By Dylan MacKinnon
It is hard to ask for a better start to the Nick Sirianni/Jalen Hurts era than that. Eagles scored on a Devonta Smith TD in their first drive to go up 7-3, and never lost that lead. In the end, they beat the Falcons 32-6.
While it is important to stay realistic, it is more than fair to be excited after how this team looked today. It was a little sloppy with penalties early but other than that there is not much to complain about. But there is a lot to like from what we saw. Here are the 5 numbers that stuck out to me as reasons to be happy after game 1.
After the first two drives, there was a semi-big deal being made about how bad the Eagles run D looked. And for good reason, they were getting gashed for 6.15 yards per carry. But after those drives, the Eagles Run D really settled down, and only allowed 2.8 yards per carry the rest of the game (up until garbage time with backups in). The Falcons rushed 10 times after their second drive, for only 28 yards. Only one of those runs went for more than 4 yards. Four of them went for one yard or less. The early cries of a bad rush defense may have been overblown.
Another Shoutout for the Eagles D, and how they dominated after those first two drives. The Eagles gave up only 66 yards over the next 8 drives. The Falcons punted 7 times and turned it over on downs once. The Eagles gave up 0 points after allowing those first two field goals. The talk after today will mostly be about how well Nick Sirianni coached, Jalen Hurts’ greats play, Mailata almost killing a guy with his blocking, but we should not let the defense go unrewarded. They were a force. The D-line took over the game, and they did not let Matt Ryan do anything. They had 3 sacks to go on top of that.
Hurts was only sacked once. Last year the Eagles QBs were sacked at a near historic rate. Over 60 sacks between the Eagles QBS last year. But today, Hurts was never under much pressure. There were a few ciostly false starts and holds, but for the most part, the Eagles O-line were monsters. And not just in pass protection. At one point Kelce got downfield to make some big blocks for Sanders. And then there was this monster block by Jordan Mailata on the Jalen Reagor TD.
Mailata may just be a special player. And he has room to get better. Injuries decimated the line last year. But if they stay healthy, this may be the best o line in the league.
A big concern for Jalen Hurts as an NFL Qb was will he be accurate enough. Last year he only completed 52% of his passes. That would be the worst in the league if he had enough snaps to qualify. But so far so good this year. He completed 77.14% of his passes this game. Granted he was mostly throwing short, but the Eagles were making use of space and getting guys the ball with space to work. He looked comfortable making most of the throws. Was there a couple he missed? Sure. He underthrew a wide-open Zach Ertz once. But more the most part he was on the money. His arm looked much better than it did last year. If he can play like this, he can certainly be an NFL QB.
It may be hard to get excited for a punter, but I would be remiss if I failed to point out the performance of Arryn Sippos. He made 4 punts, 3 of which pinned the Falcons behind their 20-yard line. Twice he pinned them behind the 10-yard line. The third punt had them behind the 10, but a missed tackle let the Falcons return it a few yards to get beyond the 10. The fourth punt, went 54 yards. The field position battle is important in being a winning team. Forcing your opponent to start a drive backed against their own end zone helps the defense. If the defense gets that stop, you will likely then get the ball back in good field position. Having a great punter is an underrated thing that makes your team better. Looks like the Eagles have a good one.