It’s the first game of the season and you don’t want to overreact.
But, my goodness.
The Eagles put up 38 points and that nearly wasn’t enough. They scored 38 points and nearly allowed that many. They scored 38 points and had to seriously sweat out a 38-35 victory in the season opener at Detroit on Sunday.
You score 38 points in an NFL game and you should win — no questions asked, mark the “W” in the Win column.
But the Eagles had to sweat out a fourth-and-one quarterback sneak by Jalen Hurts — that he barely converted — with 66 seconds to play.
- “I think it was a hard-fought victory,” Hurts said. “What I love the most about this team is just coming out here Week One, playing against a new opponent … seeing how resilient we were.”
The flip side of this offensive onslaught was the Eagles’ messy defense. The defense showed an aversion to tackling, allowing Lions running back D’Andre Swift, of St. Joseph’s Prep, to gain 144 yards on the ground on only 15 carries.
Was this sloppy defense and many missed tackled due to a training camp that didn’t stress tackling to the ground?
It’s a fair question to ponder.
Imagine if Lions’ receivers didn’t drop a half-dozen passes. Maybe you shouldn’t.
GAME WAS IN HAND
The Eagles entered the fourth quarter ahead, 38-21, a lead seemingly large enough to ensure victory. Then, the scrappy and resurgent Lions went on two 75-yard touchdown drives and suddenly it was a game.
When Lions quarterback Jared Goff threw a 22-yard strike to DJ Chark over Darius Slay with 3:51 left, the Eagles’ lead was 38-35.
Sold-out Ford Field was roaring and the Lions were a big play away from an enormous upset to start the season. The clear and present belief is that the Lions would score again if they could get the ball back.
But the Eagles held onto the ball.
The Eagles ground out two first downs to close out the game, converting a huge third-and-two when Miles Sanders went into the line, broke a tackle, bounced outside, and gained 24 yards.
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni was full of praise for the Lions’ offense rather than the obvious deficiencies of the Eagles’ defense. Goff didn’t face much pressure in the pocket.
- “We just needed a stop in a certain area,” Sirianni said. “I’ll look at the tape and see what was going on.
- “They made some good plays. That’s a good offensive line. That’s a top-notch offensive line.
- “I’ll always take the Eagles’ offensive line over anybody in the league but that’s a good offensive line. They have a lot of talented players.”
TALE OF TWO SIDES
The Eagles offense, after an uncertain and chaotic start, settled down, put up points and looked dynamic doing so.
Hurts faced plenty of Lions pressure but kept the offense intact. He completed 18-of-32 passes for 243 yards.
Hurts’ buddy A.J. Brown was tremendous. He caught 10 passes for 155 yards using his strength and ability to gain yards after the catch.
“He made big-time plays today,” Hurts said. “A.J. made a lot of plays that gave us momentum.”
Brown was the only receiving threat. Zach Pascal had one catch for seven yards. DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins didn’t catch a pass.
The Eagles gained 216 yards on the ground. Sanders rushed for 96 yards on 13 carries. Hurts gained 90 yards on 17 carries. Many of Hurts’ carries were out of necessity when the Lions’ pass rush and blitzes overwhelmed the Eagles’ offensive line.
NOT THE FINISHED PRODUCT
When you’re watching live and serious football for the first time since January, every flaw is magnified, every success cheered to the heavens. You must remind yourself that you are not watching the finished product.
The Eagles’ defense had a huge moment when linebacker Kyzir White tipped a Goff pass, James Bradberry made the catch and roared down the sideline for a 27-yard Pick-6.
That gave the Eagles a 21-7 lead and they seemed on the road to a relatively easy victory.
- “We talked about not riding waves of the game, being able to control what we can,” Hurts said.
- “There were times where the execution wasn’t as we like it to be, on both sides of the ball.
- “But in the end, what made the difference, we were resilient. We played together, through the good, through the bad, and the ugly. We had each others’ backs. It’s always good to get a win.
- “We know we didn’t play to the standard we want to play to.”
The Eagles will take the win, take a deep breath and move on. They completed their mission — they went on the road and won the game.
- “We’ll look at it. We’ll clean it up,” Sirianni said.
- “It’s nice to know that hey, we got a lot to clean up — offensively, defensively and special teams.
- “But we were able to get a win. And in this league, on the road, in your first game, you’ll take it anyway you can get it.”