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Nick Sirianni praises Eagles’ defense, discusses play calling and slow second half performances

The head coach also talks about the advantage of the Eagles’ offense being unpredictable.

The Eagles had a big divisional win over the Commanders in Week 3, and head coach Nick Sirianni spoke afterward about the dynamic defensive play, and the versatility of the offense. He also explained some of the play calling, in particular the 4th and 1 call that wasn’t a QB sneak.

Here’s what the head coach had to say:

On the defense

Sirianni smiled really big when asked about the defense notching nine sacks against Carson Wentz, and said the group played their tails off and were awesome. He said that the line is strength of their team, and that’s what you want to see from them in a division game.

“It wasn’t just one guy, it was all the guys that really got after it and it was fun to watch.”

When asked what the defensive game plan was, Sirianni was quick to highlight getting to the quarterback. He explained that one of the things they wanted to do on known passes was to get after Wentz.

“I think we did a really nice job of getting him to known pass, and our defensive line just went out and hunted. And, again, it wasn’t just one guy, it was all the guys. But to get there, you have to be successful on first down and second down — and, first down really. So, great job on first down to get us into known pass.”

Sirianni said that knocking the ball lose is always a point of emphasis, not just something they wanted to do against Carson Wentz, given his turnover tendencies. He credited the defensive line, and Haason Reddick and Brandon Graham for big time strip sacks on Sunday. The head coach said that the linebackers are so close to doing this regularly, and he’s really impressed with T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White and how physical they play the ball.

He later talked about how the defense energized the offense, particularly when they started off slow. They went several drives without scoring, but knowing that the defense was out there keeping them alive, helped them get back on the field and into a rhythm. Sirianni said that’s what teams do, they play complimentary football.

On the playcalling

He was asked about Jalen Hurts’ poise in certain situations, particularly before the first half when they ran the ball on third down and then had to hurry up to get the fourth down snapped. Sirianni explained that they practice those situations a lot — they passed on the first two downs and felt like they had enough time for a run play. They weren’t going to kick in that situation, “We wanted to put seven on the board,” the head coach noted.

So, with the momentum of DeVonta Smith’s big catch, they expected the third down run to end in a touchdown, but since it didn’t they went to a no-huddle call and ended up scoring. After the game, Smith said that the call wasn’t in the playbook for this week, and Sirianni explained that because they lost some yards and then went no huddle, they had to react and he was happy that OC Shane Steichen drew this one up.

The Eagles didn’t score at all in the second half for the second week in a row. Last week, Sirianni blamed himself for taking the foot off the gas, but against the Commanders thinks they were maybe overly aggressive. He said they need to find a middle ground to be more successful.

The head coach later had to answer about the 4th and 1 play call that failed to convert.

“The play before that was a quarterback sneak. You know, quarterback sneak is always on your mind, but sometimes they’re going to take that away, and when they take that away, the perimeter is where the play is. It didn’t work that time. I had a timeout to be able to spend, and I probably, on second thought, I probably should have spent it right there because I didn’t love the look of what it looked like. I was great with the play call. I thought Shane [Steichen]’s play call was excellent right there — if they gave us that look, we were going to take it, and I probably should have called a time out in that particular case.”

On the offense

Sirianni admitted that it’s an advantage to be unpredictable, pointing out A.J. Brown had a big Week 1 and DeVonta Smith had a big Week 3, with both WRs getting a lot of looks in Week 2, as well.

“Then, you got Dallas Goedert, the pass game goes through those three guys. And I thought Quez Watkins did a really nice job — I know he didn’t show up on the stat sheet, but he forced some PI calls that were chunk yardage. We count those as explosive plays. We count those as explosive plays. If you get a plus-16 yard chunk on a penalty, we’re going to count that, and he did that because of his speed out there. And then Zach Pascall did a nice job out there, as well, of converting a couple third downs in critical moments.”

The head coach said that Jalen Hurts played his butt off, and Washington did some things to take away parts of his run game, so they turned to the passing game. Sirianni said that they trusted their playmakers to make plays, and they did — he feels really good about the entire wide receiver group, and Goedert. They put a lot of emphasis on winning one-on-one matchups, and they have the guys to do that.

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