Sirianni, an analytics disciple to owner Jeffrey Lurie’s taste, got too eager once. He tried to convert fourth-and-2 from the Falcons’ 20, leading 15-6, when he should have kicked a field goal. Analytics are great, but when you have the chance to take an 18-6 lead with 21 minutes to play — on the road, with a new coaching staff and a young quarterback — you can stuff your analytics back in your briefcase.
The biggest question before the game concerned Sirianni’s credentials. Could he call plays? He’d never done so at any level. Could Hurts, making just his fifth NFL start, run those plays? Those worries were wasted. The Eagles took a delay-of-game penalty on their first series, and they used a timeout in the fourth quarter, but that’s an 8 out of 10 on the Andy Reid time-management scale.
How did a new coach and with a new offensive and defensive scheme, hindered by an offseason wrecked by COVID-19, bring things together so efficiently?
Practice. We’re talking about practice.
Sirianni insisted all preseason that intense training-camp practices against the Patriots and Jets would have as much value, if not more, than would playing his starters in preseason games, which hardly happened at all.
“When you’re playing against another team, to me, that’s a game,” Sirianni said Sunday, basking in validation. “Practices prepared us for this.”
But he would say that, wouldn’t he?
Brandon Graham wouldn’t say it. Not it if it wasn’t true. He practiced for Andy Reid, Chip Kelly, and Doug Pederson, but Graham witnessed a level of function in the Eagles’ workouts he hadn’t witnessed in his 11 other seasons.
“I saw it when we were going against other teams in practices,” said defensive end Graham.