Some coaches would have dialed back the ground game with Miles Sanders injured. Not Nick Sirianni. He doubled down on Dawg Mentality and hit the Detroit Lions with a steady diet of Boston Scott and Jordan Howard.
The Philadelphia Eagles rushed for a season-high 236 yards, including 126 in the first half alone. Scott went for 60 yards and two touchdowns. Howard busted loose for 57 yards and two scores. And Jalen Hurts turned seven carries into 71 yards.
It was a dominating clinic in smash-mouth football, something Sirianni had refused to embrace in his first seven games as head coach. Desperate for a win in Detroit, Sirianni scripted five running plays on his first seven calls. The Eagles never trailed and pounded the Lions into a submission in a 44-6 victory.
“We wanted to establish the run game early,” Sirianni told reporters. “We value our offensive line and what they can do so that’s how we wanted to go out and start. We had some good play-action game off of it that Jalen executed well. So that was definitely part of our plan to be able to go out there and run the football like we did.”
Sirianni valued the hogs upfront so much that he let them dictate momentum. The first-year head coach revealed that his offensive lineman begged him to keep pounding the rock after five straight called runs produced 36 yards. Scott capped their first scoring drive with a one-yard touchdown scamper.
“We do what we need to do to win football games. And what we think is best to win football games,” Sirianni said. “Today we got some good runs early on, and the offensive linemen kept coming back to the sideline saying ‘Hey, we got a lot of momentum right here. We’re pushing them up front.’ And so we just kept staying with it and I thought Jalen [Hurts] did a good job of checking us in and out of some good plays and looks.”
The latest Eagles news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Eagles newsletter here!
Scott Answering Opportunity’s Knock
Scott was a practice squad call-up in 2019 who turned into one of the best feel-good stories in Philly. The Eagles rode his 5-foot-6, 203-pound frame that year to make the playoffs. With Sanders out against the Lions, Scott put the Superman cape on and saved the day. He bullied his way into the end zone for two touchdowns, while using his small size to disappear under defenders in the open field.
“We went out there and we had fun. We just did our job,” Scott said. “That’s what the NFL is. Whenever the opportunity knocks, that’s when you got to step up, you got to go out there and produce. Me and Jordan [Howard] have been motivating each other during the time leading up to this moment.”
Howard was equally impressive serving as the thunder to Scott’s lightning. He had 12 carries for 57 yards and two scores. Not bad for a guy elevated from the practice squad 24 hours prior to kickoff in Week 8. To be fair, Sirianni did reveal that Howard had been getting first-team snaps at practice.
Scott came into the game with only four offensive snaps all year. Howard? This was his first action of the 2021 campaign.
“Keep working, man,” Scott said. “Put your head down because it’s easy to get frustrated and caught up in the circumstances.”
Defense Responds with Statement Game
Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon has been the main punching bag during a Eagles’ sluggish start. His vanilla schemes have resulted in virtually no pressure on opposing quarterbacks through the first seven games. He switched it up in Week 8 by trading out some zone for man-to-man.
“What I appreciate about Jonathan is just his dawg mentality,” Sirianni said. “He’s been having to answer a lot of questions, we’ve been having to answer a lot of questions. He went and did what we had to do to win that game. We put a little bit more pressure on him and, as you could see, we got to the quarterback a little bit more than we had.”
The Eagles sacked Jared Goff six times, including four times in the first half. Two for Josh Sweat, with single sacks for Derek Barnett, Tarron Jackson, Milton Williams, Hassan Ridgeway. They owned the trenches.
“It started up front there,” Sirianni said. “To lean on those guys up front and that’s – in any level that you’re playing, high school football, college football, pro football – if you win up front the way we won up front, you’re going to be able to win football games.”