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Check out TE Dallas Goedert diving to haul in an amazing throw from QB Jalen Hurts for a 9-yard touchdown at the end of the first half. RB Miles Sanders tacked on a two-point conversion to make it 15-6 at halftime.
Nick Sirianni appreciates 'dog mentality' in total team win
For just a moment, Nick Sirianni reveled in the journey he's taken to reach this point. As he prepared to address the team on Sunday after a 32-6 win over the Atlanta Falcons, his first as an NFL head coach, he paused.
"I had a moment with myself," he said. "It meant a lot and so I just thought about all the work that got me to this position. Again, the guys played together so well – it was such a complementary game all around."
Mostly though, it was all business for Sirianni who was aggressive in his decision-making, creative in his playcalling, and confident in every phase of the team's performance in the impressive victory. Twice Sirianni went for it on fourth down and once he opted for a two-point conversion attempt (it worked). He worked beautifully with quarterback Jalen Hurts to get him into an early rhythm and to take what the Atlanta defense was giving. Sirianni used his entire gameday roster (only backup quarterback Joe Flacco did not see action) to carve out an early lead, wear down the Falcons, and eventually enjoy the runaway victory.
Sirianni spoke to the team the night before the game and emphasized having a "dog" mentality, which he said boils down to staying in the moment and shaking off the previous play, good or not so good – "just like a dog would when you open up the cage and he goes to hunt" – and the Eagles followed those thoughts perfectly. A defense that allowed 144 yards and 12 first downs on Atlanta's opening two drives knuckled down and dominated the rest of the way. Sirianni's offense scored three touchdowns on three trips inside Atlanta's 20-yard line. The special teams were solid all the way through.
All in all, it was a great way to open a season – and a head coaching tenure.
"Offense played really well, defense played lights out, special teams – it was a good team win," Sirianni said. "I felt like the guys played together, for each other, with each other. So, I'm really pleased with the way we played as a football team."
Sirianni's plan on offense is to give Hurts options and to make decisions based on looks provided by the defense, and Sirianni wants to lean on the team's strong offensive line to key the running game. Those strategies worked as the offense rolled to 434 total net yards and three touchdowns in three visits to the red zone. The Eagles committed no turnovers offensively, although Sirianni knows the team needs to clean up the penalties – 14 for 89 yards in losses, including seven penalties on the offensive line.
As far as openers go, Sirianni's was huge.
"There are not a lot of feelings that are better than when you're in the locker room after the game celebrating, hugging, doing your handshakes, whatever it is," Sirianni said. "There's not a better feeling in the world, unless you're connected to the people across from you. If we didn't think about connecting every day and we went out and won that game, it would feel really sweet and those hugs would feel really cool, but when you connect with somebody those hugs mean even more and those are special moments." – Dave Spadaro
Check out the best photos from Week 1.
Jalen Hurts commands offense in season debut
The way he carried himself on the field and on the sidelines, you would think he's a long-tenured veteran. But, he is only in his second season and first as a starter. Quarterback Jalen Hurts was relaxed and kept his composure throughout the game. With a 32-6 win over the Atlanta Falcons, Hurts was just grateful to go out and win in Week 1.
"I think it's good to win on opening day. All the hard work we put in, all the different changes we've endured. We've had to overcome and persevere with new coaching, new values as a football team, and buying into it. Coming out here we won, and started off the right way. I think that's good," Hurts said to start his press conference after the game.
Hurts led his team to victory ... and you could say his team was not only impressed with his leadership, but with his playmaking abilities.
"Just his will to win. He doesn't stop. You know he's running it. He is given calls. He is given checks. He is really locked in and he's holding everybody to the high standard too," said running back Miles Sanders, who had 74 rushing yards and recorded a two-point conversion after tight end Dallas Goedert's touchdown.
It was a strong start to the season for Hurts. He threw for three touchdowns (264 passing yards) and rushed for 62 yards. His ability to use his legs to extend drives showed how versatile of a quarterback he is.
"Jalen was completely in control. He was in complete control the whole game and played a heck of a football game. I'm really happy with the way he played," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said, who made his NFL head coaching debut.
"It's not a thing about control, it's to think of me going out there and doing what I'm coached to do. We prepare, we hit it every day. I always talk about executing. I want to execute at a high level, whether that is running the ball or throwing the ball," Hurts said.
And executing at a high level is what he did. Hurts led the Eagles down the field on a seven-play, 75-yard opening drive and finished it off with an 18-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith.
"He is a leader. When things are wrong, he's the one guy who's picking everybody up. When things are right, he's one who tells us to keep pushing," Smith said about Hurts.
To keep leading his team throughout the game, he focused on future plays and did not dwell on the past.
"Never get too high, never get too low in the midst of all things, and keep going. Last play is over, good or bad. How are we going to respond to the next play, how we're going to attack the next play, so I think it's a good start for us. We just want to be consistent, a lot of things we need to clean up like things I need to clean up," said Hurts, who tied his career high with the three touchdown throws.
