The Eagles had a monster showing in Detroit on Sunday, getting a road win over the Lions 44-6. Head coach Nick Sirianni spoke to reporters afterward about establishing the run game and why they were able to have success offensively, as well as why the defense was able to get so much more pressure on the quarterback with just four guys up front.
Sirianni said that his message to the team was that sometimes it just takes a big round to gain some momentum, but they weren’t surprised by the outcome of Sunday’s game because they saw the build up everyday in practice.
Here’s what the head coach had to say:
On being able to run the ball more
“I think we do what we need to do to win football games, and what we think is best to win football games. We got some good runs early on, and when the offensive line kept coming back to the sideline saying, ‘Hey, we got a lot of momentum right here, we’re pushing ‘em up front,’ and so we just kept staying with it. And, I thought Jalen [Hurts] did a good job of checking us in and out of some plays, in and out of some looks, and so, again, we did what we needed to do to win this football game, and it was great to see us be able to run the football like that. Played really physical up front, so that’s where it all really starts, right there.”
Sirianni went on to admit that in their opener, the first seven plays that they planned for, they wanted to have five runs and two passes. They wanted to establish the run game early, and felt like they value the offensive line and what they can do, so they wanted to utilize that.
As for why that was the game plan this week, Sirianni noted that they felt like they had an advantage up front over the Lions defense, and some of their middle-field open coverages. He acknowledged that Detroit did some different things, and added some pressures to try and stop the run, but they already had some momentum in that area.
Later, Sirianni was asked about Boston Scott’s success on Sunday, and he noted that it all starts up front with the defensive line, and pointed out that he thinks Miles Sanders would’ve had a big game against the Lions as well, if he were the RB on the field. He didn’t want to take anything away from Scott or Jordan Howard, who Sirianni said had phenomenal games, but it started up front and then they got behind the pads and make moves.
On the Eagles’ defense and DC Jonathan Gannon
“What I appreciate about Jonathan is just his dog mentality. I know he’s been having to answer a lot of questions — we’ve been having to answer a lot of questions — he went and did what we had to do to win that game.
We put a little bit more pressure on them, as you can see, we got to the quarterback a little bit more than we have. And so, again, it started up front there. To lean on those guys up front, and that’s at any level that you’re playing — high school football, college football, pro football — if you win up front the way we won up front, you’re going to be able to win football games. So, it was relying on those guys there to win up front initially, and then just tighten it up in the coverage with some more man-to-man, a little bit more zone match when they gave us a couple different looks to still be able to still match even if we were in zone coverages.”
Sirianni later talked about how huge it was to get the kind of pressure they did with four guys up front. He noted that both Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett had phenomenal games, and then getting the push up the middle with Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave, they were able to tighten up in coverage and have more guys in the secondary.
On the success of this particular game plan
It was pointed out that Sirianni often talks about doing things differently each week based on their opponent and what they feel they need to do to win, but with Sunday’s game over the Lions being so much more successful than weeks past, whether the head coach would consider this a new formula for them moving forward. He admitted that while they change things up, they also have to be sure they’re staying true to their identity, so they want to be able to do both — but that includes being able to do a little more up front like they did against the Lions.
“You want to do what the defense is allowing you to do, while still doing the things you’ve been successful with. So, yeah, it’s great. When you’re able to run the football like that, it opens up everything else. Because, again, I know we didn’t throw for very many yards, but the play-action game — the chunks that we got to Dallas [Goedert] particularly in the play-action game, came off of some very unique run looks that we did earlier in the game that they had to bring an extra guy down to stop the run.”
The head coach noted that while he thinks quarterback Jalen Hurts has big shoulders and can carry a lot, he is a guy still in his rookie year in terms of starts and games played, so being able to do a little more with the run game certainly helps him out. Being able to run the ball is going to create space for Hurts and the offensive line on the play-action game, so they are evolving every week on offense as they figure out what they do well.
Sirianni later talked about some of the manufactured touches early on for Jalen Reagor, and he noted that it was based on the scouting they did on the Lions and how the DEs played, that allowed them to steal some yards on the gadget reverse and jet sweep. They felt like Detroit’s defense allowed them to get Reagor some touches, which they want to do because he’s a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands. Doing some of those gadget plays also forces their next opponent to prepare their defense a little differently for some of those motions.