The Eagles were just 1 yard away from this being a very different game.
As the Eagles look back at their 17-11 loss to the 49ers in their home opener, they’ll see plenty of missed chances. But none will sting more than having a 1st-and-goal from the 49ers’ 1-yard line in the second quarter and walking away empty-handed.
After the game, Nick Sirianni raised his hand to accept blame.
“I don’t think I called good plays in that area,” Sirianni said. “There’s going to be times where you’re going to look at it and be like, ‘Ah, I want those calls back.’ When they work, it was a good play. They didn’t.
“It was my fault. I didn’t call good enough plays right there, I didn’t put the players in good enough positions. It’s on (me), but we’re all in this together, coaches and players.”
None of the four plays the Eagles tried after getting to the 1-yard line worked but the trick play called on 4th down is the real head-scratcher.
It wasn’t quite the Philly Special, but there was a similar design.
When asked about this call, Sirianni gave credit to the 49ers for disguising their coverage. Presumably, Sirianni thought the Niners were in man coverage; they were not. They were in zone, which blew up the play.
“I give them credit for some of the false things they were showing us,” Sirianni said. “We thought it was a certain coverage. It wasn’t. They did a good job disguising it. (Fred Warner) gets the show running out there, he can kind of get everybody lined up the way he needs to. So I give them credit first.
“I felt confident in the play. The play looked good in practice last week. Felt confident in the coverage we were getting and they didn’t play it. That happens sometimes.”
On the play, Jalen Hurts took the snap and handed off to DeVonta Smith, who pitched it to former college quarterback Greg Ward, rolling right. Hurts was the intended target of the play but was covered. Instead of attempting to run it in or throw it into an area where there was a chance of a completion or a penalty, Ward tossed it way over Hurts’ head and out of the back of the end zone.
Unlike the Philly Special, this play didn’t fool the defense and it ended in disaster.
“I’m a playmaker out there on the field. I want to make all the plays,” Hurts said. “That’s a play we didn’t make. We didn’t hit it.”
Was it frustrating for Hurts that he didn’t get a chance to throw the pass on fourth down?
“It’s frustrating to lose the game,” he said.
When asked why the Eagles didn’t just commit to running quarterback sneaks after getting set up from the 1, Sirianni said they were a little too far out. But there were still better plays to call and Sirianni knows that.
The 49ers’ goal line stand was set up after Quez Watkins had a 91-yard catch, the fifth-longest play in Eagles history. Instead of what would have been a 97-yard touchdown drive to push the Eagles’ lead to 10-0, the Niners got a stop and then went the other way on a 97-yard drive to give them a 7-3 lead. They didn’t trail again.
So this was a monumental swing in the game. And it’s very possible that if the Eagles had just punched in a touchdown on this sequence in the second quarter, they’d be 2-0 right now.
Right after the long pass to Watkins, the Eagles got a false start and an incompletion before a DPI on Josh Norman set them up on the 1-yard line.
On first down, Hurts threw an incompletion to Zach Ertz.
On second down, Miles Sanders ran right for a loss of three.
On third down, Hurts scrambled right and got out of bounds with a gain of 1.
On fourth down, Sirianni dialed up the ill-fated trick play.
“On second thought, do I want that play back? Of course,” Sirianni said. “Anytime you call a play that doesn’t work, especially in tight games, especially down there, a seven-point play, you’re going to want that back. I gotta call a better play.”
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