In Sunday’s decisive win over Atlanta in Week 1, I could have chosen to focus on a lot of things, but for me the most important streak in the game came at the end of the first half. -time. We all know the Eagles’ final offensive possession in the opening 30 minutes resulted in an outstanding touchdown from Jalen Hurts to Dallas Goedert, but it was the preparation for that play on all three sides of the ball that really stood out. me. In a full team win, I thought it was fair to highlight the three phases together to play smart situational football.
With just over four minutes to play in the first half, the Eagles choose to repel the ball, facing a fourth and 27 from midfielder. What happens next is an exceptional example of situational football. I thought FOX analyst Greg Olsen did a great job reporting it on the show, so it’s not an original thought on my part, but let’s take a look at what made it this special piece.
Defensive back Andre Chachere, who the Eagles claimed on waivers from Indianapolis last week, works as a gunner at the bottom of the screen. Atlanta is aiming for the punt block here, so Chachere only has one jammer to beat. Coming down the field, Chachere is pushed out of bounds. The area umpire throws his hat off, indicating that Chachere has left the playing court. He is not allowed to touch the ball unless the returner picks it up. You can see Chachere yelling at his teammate Zech McPhearson, saying it must be the rookie who takes that kick off. Arryn Siposs dropped the ball perfectly inside the 10-yard line, McPhearson knocked the ball down and Atlanta took over on his 8-yard line.
It was a great job from the Eagles special teams unit on this game, but it wasn’t just A good rep for them in the afternoon. Siposs placed three punts inside the 10-yard line on Sunday. The Eagles were also on the verge of blocking a punt, and the kickoff unit with Jake Elliott consistently forced touchbacks. It was a solid start for coordinator Michael Clay and the Eagles’ special teams squad.
With 3:38 to go, the Eagles have all of their downtime as the Falcons’ offense takes hold. If they can force a quick stop here, they have the ability to force a punt and secure a favorable position on the field with plenty of time to score points on the board.
On the first try, the Falcons go with an extended lead game. Those zonal runs worked really well for Atlanta early in this game, as Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson were able to find tight lanes several times in the first two runs. But the Eagles were able to shut the door here. Josh Sweat establishes a strong advantage, blowing the tight 3-yard end into the backfield. This forces the running back to bounce further down his original path, with Darius Slay there waiting, and the back slows down before being stopped for a short one-yard gain by Sweat and linebacker TJ Edwards.
On the second and 9s, the Falcons make a false start, so now they’re facing the second and 13s just inside their 5-yard line. This time, rather than attacking the perimeter, they opt for a “Duo” descent. Safety Anthony Harris and linebacker Eric Wilson fly to the line at the snap, and with Steve Nelson coming in from the right defensive end, running back Mike Davis lowers his head and rushes forward for a modest 4-yard gain. It’s a victory for the defense as they now face a third and a 9.
With about two and a half minutes remaining, the Eagles (smartly) decide not to use a time-out to stop the clock. Quarterback Matt Ryan lines up in the shotgun and hands it to Davis for a 3-yard gain instead of backing down to pass. Javon Hargrave made the play this time around, quickly beating the left keeper block before coming back to find the ball. Sweat once again put a razor sharp edge on the game to keep the ball inside.
The Eagles’ defensive line controlled play on this side of the ball after the first quarter. After allowing 14 and 15 game practices (which resulted in six points), the Eagles forced three and-outs on three of Atlanta’s next four possessions (including this one). Whether it was against the run or the pass, the Falcons couldn’t do anything the rest of the afternoon. As The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia noted, the Eagles were the only team before Monday that didn’t allow more than 20 yards in Week 1.
This training featured some good decisions from quarterback Jalen Hurts, both as a runner and as a passer, as he played into the rhythm and showed his ability to beat the Atlanta rush in a number of ways. His run to third and fifth was a thing of beauty, coming off a Grady Jarrett tackle attempt en route to a first down. A few games later, his ability to escape resulted in a first try for Jalen Reagor. Now in a beat, Hurts hits Goedert on the sail route to stop the timer (great job from Goedert going out of bounds).
A good two-minute exercise usually comes with a fair amount of adversity. At first and first, the Eagles thought they had reached the end zone with a touchdown pass from Hurts to Kenny Gainwell, but the game came back on a penalty. With nine seconds remaining and a chance of – max – two more cracks in the end zone, Hurts has reached the end zone for real.
That touchdown gave the Eagles a 15-6 lead in the locker room and was a big blow to the Falcons. But remember, this was not the culmination of a big offensive attack, as all three phases were needed to make it happen. If Chachare is penalized on the punt, or if the defense does not leave the field in three plays, the dynamics of the two-minute drill change. The Eagles saved their three timeouts, put them to good use and cut the clock to next to nothing as they reached the end zone for the scoring. It’s a complete team victory.