The Eagles started a season of promise with an opening, nail-biting 38-35 tighter-than-it-should-have-been victory over the dreadful Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sunday.
Still, there was a lot of good to glean from the victory and a lot of mistakes to correct.
Miles Sanders looked good, rushing for 96 yards on 13 carries, including a touchdown, while Jalen Hurts threw for 239 yards, completing 18 of 32, scoring one TD.
Here’s a look at a lot of very good, some bad and some ugly in the Eagles’ 38-35 victory over the Lions.
A.J. Brown was everything as advertised, making 10 catches on 13 targets for 155 yards, the longest a 54-yard reception. He was a shining light in an uneven overall performance by the Eagles.
Hurts rushed for 90 yards on 17 carries, including a touchdown. He also converted 10 of 17 third downs.
Sanders’ 24-yard run on the opening drive of the second half. Right tackle Lane Johnson flattened Lions’ first-round draft pick Aidan Hutchinson, while right guard Isaac Seumalo did a great job getting down field, and center Jason Kelce also sealed a lane for Sanders to get to the sideline. It’s a play the Eagles will have great success with all season, simply because no one could stop it. Sanders’ second 24-yard run in the closing minute sealed the victory.
Left tackle Jordan Mailata’s block—again on Hutchinson—that opened the hole for Kenneth Gainwell’s third-quarter, two-yard score, which put the Eagles up, 31-14.
James Bradberry’s 27-yard second-quarter interception return, giving the Eagles a commanding 21-7 lead. The play was actually made possible with the pressure supplied by Marlon Tuipulotu, who forced Jared Goff to throw early.
On third-and-two at the Detroit 33, when Hurts threw a short pass left to Dallas Goedert, which resulted in a 27-yard gain. The play set up the Eagles’ go-ahead 14-7 Sanders’ 1-yard score.
Hurts’ 10-yard scramble on third-and-six at the Eagles’ 45 on their second drive of the game, coming after an Eagles’ timeout. Hurts extended the drive, which resulted in his 1-yard score on fourth down.
The Eagles’ defense. Thankfully, Detroit’s defense was worse. At times, the Eagles made Jared Goff look average—if that’s possible. There were times when there were missed tackles. There were times when the Eagles’ passive defense allowed a lot of underneath completions.
With the Lions driving to get within a score, trailing 38-28, Detroit converted four third-down plays, including a third-and-10 pass interference penalty on new Eagles’ safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson trying to defend Lions’ tight end T.J. Hockenson. The 11-yard penalty extended the drive and led by Goff’s 22-yard TD throw to DJ Chark with 3:51 to play.
Another crucial play in that drive was linebacker T.J. Edwards’ inability to cover Lions’ tailback and local Philadelphia star D’Andre Swift coming out of the backfield on third-and-six from the Eagles’ 48. Swift was a problem for the Eagles all day.
Cornerback Darius Slay never turning around on Chark’s fourth-quarter touchdown, drawing the Lions to within three.
Two delay-of-game penalties should not happen, even in a season opener. The Eagles were flagged 10 times for 61 yards.
The Eagles having to settle for a field goal at the end of the half when a touchdown could have sealed the game at halftime.
The Lions’ opening drive. Detroit rolled down the field and gave the soldout, standing-room only Lions’ crowd some early hope. Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon was supposed to bring a new, aggressive style with the new personnel that the Eagles acquired in the offseason. It didn’t look like it on the Eagles’ first defensive series.
Detroit drove 75 yards on nine plays, chewing up 4:42 of the clock to go up, 7-0, on a Jamaal Williams 1-yard run. The Lions even gave the Eagles consecutive penalties on the opening drive, and the Eagles still couldn’t stop the Lions. A big problem was stopping Swift, who blew the Eagles up for 61 of the 75 yards. Detroit only had to convert one third down in the series.
Another ugly area, at times, was the Eagles’ inability to tackle. They were one of the worst tackling teams last year, and that important aspect of the game seemed to be lacking at times on Sunday against the woeful Lions.
The Eagles gave up 181 yards rushing against an injured Lions offensive line.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.