The Eagles finished a productive offseason, prepared well for their Week 1 assignment, traveled to play in the loudest stadium in professional sports, were ranked No. 38, beat an improving conference opponent and quickly took the lead in the NFC East.
Are they giving thanks for the Week 1 win in Detroit?
Days and days of it.
Complaints poured in and anxiety spread.
Insults were voiced and apologies were demanded.
“We’ve got to do a better job,” center Jason Kelce said in the waning hours of a three-point win over the Lions. “And it starts with me.”
That unnecessary redemption came from Kelce was notable, as the veteran center was remembered for publicly berating fans for unwarranted criticism during the Eagles’ run to the 2017-18 World Series. He was named the Eagles’ all-time quarterback who stuck out his chest, but there he misappropriated Andy Reid’s tired but famous cry. It was Reed sleepily reciting a similar admission after any Eagles loss, and while the sentiment was tainted with insincerity, it was never inaccurate. But even Reid didn’t feel obligated to send verbal bouquets after a win.
So there was something about the reaction to that Opening Day win — stress the win — in Detroit that said one of two things: either the Eagles’ internal film study showed they were historically lucky to win, or they were so special that they just did. the road game was no longer enough for a natural thrill.
By Monday night, when they beat the visiting Minnesota Vikings 24-7, the 2-0 Eagles had their answer: They are too complete a team to deserve such merciless taunting, even by themselves.
Although the Eagles scored 38 in the opener, seven of those points came on James Bradbury’s interception for a touchdown, and most of the rest came from their heavy reliance on Jalen Hurts to come up with something small. The Lions had surprisingly little focus on him, the Eagles quarterback three successful third-down conversions. He had 17 carries, 90 yards rushing and a one-yard dart that was critical that day in that loud Michigan Dome.
But if anything was to come from this reverence for one-sided football, it was a concern that it could not last 17 weeks. How about two weeks? So the Eagles quickly showed their offense could be elite, using the first 5:51 to drive 82 yards for a touchdown on their first possession Monday night against the Vikes. Touchdown: Another Hurts run, this time for three yards. And with 1:56 left in the half, Hurts scampered 26 yards for another touchdown, twisting out of foul trouble and running through several Vikings to avoid more.
Hearts’ speed with the ball is terrific, and as long as he’s allowed to run around, the Eagles’ offense will be thin. The only question, especially for Nick Siriani, who is not a physical risk, is how long the defender can be expected to win games with his feet in the violent endeavor that is pro football.
“Obviously, I never want Jalen to take any unnecessary hits,” Siriani said. “But we also have to remember that one of the things that makes Jalen special is his ability to create when something isn’t there or when we have another guy that we can block.”
After Week 1, when quarterback Jared Goff politely mentioned that his Lions could have scored 50 points, the Eagles were forced to explain not how they scored 38 points, but how they gave up 35. And yet, according to the unwritten rules of the only sport, where assistant coaches get too much attention, defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon has been the subject of seven days of public controversy.
But the Eagles showed they were ready early Monday, neutralizing Justin Jefferson with Darius Slay and confusing the Vikings with new defensive looks.
“We’ll figure it out,” Minnesota coach Kevin O’Connell said.
The Vikings did respond quickly to Cass Watkins’ 53-yard scoring reception, rushing 9 times for 75 yards and a score. But the Eagles held a 17-point lead by halftime, thanks in large part to Gannon’s aggressive game plan.
“I have a lot of confidence in Jonathan,” Siriani said. “That’s why he’s here. As far as pressure goes, this is the NFL and this is Philly. We know what to expect and we expect to win football matches. It’s our job as coaches to figure out how we can put players in positions to win as much as possible.
“The level of trust? Super tall. The pressure? Nothing new for us. That’s what the NFL is all about.”
The NFL is all about pressure and dealing with it when it’s too much.
It’s also about winning.
The Eagles did just enough of that last season to make the playoffs. Flaws aside, they’ve shown enough in the first two weeks of their encore to be confident they’ll do it again without a season-long cascade of verbal and written agony.
Contact Jack McCaffery at email@example.com