One thing that caught people's attention on the sidelines was the fun, in-depth handshake Hurts and Sirianni shared. Sirianni says it was originally him and his son's handshake. Thankfully, his son does not mind him sharing.
"We did it last night before the meeting. It was fun to do that in the game again. When you're in there celebrating with somebody, and you're going through and having those emotions. Those emotions mean even more when you're close with that person. That was special," Sirianni said with a big smile.
Even though Hurts is an all-business type of guy, he is going to celebrate this win ... for a little.
"Enjoy it for 24 hours and we'll be back working," he said. – Jillian Oddo
Defense stifles Falcons after first two drives
After two offensive possessions on Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons rolled up 144 yards and 12 first downs on 29 plays and it was fair to wonder just how the Eagles would be able to reverse the momentum. Turns out, in their minds, they already had.
"Yeah, they moved the ball, but they came away with only two field goals," defensive tackle Javon Hargrave said. "That's the story right there."
The Eagles stiffened in the red zone and then clamped down on Atlanta after that on the way to a 32-6 victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Philadelphia recorded three quarterback sacks – two from Hargrave – 10 quarterback hurries and six tackles for loss as they shut out the Falcons the rest of the way and got the 2021 season off to a roaring start.
"They were moving the ball in the first quarter, but the big thing was that we got stops in the red zone and they kicked field goals. Then we went up on them and it was coverage and rush time," Hargrave said. "That's what we were ready for. People came up big in the red zone. Our DBs were covering great and we came up with some key stops. We made it hard on (quarterback) Matt Ryan.
"It really turned the game around. The first few drives, they were doing whatever they wanted. We came up big in that red zone and that changed the game. We felt it and our offense put a couple of drives together and scored touchdowns and that just flipped the whole game."
The Eagles allowed dangerous wide receiver Calvin Ridley to gain just 51 yards on five receptions, with three of those catches coming in the first offensive drive. Rookie first-round draft pick Kyle Pitts, a talented tight end, had only three receptions. Ryan was limited to just 164 passing yards, with a long play of only 18 yards.
"We knew where their explosive players were so it was important that we were all on the same page and that we played some tight coverage," safety Anthony Harris said. "It was all about working hand in hand, allowing our defensive line to get pressure and taking ownership on the back end and covering guys."
Harris said it was a "team effort" against Ridley and Pitts as the Eagles mixed up the coverages on the back end. It helped a whole lot that the Eagles generated so much pressure rushing Ryan with only four men rushing from the trenches.
The game plan was executed almost flawlessly at the end of the day.
"We had great communication and we worked well together," Harris said. "We were dialed in in the red zone and we were focused. We were relentless and we had the mindset that we weren't going to let them cross the goal line. We kept a positive attitude, kept believing and we kept them out of the end zone. That was important for us." – Dave Spadaro
DeVonta Smith scores again at Mercedes-Benz Stadium
On January 8, 2018, DeVonta Smith crossed the goal line at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for the first touchdown of his college career, a 41-yard catch in overtime that ended the season with the Alabama Crimson Tide as National Champions.
On September 12, 2021, Smith crossed the same goal line on the same side of the field in the same stadium for his first NFL touchdown, an 18-yard score that gave the Eagles a lead that they would not relinquish in a 32-6 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
While pandemonium struck following the first college score, there was a more business-like approach to his professional introduction to the end zone as quarterback Jalen Hurts – also his teammate in college – told him, "That's just the first one. The game's not over."
In fact, Smith doesn't even know where the ball is from the touchdown, as it was taken from him shortly after the play. Smith wasn't also overly emotional because the play was executed just as it was practiced during the week. The Eagles expected to see man coverage. Smith was freed by a rub route from tight end Zach Ertz and Hurts placed the ball perfectly over the shoulder where only the rookie could haul it in.
It was Smith's first catch of the afternoon, but not his last.
Smith tied the Eagles rookie record for most receptions in a debut with six and led all players with 71 yards. Smith caught short passes and worked his way open when Hurts was scrambling, in need of a target.
Sunday was a great steppingstone for the first-round draft pick. Just don't expect him to get too excited about it.
"We've been working hard to get to this point, but we understand that it's just Round 1. Got 16 more," he said. – Chris McPherson
Miles Sanders does it all in the win
He was the game's leading rusher with 74 yards. He chipped in with four more receptions for 39 yards, totaling over 100 yards from scrimmage in Sunday's win over Atlanta. He scored on the ground on a two-point conversion and his blitz pickup helped quarterback Jalen Hurts thrive.
All in all, it was a well-rounded season debut for running back Miles Sanders.
"This is only the beginning," Sanders said. "Taking it one week at a time. Round 1 is over. Got the dub. On to San Fran."
Sanders was juiced for Sunday's opener because of the coaches' game plan and their belief in the run game.
"Just trying to be aggressive and attack the defense as much as we can in as many different ways as possible," Sanders said.
