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  • Writer's pictureAl Thompson

EAGLES HOLD OFF LIONS RALLY TO CLAIM THREE-POINT WIN


Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts addresses the media after the Eagles hold on for a 38-35 win. Photo by Al Thompson

DETROIT: A 24-yard burst by running back Mile Sanders with 2:21 left in the fourth quarter helped the Philadelphia Eagles to escape from the Motor City with a wild 38-35 win over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.


Last year, the Birds (1-0) knocked off the Lions on the same field 44-6.


Detroit (0-1) clearly was not in any mood to let that happen again.


The 2021 result and the three-win season Detroit endured in 2021-led many observers and Eagles fans to believe Sunday’s season opener was going to another lopsided affair.


Detroit and it “Hard Knocks” star head coach Dan Campbell had other ideas.

The Lions battled back from deficits of 21-7, 31-14 and 38-21 after three quarters to pull to within three points with 3:51 in the fourth.


The Eagles offense though, did not give up the ball for the remainder of the game running off nine consecutive plays to end the game and get the Birds off to a 1-0 start.


“It was a hard fought victory,” quarterback Jalen Hurts said after the game. “I think what I love the most about this team, coming out here week one, playing a new team opponent, seeing a new face and how resilient we were.


“We talked about not riding waves of the game, being able to control what we can,” continued Hurts, who was 18 of 32 for 243 yards, no touchdowns and no turnovers. “There were times when the execution wasn’t as we’d like it to be, on both sides of the ball. I think in the end, what made the difference was that we were resilient. We played together, the good and the bad. We had each other’s back.”


Hurts noted the difference he saw from last year’s Lions and this year’s Lions.


“They had a great football team (out there),” Hurts said. “That’s clearly not the same football team we played last year. They were flying to the ball. They played very physical. They played with a ‘next play’ mentality. I have a lot of respect for them and coach (Dan) Campbell and (Lions Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs) Duce (Staley) over there.”


The Eagles rushed for 216 yards on 39 yards rushing for four touchdowns by four different players: Hurts, Mikes Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott.


Birds also got a master class performance from wide receiver A.J. Brown who made a big splash in his Eagles debut hauling in 10 receptions (13 targets) for155 yards including an All-Pro catch of 54 yards at the end of the first quarter.


Brown was asked if he had any idea of the number of times he was targeted by Eagles QB Jalen Hurts: “To be honest I didn’t. We had a game plan but sometimes the ball just keeps finding you. I got hot kind of early.”


Second year guard Landon Dickerson said he and his teammates are professionals and expected Detroit to never give up.


“I think anybody that’s a football player knows that it’s a 60-minute game,” Dickerson said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is or what’s happened in different situations. They were a competitive team, they didn’t want to quit. I think that’s the mentality of every team.”



Eagles cornerback James Bradberry talks at his lock after the Birds edged Detroit, 38-35. Bradberry scored a touchdown on a 27-yard interception return. Photo by Al Thompson

DEFENSE GETS MIXED REVIEWS

The Eagles offense scored 31 points in the win over Detroit. The defense has a lot of film to watch after allowing the Lions to rack up 35 points.


It’s true that Jonathan Gannon’s crew came up with a touchdown in the second quarter when newcomer linebacker Kyzir White deflected a Jared Goff pass to fellow newcomer cornerback James Bradberry who returned the interception 27 yards for the score.


But the Birds defense surrendered 181 rushing yards and three ground TDs 215 yards in the air. Even with its new look, this was a team that won three games last year.


Former St. Joe’s Prep star D’Andre Swift led the point of attack in the opening drive scorching the Eagles with 61 yards on two carries. The Lions draw blood to take a 7-0 lead on a four-yard touchdown by Jamaal Williams.


Swift led all rushers with 144 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown.


Hurts and Brown were key players who led the Eagles on an 82-yard scoring drive that tied the game, 7-7.


The Eagles defense took over coming up with consecutive three-and-outs. Marcus Epps and C.J. Gardner-Johnson making key break ups.


The Birds defense got the pick six to take a 21-7 lead. But the Eagles defense started to fade after the half, struggling against the run and a resurgent Goff.


Even though the offseason free agent prize Haason Reddick was not with the Eagles last season, he knew of the game and the score.


Was he bracing himself for a revenge effort from the Lions?


“Honestly, in this league, you can’t take anybody for granted, year in and year out,” said Reddick, who finished with two tackles including one for a loss. “Because, just because you beat somebody bad last year, it doesn’t mean you’re going to come back the next year and do the same thing to them.”


“Today, we got the ‘W,’ most important,” Reddick continued. “But we won by three. With that being said, there are a lot of details, a lot of things that we have to clean up. I thought I did some things well, didn’t do some things well. I going home; watch this film, see what I did good; continue to build on that. See what I didn’t do so well and continue to work on that. That way, I can do my part in helping the team do better…and make sure these games aren’t this close.”


Linebacker TJ Edwards said the Lions made some plays early and his unit struggled at time dealing with the schemes they were facing.


“We did adjust at times,” Edwards said. “They’re a really good football team. They play hard. They play through the whistle.. It was a good game by them but it was good to come out with a win.”


“It’s was the first game, so you really don’t know what you’re going to get,” he continued. ‘I thought they did a great job of adjusting and we did a good job of adjusting as well. It’s tough to win in this league, so we’ll take any way we can.”


Could the Eagles fade in the second half have any connection with Nick Sirianni’s approach to training camp practice that feature shorter times and more walk-through practices?


“Nah, that’s not a factor with us,” Edwards said. “We felt great coming into the game. We know we’ve got some things to clean and we’ll get right back to it tomorrow and clean it up.”

“We have great leaders on this team,” Edwards added. “It’s not even a thought in our mind…of being satisfied.”


FROM THE COACH

Sirianni was asked about the Eagles’ struggle to keep up defensively in the second half.

“Obviously, I’ll have to go look at the tape,” he said post game. “We just needed a stop in a certain area, and so I’ll look at the tape and see what was going on, but it was just – they made some good plays. “That’s a good offensive line. That’s a top-notch offensive line. I’ll always take the Eagles offensive line over anybody in the League, but that’s a good offensive line.


“They’ve got a lot of talented players over there – and I think the kid from Philadelphia (Swift) is a really, really outstanding back.


“And hats off to (Lions Offensive Coordinator) Ben Johnson, their coordinator. I think he really is good in and out with the run game and stuff like that, so got a lot of respect for that team. But we’ll look at it, we’ll clean it up, and like I said, it’s always nice to know that, ‘Hey, we’ve got a lot to clean up.’ And that’s offensively, defensively, and special teams, but we were able to get a win. And in this League, on the road, on your first game, we’ll take it any way we can get it.”


Next Monday, the Eagles host the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings clobbered the Green Bay Packers in their opener. The Eagles will not likely get away with that many mistakes.*


Email Al Thompson at al.thompson@footballstories.com

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