Mon, 25 Oct 2021

Dog mentality: Eagles turn the page on Sunday's win

Philadelphia Eagles
14 Sep 2021, 19:12 GMT+10

Dave Spadaro

Just after the stroke of noon on Monday, fewer than 20 hours after the Eagles wrapped up an opening-day win over the Atlanta Falcons, a team meeting in the auditorium of the NovaCare Complex ended with widespread clapping and good tidings the message that everyone in the NFL understands: It's now on to the San Francisco 49ers at Lincoln Financial Field, a game that will provide a different kind of test for Nick Sirianni and his team.

He knows it all too well: The emotional pitch at which the Eagles played in beating Atlanta will have to be matched, at the very least, against an outstanding 49ers team coming off a big win at Detroit. San Francisco is spending the week in West Virginia rather than returning to the West Coast, hoping to save some travel energy to match what the Eagles' crowd is going to bring to the table on Sunday afternoon.

Enter his "dog" mentality. Sirianni preaches it every day. The team even has "Dawg Culture" T-shirts. It's very real.

"We've been kind of talking about 'dog' mentality over and over and over again and so dog mentality isn't just having this short memory, it's also a week-to-week thing. It's a day-to-day thing," Sirianni said on Monday at his weekly press conference. "If I think about on Wednesday when we go back out there (to practice) and think about how we played well in the Atlanta game, then I'm going to get my butt kicked on Sunday."

It goes back to his "get better every day" philosophy. Sirianni says you must "literally live in the moment of 'How are we going to get better today?'"

Bottom line: Don't live in the past. San Francisco awaits.

It was, indeed, a total team effort to throttle Atlanta and while the headliners - quarterback Jalen Hurts, wide receiver DeVonta Smith, etc. - gained most of the attention from the win, there were some under-the-radar standouts who deserve some recognition. So, here goes as I clean out the notebook from the team's most convincing season-opening win - plus 26 points - with a first-year head coach in the Super Bowl era, and the team's most convincing opening-day win since the Eagles beat Carolina 38-10 in 2009.

1. Zach Ertz finished with two receptions for 34 yards in his 41 snaps played as he battled a hamstring injury, and he made a subtle play to free Smith for his touchdown catch, lining up outside in the formation and running a rub route that erased cornerback Fabian Moreau, who lined up over Smith in the slot, from the coverage. Smith was able to separate thanks to Ertz - who did it so professionally subtly that he wasn't called for a penalty, unlike the Falcons, who were twice penalized for offensive pass interference - and haul in the touchdown pass from Hurts. Ertz is now 27 receptions away from surpassing Harold Carmichael and establishing a franchise record for most career catches (Carmichael has 589).

2. Wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside played just 16 snaps (he left the game with an ankle injury) and he wasn't targeted in the passing game, but Arcega-Whiteside made an impact with his blocking, and his efforts were noticed by Sirianni. "J.J. I thought did an excellent job blocking. He was aggressive, he was able to help spring some plays out there," Sirianni said.

3. The talk all week before the game was how the Falcons would blitz the heck out of the Eagles' offense, but the pressure didn't materialize. Credit center Jason Kelce and Hurts, along with the coaching staff, for great preparation and execution to diffuse the blitz game. Hurts was able to get the ball out of his hands quickly, and on the couple of occasions when blitzers came free he used his legs to escape pressure. It was a masterful demonstration of studying film, great pre-game coaching, and terrific in-game communication. The Eagles trusted what they saw before the snap and adjusted at the snap.

4. When is the last time the Eagles had a plus-5 in the 20-yard-plus-play department? They had five of them on Sunday and Atlanta had zero. The Falcons' longest gain was all of 18 yards. That is a key statistic to consider, and it is one that bears watching the rest of the season.

5. Along those lines, how about the job Darius Slay-Steve Nelson-Avonte Maddox did against a terrific set of receivers? Atlanta tried to match up rookie tight end Kyle Pitts against Maddox, taking advantage of the size mismatch, but Maddox battled and recorded eight total tackles and one pass defensed.

6. Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway was a force inside along with Javon Hargrave, and while Hargrave recorded a pair of sacks in 40 snaps, Ridgeway had a sack, a tackle for loss, and three quarterback hits in just 26 snaps. That is great, great production. Having depth inside along the defensive line is so monstrously huge in this 17-game season. "He really helped us out in Atlanta," Sirianni said of Ridgeway, whom the team released on August 31 and then re-signed on September 2.

Now it's on to the 49ers and a defensive front seven that is among the league's best and an offense that can run the football on any team and with passing options that include tight end George Kittle (who had 15 catches, 183 yards, and a touchdown last season against the Eagles and who opened the season with four receptions for 78 yards against Detroit) and wide receiver Deebo Samuel (nine catches, 189 yards, TD vs. Detroit).

It's a new week and a new challenge and for an Eagles team coming off a rousing Week 1 win, a chance to take another step forward in 2021.

"They run a sound defense where they emphasize their speed and how they run around. The guys know what they're doing and they play all types of different guys - young guys, old guys - because they always know what to do. They tackle well," Sirianni said of the 49ers' defense. "We're going to have a challenge to do everything we can do to be ready for it."

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