ATLANTA – Nick Sirianni’s debut couldn’t have gone better as the Eagles routed the Atlanta Falcons, 32-6, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The offense piled up 434 yards of total offense and the defense didn’t allow a touchdown.
It’s hard to find the negatives unless you’re nitpicking, but the stock market never sleeps, even in routs.
Jalen Hurts – Hurts was wonderful in his first start after 10 live preseason reps, giving weight to Sirianni’s belief that the Eagles would have an advantage early in the season by unleashing the dual-threat on an unsuspecting league.
He finished 27-of-35 throwing the football for 264 yards and touchdowns to DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, and Jalen Reagor. Hurts’ passer rating was a gaudy 126.4 and he added 62 more yards on the ground.
His impact on a Sirianni offense that, as expected, went heavy RPO had the Atlanta defense on its heels most of the afternoon.
Nick Sirianni – Everything seemed to have a purpose on offense and the scheme really did take advantage of the strengths of the players starting with J.J. Arcega-Whiteside’s blocking ability early.
The unit surpassed the 30-mark, something it was unable to do during the entire 2020 season when it joined the hapless New York Jets as one of only two teams in the modern offense-happy NFL unable to reach that mark.
Jeffery Lurie – Yes, the Eagles owner deserves credit for the Sirianni hire because the early returns against the hot candidate this offseason, Falcons rookie coach Arthur Smith, were stark. Sirianni seemed in control and ready to go while Smith was overmatched, straying from what had been working as soon as he got off-script.
Rookie Playmakers – The Eagles had two touchdowns from their rookie playmakers, one from Smith and another from Kenny Gainwell.
Smith caught six of eight targets for 71 yards and a 19-yard touchdown while Gainwell scored on an 8-yard TD run, making it the first time since at least 1950 that two new freshmen scored in the season opener for the Eagles.
The much-hyped Kyle Pitts, meanwhile, was essentially a non-factor for the Falcons.
Arryn Siposs – It wasn’t noticed because the game turned into a laugher but Siposs was great in his first opportunity in a regular-season game, dropping three of his four punts inside the 20-yard line with the other being a 54-yard boot that had Matt Ryan and the ineffective Atlanta offense starting at the 24 and always staring down long fields.
Jonathan Gannon’s Defense – It didn’t look great on the first drive but the defense stiffened and held Atlanta to a field goal. It only got better from there as the defense allowed just 260 yards and kept Atlanta out of the end zone for 60 minutes.
Red-Zone Efficiency – As a piggyback to the offensive and defensive success the Eagles were 3-of-3 in the red zone and the Falcons failed on their two attempts. That tells you all you need to know about the game.
The Offensive Line’s Attention to Detail – It wasn’t necessarily from a blocking perspective but the O-Line wasn’t sharp after a preseason in which they didn’t get a ton of activity, especially together.
In a penalty-plagued first half, the line got flagged five times – two Isaac Seumalo false starts, a holding penalty on Lane Johnson, and an illegal man downfield call on Johnson, plus a false start on the new multi-millionaire Jordan Mailata.
The good news is that the line cleaned things up at halftime.
The Run Defense – There are no thumpers in the middle of the Eagles defense and the unit really struggled early stopping the run.
Once Atlanta did not take advantage of its early scoring opportunities with its typical dreadful red-zone efficiency, the Eagles surged into the lead and masked the deficiency but it’s worth putting an asterisk on the first-half troubles moving forward when better opponents arrive, starting next week with San Francisco, which typically has one of the most advance running attacks in the league.
Avonte Maddox’s Tackling – Maddox struggles far too much as a tackler in the open field which is a little disappointing considering his athleticism.
The Officials – A total of 26 accepted penalties deserves a big yech. Yes, it’s not the Zebras’ fault because they are just carrying out the orders of an over-legislated league but boy that kind of yellow flying really makes the game less-than aesthetic.
–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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.