Every NFL team faces the same dilemma — a Thursday night game coming off a Sunday game.
Three days’ rest is difficult on teams playing such a physically demanding sport … plus the mental aspects of playing professional football.
They have to turn around and play another game, in front of all of their peers on national television. Coaches have to control their team’s practices, give them adequate rest, cram their minds with game-planning — do everything to get them mentally and physically prepared to play.
As the road team last Thursday, the Eagles had an extra burden — the three-hour, 50-minute flight to Houston.
In this week’s coaches’ critique — where we look at the performance of Eagles’ coaches, good and bad — we applaud head coach Nick Sirianni, who managed his team on the short week to a 29-17 victory over a surprisingly tough Texans team.
- “I thought the head coach did a really good job,” defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said.
- “We changed our short-week schedule this year, and I really liked it. I think that should be the blueprint moving forward because I felt like we were ready to play mentally and physically.”
WIN THE WEEK
Sirianni got into his players’ heads immediately after the Eagles defeated the Steelers the previous Sunday. He wasn’t going to let his team use the short week as a crutch — not that they would, necessarily — or an excuse.
Sirianni’s goal for the Houston game was the same goal he has each game — to go 1-0 for the week. It’s a goal his players talk about and buy into.
Sirianni did some psy-ops on his team, reinforcing the advantage *he* said they had — without a shred of evidence.
“Remember, the weather’s an advantage for the team that thinks it’s an advantage,” Sirianni said in the locker room after the Steelers’ game. The Eagles released the video on their website.
“The Thursday night game’s an advantage for the team that thinks it’s an advantage. It’s going to be an advantage for us. We’ve got the right people in place.”
TEXANS A TRAP GAME?
The game had all the signs of a trap game — a 7-0 Eagles team on the road against the better-than-their-record 1-5-1 Texans. An Eagles letdown wouldn’t have surprised many people.
- “I think the way we go about our process, it is an advantage for us,” Sirianni said. “The way we walk-through, the way we meet.
- “We talk about these things all the time, of how important it is. That not only does your intensity at practice need to be extremely high and detailed, but it needs to be that way in the walk-through, too.
- “Then in the meetings, it’s high, high, high detail. And that always starts with the coaches. I always say, we can’t have mistakes on things.
- “We have to know the answers, what we’re going to do against this play versus this look, this play versus this look. All the different looks that we could possibly give them, have an answer for them.”
Sirianni has stressed the important of rest for his team, not leaving it on the practice field. All-Pro center Jason Kelce said he expected a light practice week as prep for the Texans game.
- “What’s good about that is that we in the season know that as the season goes on or you come after a short week and you’re on a Monday night … our guys are banged up …sometimes as you guys know we have walk-through Wednesday, and we don’t practice on Wednesday,” Sirianni said.
- “That’s happened a couple times this season. It’ll start to happen a little bit more as the season progresses
- “But you have to be able to understand how to work through that, right, and know how to get ready for a game while not having live reps.
- “So, we’re kind of prepared for this because we talk about it so much, about how much — it’s full speed to the snap in walk-through … high detail in meeting.
- “So, we’re trained to do this, and we have great guys that know what it takes to get to the top of the mountain and know what it takes to prepare with our leadership guys, that they set the tone for everything.
- “So, this is not new to us, so we feel like, hey, this is a good advantage for us that we know how to handle this and know how to go through this because we’ve been doing it for the entire year.”
The fact that the Eagles played hard and well enough to win is a tribute to themselves and their coaches.