Ladies and Gentlemen:
Just when you thought the offense was back on track this happens.
Sirianni goes back to his single set with very little motion. And everybody and their grandma knows that he will be calling a bubble screen. The last time that play worked was game one against Atlanta. Even if the defense did not know exactly what was coming, Eagles receivers are not very good at breaking tackles.
At least they make up for that by having a dynamic running game.
Oh, wait…they don’t have a running game. Once again Miles Sanders was relegated to a undersized blocking fullback. I understand that when you run an offense heavy with the Run/Pass Option you leave it up to the quarterback to decide if the running play would be effective and, if not, he pulls it in and throws a pass but running the ball as a designed play should be a bigger part of the offense. If you become so one dimensional then opposing defenses plan on your quarterback throwing the ball 80% of the time. They don’t have to even defend the run seriously and can keep their safeties and linebackers in coverage.
My biggest concern about Sirianni’s play calling is that it seems like he has no feel for the momentum of the game. I understand that so many of these young coaches depend on analytics but there are times when you need to trust your gut. Not because you have a hunch (although sometimes that’s okay too) but because you see something that you know you can take advantage of. Or, your team needs something they can build on. I’m all for analytics in many situations but I believe there is middle ground here and many of the old school coaches know the difference.
There were two very telling moments in this game that demonstrate what I’m talking about:
6:23 left in the second quarter and it’s 3rd and 9 from the Eagles 20. Hurts throws an incomplete pass but the Eagles are called for holding. Nine out of ten times in this situation the head coach of the team on defense will decline the penalty and create an obvious punting situation. Matt Rhule accepted the penalty and backed the Eagles up 10 yards. This can be a risky play because the team could convert or your team could get penalized in a number of ways and then the offense gets a first down. But Rhule knew that the Eagles offense wasn’t going to do anything and he was playing offense by taking the extra ten yards from his defense. Of course, Sirianni called ANOTHER bubble screen and the Eagles gained one yard and punted.
1:17 left in the second quarter. Ryan Kerrigan made his first tackle as an Eagle and the Panthers are now at 3rd and 5 at their 49-yard line. The Eagles have two timeouts but fail to use one of them and Carolina takes their time snapping the ball. They do not convert and have to punt leaving the Eagles with 31 seconds at their own 16-yard line. The Eagles offense miraculously moves the ball to the Panthers 40-yard line and Jake Elliot nails a 58-yard field goal.
Elliot bailed Sirianni out on that one with a phenomenal kick because not taking that timeout showed poor game management and might have cost the Eagles an opportunity for more points. I don’t know if we can blame that on analytics or just a rookie mistake.
But at least they did better with the penalties.
Oh wait…They had a penalty on their first defensive possession when Eagles linebacker, former Balls Player and current mullet wearer Alex Singleton committed a face mask penalty and gave the Panthers an extra 15 yards. That drive resulted in a field goal for Carolina. The 80’s inspired coif extraordinaire linebacker committed a roughing the passer penalty two drives later which led to Panthers kicking another field goal.
Speaking of the defense, did you know who Chuba Hubbard is? Unless you’re a Cowboys fan, and I’m referring to the Oklahoma State Cowboys, you probably did not know who he was until he became the latest running back to have a Sports Center worthy game against the Eagles and their Cover-2 defense.
I guess the good thing about the Cover-2 is that teams don’t throw deep against the Birds.
Oh wait…they don’t have to. There is so much space between the defensive line and the secondary that opposing offenses are exploiting that area all day.
A rare mistake by Eagles center and future Ring of Honor member Jason Kelce resulted in a safety which, without a lot of bumbling and stumbling by the Carolina defense could have easily been a touchdown.
At this point it feels to me like guys are getting desperate and trying to do too much when they should be more conservative. Jalen Reagor took a couple of kick offs out of the end zone because, I’m assuming, he’s trying to make a big play. It didn’t happen and it cost the Eagles field position. Miles Sanders missed a block on a sack on Jalen Hurts early in the game and instead went into the flat for a pass. Maybe it was a designed play but it sure didn’t feel that way.
When a team starts losing players start pushing. Striving to get an extra yard leads to a fumble. Over pursuing to try to make a tackle for a loss results in a big gain. Going for it on 4th and long when you are in field goal range to “try to make something happen” takes points off of the board.
Desperation leads to bad decisions and that leads to more losing.
Oh wait…they actually won this game.
Carolina could not deliver the knock out blow and let the Eagles linger long enough to allow Jalen Hurts and his legs to take over.
Johnathan Gannon altered his game plan to allow his best players to do what they do best. Darius Slay had two brilliant interceptions as the Eagles defense disguised some man-to-man coverage in with their typical zone defense. He had Fletcher Cox rush from his more natural position in a 4-3 defense and that allowed the defensive line to pick up three sacks. Two by Hargrave and one by Fletch himself when the Panthers offensive line started to double team Hargrave instead of Cox.
I read that apparently Sirianni lit Gannon and the defensive coaches up on the Monday after the Chiefs game. Sirianni himself said “It was some tough conversations in the defensive room this morning.” Sources say that was an understatement.
Maybe Sirianni is not all sunshine and rainbows like he presents himself in the media. He clearly still has the locker room on his side as evidenced by the fact that the Eagles players kept fighting and eventually got the win. Winning ugly is still winning. The verdict is still out on his play calling but it seems like he has control over this young team and even younger coaching staff. He’s got a long way to go, especially regarding his play calling and game management, but you can’t teach someone how to be a good leader. That’s a natural gift and maybe, just maybe, Nick Sirianni has it.
We know that Jalen Hurts is a leader. His arm is still suspect and he may not look off of his receivers very well yet but he is a fighter. And his guys respect him.
This is from Josh Tolentino at the Inquirer:
In the middle of being asked about his performance, Hurts stopped the reporter in midsentence and said: “I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about how the defense played. One thing I’ve always been preaching is we control the outcome of everything. We truly have to have each other’s back through everything. It was a complete team win.”
Team first. He has been that guy since the Saints game last season.
And don’t tell me that he’s not having fun out there:
The Eagles are a 7-point underdog against the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccanears at the Linc for a prime time Thursday night game. Tom Brady is no Sam Darnold and you can expect him to exploit every weakness in the Eagles defensive scheme. The Tampa Bay defense won the Bucs the title last year and they will be coming after Hurts. The Birds are clearly outmatched. But, hopefully, the ugly win last Sunday, the prime time slot and the fired up Eagles fans keep them in it.
Last week I bet the Birds on a hunch. This week I’m betting them on a trend. A 7-point-plus home underdog in prime time games covers something like 50/60-ish percent of the time kinda, sorta. So, I’ll put a buck380 on the Eagles to cover.
But don’t quote me on that statistic.