty of these last year from turnovers to drops to penalties to blown coverages in the secondary to not ever being able to get off the field on third down. The Eagles just continued to kill themselves last season. I will start by saying the Eagles had 14 penalties for 89 yards. I am not surprised in week one on the road there were some false start penalties and some sloppy play in general, but I would love for the penalties to be cleaned up next week. The offense didn’t turn the ball over and Hurts was only sacked once. They also closed the game out. It was 15-6 and the game hung in the balance during the third quarter but both units were able to stay level and finish out the game. A killer turnover or penalty has hurt the team when trying to close out a game too many times in the past. It was the first game of the season on the road and the Eagles took care of business playing almost flawless football. How many Eagles games ever feel this easy? Not many, it was a great win for the Birds!
Let me know what or who surprised you from the Eagles opener?
Photo: John David Mercer/USA Today Sports