At the end of the day, the home opener at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday in front of a sun-drenched and electrically charged crowd of fans together for the first time since the early days of 2020 was all about missed opportunities for the Eagles in a 17-11 loss to the San Francisco 49ers that dropped Philadelphia to 1-1 in this 17-game season.
A missed opportunity like a first-quarter touchdown pass to Jalen Reagor that was nullified as Reagor stepped out of bounds before returning to the field of play and catching a Jalen Hurts pass in the end zone. That possession ended, early in the second quarter, when the 49ers' Javon Kinlaw blocked Jake Elliott's 47-yard field goal attempt. Elliott said after the game that he felt he hit the ball "really well. It was a clean operation." But the 49ers made the play. Threat ended.
A missed opportunity like the one the Eagles had, holding a 3-0 lead late in the first half, with a first-and-goal situation at the San Francisco 1-yard line thanks to a 91-yard Hurts-to-Quez Watkins completion and then, again, after the Eagles were backed up to the 11-yard line by a penalty, a pass interference call against the 49ers in the end zone. But the Eagles couldn't take advantage on four attempts. A pass to tight end Zach Ertz on first down was incomplete. A Miles Sanders run on second down lost 4 yards. On third down, Hurts rolled right and gained a yard to the 3-yard line. Then the Eagles tried trickery, and it failed.
Hurts handed off to wide receiver DeVonta Smith, who ran in motion from right to left and then he pitched the ball to wide receiver Greg Ward, who rolled right looking for someone to come open. Ward, a college quarterback, threw incomplete to Hurts, and the Eagles had missed on a great chance to take a double-digit lead with 4:28 remaining in the half.
At that point in the game, the Eagles had the edge over San Francisco. The 49ers had gained just three first downs – none in the first quarter – and 50 total net yards, but they trailed by only a field goal. That four-down stop changed the momentum of the game completely.
The 49ers immediately put together a 12-play, 97-yard drive highlighted by a 40-yard catch-and-run from wide receiver Deebo Samuel. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo finished the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jauan Jennings with eight seconds remaining in the first half and the Eagles trailed 7-3 heading into halftime.
"I don't think I called good plays in that area. There are going to be times where you're going to look at it and be like, 'I want those calls back.' When they work, it was a good play. They didn't," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said.
Philadelphia never emerged from its offensive funk in the second half, gaining just 138 total net yards and 10 first downs on four possessions. San Francisco entered the game minus its two starting cornerbacks and a starting linebacker and the Eagles were unable to take advantage. The big plays from a week earlier in Atlanta just weren't there as the Eagles had only two plus-20-yard plays, the Hurts-to-Watkins connection and a late-game 27-yard Hurts scramble.
"We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot," said Watkins, who had two receptions for 117 yards. "It was very disappointing (that the Eagles didn't score after his 91-yard catch and run). We needed that score. We're going to look back on the film, correct our mistakes, and come back on Monday and get to work."
Losing the game was tough enough for the Eagles, but the pain was compounded by injuries suffered by right guard Brandon Brooks (chest) and defensive end Brandon Graham (ankle). Both left the game and neither returned. Second-round draft pick Landon Dickerson replaced Brooks at right guard in his NFL debut.
"Obviously it's a tough situation to be thrown into. He didn't get a whole Training Camp and everything, but I think Landon did a hell of a job," center Jason Kelce said. "They're a good defense and I know we've got a lot to improve on across the board. Little mistakes here and there. It's tough to narrow down one thing. I think that it was really, really close. We had some bright spots, but ultimately, it's little mistakes, whether it's penalties ... I think it's across the board little things that we can do to get better, myself included.
"It's never positive when you lose, but it's all correctable."
As much as the Eagles struggled offensively, the defense produced a mixed bag. San Francisco didn't register a first down until the second quarter and managed only 3.1 yards per carry from its vaunted run game. But Garoppolo had an efficient day, completing 22 of 30 passes for 189 yards and the touchdown. He wasn't sacked on the day. Most significantly, the 49ers put together two touchdown drives of 90-plus yards, the 97-yarder at the end of the first half and a 16-play, 92-yard drive that consumed 8:59 off the clock and ended with a touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that gave the 49ers a 14-3 advantage.
"Obviously there's disappointment. We didn't win the game," Sirianni said. "That's the only goal and you don't care how you ever win it. You just want to win the game, so it was, 'Hey, learn from this, get up, pick yourself up, and get back to work for next week.'"
Next week is a big one, of course. It's Beat Dallas Week, with a Monday Night Football game on the road for Round 3 of the 2021 season.
Take a look at the best shots from the first home game of the 2021 season.