Wed, 22 Sep 2021

11 observations from the Eagles' 32-6 victory over Atlanta

Philadelphia Eagles
13 Sep 2021, 19:12 GMT+10

Dave Spadaro

By the time the third quarter of Sunday's regular-season opener in Atlanta came to a close, the Eagles were dominating. The offense had perfect symmetry - a punishing running game complementing an efficient passing attack, a defense that rallied to the football, and a special teams unit that won the hidden yardage battle. In the end, 60 minutes of strong football resulted in a convincing 32-6 victory to usher in the Nick Sirianni Era, a satisfying start to the season. Along the way, there were a ton of aspects to note. Here are some points to emphasize ...

1. Jalen Hurts was really good playing the quarterback position, completing 27 of 35 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns (to DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, and Jalen Reagor). He was poised and composed and he made good decisions, balancing a short- and mid-range passing game with timely uses of his legs. Hurts gained 62 yards on seven attempts on the ground and the offense rolled up 434 total yards, 24 first downs, a 6-for-13 performance on third downs, and three touchdowns in the red zone. Hurts played it beautifully.

2. Sirianni and Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen used the 1-2 punch of Miles Sanders and rookie Kenny Gainwell on the ground and in the passing game. It was a masterful use of their versatility and the Falcons just never caught up with what the Eagles were doing with the backs. Additionally, both backs were outstanding in pass protection. Sanders finished with 15 carries and 74 yards, with another 39 yards on six receptions, while Gainwell contributed 43 yards from scrimmage on 11 touches.

3. How beautiful was that two-minute drive to end the first half? Hurts completed 5 of 7 passes on the drive, including a perfectly thrown pass to tight end Dallas Goedert, who made a diving catch in the end zone. Hurts ran three times for 24 yards and Gainwell contributed a 9-yard reception and two runs for 7 yards.

4. The young wide receivers stepped up. Quez Watkins caught passes on the first three snaps from scrimmage to help get Hurts in an early rhythm - I love giving Hurts some easy early throws to build positive momentum, and then DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor took over from there. Smith was pretty much open any time the Eagles looked his way as he finished with six catches 71 yards and a touchdown, and Reagor had some middle-of-the-field catches and then a big burst taking a screen pass 23 yards for a score, finishing with six receptions for 49 yards. Hurts completed passes to seven different pass catchers.

5. New punter? No problem. Arryn Siposs averaged 47.3 gross yards per punt, with two landing inside the 10-yard line. Remember, it was his first regular-season game after spending last season on the Detroit practice squad. Siposs was spot on punting and flawless in the holding game as Jake Elliott made all three of his PAT kicks and a 43-yard field goal.

6. The Eagles' defense allowed 144 yards on Atlanta's first two drives, but both times the Eagles stopped Atlanta in the red zone and allowed two field goals. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley caught three passes on the opening drive. He finished with five catches for 51 yards on eight targets. The Eagles mixed up their coverages, stopped the running game after Atlanta's early success, and relied on a four-man pass rush to put pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan. It worked so well - the Eagles allowed 59 total net yards and only six first downs in the second half and tackles Javon Hargrave and Hassan Ridgeway combined for three quarterback sacks. Brandon Graham won off the edge and Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat were solid on the right side. Fletcher Cox didn't have a huge game statistically, but his presence made life miserable for rookie left guard Jalen Mayfield.

7. Let's recognize the performance of the offensive line against a blitz-heavy defense. OK, there were too many penalties (seven in all) and that's going to be a coaching point for the week ahead, but the offensive line really came together and led the way. The Eagles dominated in the running game and the offensive line gave Hurts time to set up and throw the football. If this group can stay healthy ...

8. Not only was Ridley a non-factor, so was rookie tight end Kyle Pitts. The Falcons moved him around the formation, but the Eagles had answers for Pitts, holding him to 31 yards on four receptions.

9. A big part of Jonathan Gannon's defensive philosophy is to limit the big plays, and the Eagles did a magnificent job of that. Pitts had a long reception of 18 yards. Ridley's longest gain was 16 yards. That's impressive stuff against such a high-powered group of pass catchers.

10. The defense gave up some rushing yards early, but then whatever adjustments Gannon made, or whether it was just winning individual battles, the Eagles put the wallop on Atlanta's running game in the second half. And what was just beautiful to watch was the way the Eagles rallied to the football. They hustled and they played with great emotion and intensity.

11. Finally, let's express the red zone dominance with some clarity: Atlanta scored six points on two trips inside the Eagles' 20-yard line, while Philadelphia scored three touchdowns and a total of 22 points (a two-point conversion included) on their three trips inside the Falcons' 20-yard line.

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