PHILADELPHIA – It’s rare that a turning point is so magnified but when Nick Sirianni went for a fourth-down from the 49ers’ three-yard line with 4:28 in the first half, the demarcation line was drawn.
Before that point – a pandering Philly Special-like trick play – the Eagles were dominating the football game, albeit with a failure to cash their scoring opportunities.
After it, San Francisco slowly started to play a little more effectively even its vaunted running game never hit on all cylinders or the fact that Jimmy Garoppolo was no more than pedestrian when it came to throwing the football.
“What I regret is I just wanted – I think I should have called a better play and put our guys in better position to score,” Sirianni said. “So, I take full responsibility on that. Again, if it works, then great, we’re up 10-0. It didn’t. In hindsight, I just wanted a different play call. I didn’t call the right play in the right time.”
In the end, the Eagles came across as a team who felt they beat themselves and that was probably the correct take.
“When you play a good team like the 49ers, it’s the difference between winning and losing,” right tackle Lane Johnson said. “We had multiple opportunities to steal that game, and I thought the defense played a heck of a game. On offense, I could have done a lot better. A lot of guys could have executed a lot better, but we didn’t.”
Javon Hargrave – Hargrave has been dominating early this season to the point that for the first time in a very long time, Fletcher Cox has not been the best defensive tackle in Philadelphia.
Hargrave finished the day in on seven tackles – including the two for loss – and a hurry.
Jalen Hurts’ Deep Ball – The Eagles QB has shown an ability to drop the football in the bucket outside the numbers since the early days of training camp. The intermediate throws inside are the last piece to the puzzle.
A 91-yard pass to Quez Watkins went about 45 yards in the air before hitting the speedy WR in stride.
Earlier, Hurts hit Jalen Reagor for what should have been a long TD but Reagor lost his bearings on the sideline and stepped out of bounds before coming back in.
He did also underthrow a few deep shots but, overall, that’s the strength of Hurts as a thrower.
Eagles Run Fits – We heard about the 49ers’ outside-zone running scheme throughout the week and Philadelphia was ready, starting T.J. Edwards next to Alex Singleton instead of Eric Wilson.
Hargrave had two tackles for loss in the first two drives and Philadelphia’s defense allowed minus-5 yards on the ground over the first 15 minutes, holding the 40ers without a first down in the first quarter. The last time that happened to San Fran was Week 10 of 2016.
Obviously, there was no way to keep that up but overall Jonathan Gannon’s defense more than held up its side of the bargain.
“I thought the defense really played well, I really did,” said Sirianni. “Just we wanted to get an early lead and to make the team play from behind. We didn’t capitalize. I think it’s a different game, you go up 10-0, and maybe it takes them out of some of their stuff that they really like to do.
“… I thought Jonathan and his staff did a great job of putting us in position against a team that can really run the football. Then I thought the players really executed the plan well. I thought we played – without looking at the tape, I thought we played a good game on defense.”
Nick Sirianni’s Fourth Down Play Call – The literal turning point of that game when a rookie head coach tried to pander to the crowd in the home opener with the Philly Special-like trickery.
The Offense – Take out Watkins’ 91-yard X play and a Hurts 27-yard scramble and the Eagles had a total of 210 yards on 53 plays. No receiver caught more than two passes, and Dallas Goedert wasn’t even targeted until the fourth quarter.
The consistency isn’t there in the passing game right now.
“It’s always this fine line of, hey, throwing it on rhythm but also extending plays if something’s not there,” Sirianni said.
–John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com’s EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.