If the NFL's season-opening game in Tampa Bay meant anything, the league is in for a wild ride in 2021. After a record-setting 2020 in terms of points scored, Dallas and Tampa Bay went out and combined for 60 points and quarterbacks Dak Prescott and Tom Brady combined for nearly 800 passing yards.
Crazy, right? Is that a preview of what's to come in the offense-heavy NFL this season?
We'll see about that. I planned to write about "The Things We Learned From The Opener," but then Tampa Bay somehow won the game despite a minus-3 in the giveaway/takeaway department and that theory kinda, sorta got blown away (for a game, at least) and, anyway, it's all about the Eagles and Sunday in Atlanta and the start of the Nick Sirianni coaching era in Philadelphia.
Excitement? No doubt. Everyone is curious to see how it all plays out.
From a players' standpoint, the Eagles have kept their focus all week, not allowing themselves to look ahead or get caught up in the emotion. They've been "grinding," from the football perspective.
"Everybody is just honing in on that day and staying in the moment," linebacker Eric Wilson said in an exclusive interview for the Eagles Insider Podcast. "It's really great, the culture that we have here, what we stand for on defense. That's us flying around, playing smart, doing your job and being there for your teammates. We are making sure that we're on the same page the whole way and on Sunday it's going to be a matter of going out and doing it.
"The first game of the year can always be filled with question marks and when you have a new coaching staff, maybe some new guys on the team and so with that it's very important that we're doing what we're doing the right way, being where we're supposed to be when we're supposed to be there. After a few series, we'll get a sense of what they're trying to do, how they are attacking the field with the new offense, and we'll get a handle on things."
Sunday is about the Philadelphia Eagles. Sirianni talked on Friday about what he's seen from the team all week and how pleased he has been with the focus and the intensity and the sense of purpose.
Game time is nearly here and the Eagles enter the opener with great confidence.
"When you're prepared, you're confident," Wilson said. "We've had a great week of preparation."
Said Sirianni: "I'm excited about this team. Again, I see a team that is really close together. I see a team that has continued to improve their fundamentals. I thought yesterday's (Thursday) practice particularly, I was watching third down on the offense, we were just really crisp in the fundamentals, in the pass game. Every play I was watching with the guys, I was like, 'This is exactly how you do it, this is exactly how you do it.' That is a good feeling as a coach, right, to really feel like we're getting better.
"Again, you're not ready for this moment unless you've built to this moment. That's what we've been trying to do every day – build, build, build, build, build, continue to build through the season when other teams plateau, and just try to have that mindset of getting better every day."
Sirianni has considered every moment in this journey – what he's going to say to the team, the kind of conditioning needed to prepare for the regular season, the noise factor in a dome on Sunday with a full stadium present for the first time since the 2019 season – and his Friday message was simple, and very important.
Don't let down. Don't lose focus. Kickoff is near.
"My experience is on Friday, I always think it starts with the coaches," he said. "You've been here, right, you've been here working 6 to 10 every night. 6 AM to 10 PM, give or take, whatever it is. You do that Monday, and you do that Tuesday, and you do that Wednesday, and you do that Thursday. Then Friday, like, I get to go home and see everybody tonight, right, see everybody at a decent hour, maybe pick the kids up from school, this and that. There's a tendency to be (sighing). You can't do that in this sport, right? You can't ever sigh and say '(sighing).' No, you have to be completely focused at the task at hand.
"That was my message to them. That's going to be my message to them on Saturday, to be quite honest with you. It's, 'Hey, what happened the play before?' Good? Bad? Doesn't matter. We have to be completely focused on the task at hand. So, everything that we go through in Training Camp, everything we go through in practice, is prep for us to play in this game. I just look at it as a good opportunity to be, like, 'Be now, be now, be in the moment, dog mentality and be here right now,' and that's what Focus Friday is."
Focus Friday turns very quickly into Success Sunday. That's the plan for the Eagles in Week 1 as they take flight to Atlanta for the opener.