The Eagles churned out 173 yards on the ground. Fellow rookie Kenny Gainwell got in on the fun with 37 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut. Gainwell had a touchdown wiped out by a penalty, but was able to get in the end zone in the third quarter on an 8-yard run to make it 22-6. Sanders immediately recalled his NFL debut in 2019 when he had a touchdown taken off the board due to a penalty.
Sanders and the rest of the running backs benefited from quarterback Jalen Hurts' execution of the RPO game. The Falcons' fast-flowing linebackers had to pause to see who would actually get the ball on each play.
"I think it was excellent," Sanders said. "It opened up the run game tremendously for all of the running backs. That's all we can ask for."
But Sanders knows the offense doesn't work without an outstanding effort up front by an offensive line that welcomed back Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks and All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson after season-ending injuries in 2020. In the third quarter, Sanders took a handoff around the right end behind those two building blocks. Center Jason Kelce fired out in front and Sanders patiently waited for his blocks on his way to an 8-yard gain. It was a common refrain throughout the afternoon.
"I don't take none of that for granted," Sanders said.
Sanders is looking ahead to next week's home opener against the 49ers, but wanted to wrap up his press conference after the game to relish in the celebration with his teammates.
"It's a party. It's still a party (in the locker room). I'm trying to get back," Sanders said with a laugh. – C-Mac
'Money Man' Jordan Mailata celebrates new deal with a win
Before the Eagles took flight for Atlanta on Saturday afternoon, tackle Jordan Mailata inked a four-year contract extension that will keep him with Philadelphia through 2025.
He thanked Jeff Stoutland, the team's run game coordinator/offensive line coach, who mentored him and molded him from a 6-foot-8, 365-pound ball of clay who never played American football prior to 2018 into a starting tackle just three years later. But the two wanted to keep the focus on the game, so there weren't any festivities or heart-to-heart chats.
"I'm extremely blessed to have gotten the extension. I am incredibly happy to keep representing the city and this team and this organization and everything it stands for," said Mailata, who was nicknamed "Money Man" by running back Miles Sanders. "It gives me an opportunity to represent my family, my country (Australia), and my people."
Mailata and the Eagles' offense churned out 173 yards on the ground, accounted for 434 total yards, didn't turn the ball over, allowed quarterback Jalen Hurts to be sacked just once, and scored more points than in any game in 2020 in Sunday's win over Atlanta.
"I think it is a movie. I'm just waiting for somebody to say cut," Mailata said of how unbelievable his journey has been. "Until then, I'm just going to keep doing my process. You guys know it, get one percent better every day and just keep learning from my mistakes. Obviously, today wasn't a clean game. I'm going to watch the tape and learn from it."
In his first road game as a starter in a fully packed stadium, remember COVID protocols limited the number of fans last season, there were some miscues, but he wasn't alone. The Eagles had 14 total penalties.
While there's plenty to learn from, there will be one highlight that the coaches will be sure to bring up. On wide receiver Jalen Reagor's 23-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter on a screen pass, Mailata leveled Richie Grant, providing the rookie safety with a "Welcome to the NFL moment."
"Just doing my job. I had that play earlier in the week and the timing wasn't right (in practice). When we called the play in the huddle, I knew what I had to correct. The timing had to be perfect," Mailata said. – C-Mac
• DeVonta Smith became the first wide receiver to catch a TD in his NFL debut since Marvin Hargrove in 1990. He also tied DeSean Jackson (2008) for the Eagles' rookie record for most catches in a debut (6).
• Miles Sanders has four career two-point conversions, which are the most by any Eagles player since 1990.
• DeVonta Smith (receiving) and Kenneth Gainwell (rushing) are the first Eagles rookie duo to score TDs in the same game since Jalen Hurts (rushing) and Quez Watkins (receiving) last season at Arizona. This is the first time that two Eagles rookies scored TDs in a season opener since at least 1950, according to Pro Football Reference.
• Philadelphia has won 5 of its last 6 season openers dating back to 2016. The Eagles entered the game tied for the best Week 1 winning percentage in the NFL since 2011.
• Philadelphia has captured four of its last five overall games vs. Atlanta. Including the postseason, the Eagles own a 12-5 record (.706) against the Falcons since the 2000 campaign.
• The 26-point win is the Eagles' largest margin of victory on the road in a season opener since defeating Carolina by 28 points by the score of 38-10 on 9/13/09. It is the largest in any game since defeating Minnesota by 26 in the NFC Championship Game.
• Jalen Hurts (23 years, 36 days) became the youngest Eagles QB to start in a season opener in the Super Bowl era.
• Jason Kelce extended his streak of consecutive regular-season games started to 106, which is the longest active streak among NFL centers (longest streak by an Eagles center since the 1970 merger). Kelce's streak is the longest by any NFL center since Chris Myers from 2007-14 (123 games).
– Anthony Bonagura and John Gonoude