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Spadaro: 10 observations from a roller-coaster win in Detroit

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

DETROIT – Holding on to a three-point lead with 3 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in a game that just a short time earlier looked to be all about the Eagles winning in convincing fashion on the road, the Eagles took possession of the football at their 19-yard line and gained 8 yards on two running plays to set up a critical third-and-2 call.

What to do here? Let the offense lead the way, and give running back Miles Sanders the football. That's exactly what quarterback Jalen Hurts did and Sanders did the rest, breaking out of a bottleneck situation to bounce outside and find open space on the way to a 29-yard gain all the way out to the 49-yard line. The game wasn't quite over until, gulp, Head Coach Nick Sirianni had the Eagles go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Detroit 40-yard line with 1:06 to go and Hurts sneaked up the middle for a first down and ... the ... clincher.

"I didn't think it was close. I felt like we got enough push that it shouldn't have been close," center Jason Kelce said. "Did we go forward? That's usually a good sign."

It was a hugely needed series to ice a win in a crazy, roller-coaster kind of an opener as the Eagles – up by as many as 21 points at one point in the second half – left Detroit with a 38-35 victory.

Whew ...

Boom! Here we are, 1-0 and knowing just a little bit more about the Eagles as they started the first of a 17-game, 18-week regular season journey. What stuck out from this perspective ...

1. When you win at the line of scrimmage, you dominate. And the Eagles won against a Detroit defense that came out flying around, challenging the offense with the blitz game, and super-aggressively challenging Philadelphia. It took a minute to adjust, and it started with Hurts using his legs to escape pressure for 35 yards on three runs to open the game, and then the Eagles came back with the short passing game – four completions, 62 yards to A.J. Brown – to get the offense untracked. Hurts accounted for a career-high 256 yards of offense in the first half, 67 on 10 rushing attempts and 189 yards on 11-of-23 passing in the half. Then the Eagles scored touchdowns on their two third-quarter drives to lead by 17 after three quarters. In all, Hurts ran for 90 yards and threw for 243 – a whopping 342 yards of total offense.

2. The Eagles converted 9 of their first 13 third downs – extremely impressive – and 10 of 17 overall. Four players – Hurts, Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Kenneth Gainwell – scored touchdowns on the ground, the first time an Eagles team did that since 1961. The offense spread the wealth. Sanders ran hard to gain 96 yards on 13 carries, hit the hole hard, and kept his legs moving. Scott iced the game with some tough runs on the final series. In all, the Eagles rang up 216 ground yards on 39 carries.

3. Wide receiver A.J. Brown was, as you know, spectacular. Unstoppable. On a day when the Lions used former first-round draft pick Jeff Okudah on DeVonta Smith, who was targeted four times and had a reception wiped away because of a penalty – the Eagles went to Brown early and often. He ended with 10 receptions for 155 yards.

4. The Eagles did not turn the football over and won the giveaway/takeaway battle 1-0.

5. The defense gave up an opening-drive touchdown and then dominated for a stretch – three three-and-out series, then an interception return for a touchdown – and then in the second half there were some good moments and then a few Lions touchdown drives that Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon will use as teaching points. A very good moment: Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox combined to sack Jared Goff and end a drive early in the fourth quarter when the defense really needed a stop.

6. A trio of young defensive tackles really showed up for the Eagles – Milton Williams, Marlon Tuipulotu, and first-round draft pick Jordan Davis. They played early-down snaps and meaningful snaps and they gained good push and held up well against the run.

7. Britain Covey was elevated from the practice squad for Sunday's game and returned two punts, one of them for 11 yards.

8. Good game for punter Arryn Siposs, who averaged 45.7 yards on three punts.

9. Loved what safety Marcus Epps did with a team-high 10 tackles and one tackle for loss.

10. New Eagle C.J. Gardner-Johnson ended up starting the game and played the whole way. The pass defense was largely very solid safe for some late-game moments and, again, this is a work in progress with so many new faces in the lineup.

Overall, a game that started out with the Lions rocking and then had the Eagles rolling and late in the second half saw Detroit surge, ended with a Philadelphia victory and, hey, that's just the way it is in the first week of the NFL season. It's a crazy world early in the season as teams find out what they are. We know this: The Eagles at times looked devastating and dominated. When they have teams down by 21 points, they'll keep the foot on the gas pedal. This team can be very, very good.

What they are now is a 1-0 team and that's all that matters. As they say in the league, it's all about "how many" (wins), not "how" (you won). That 1-0 in the standings looks just fine right now.

The Eagles are in Detroit for the 2022 season opener. View the action photos from our team of photographers.

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