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Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, Javon Hargrave impress in Nick Sirianni’s first Eagles win | Analysis

The Eagles saw Jalen Hurts take the reins of his starting quarterback role and deliver a road win in the season opener, as they beat the Atlanta Falcons 32-6.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts scramble out of the pocket during the second quarter against the Falcons. Eagles play the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. on Sunday, September 12, 2021. .
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts scramble out of the pocket during the second quarter against the Falcons. Eagles play the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. on Sunday, September 12, 2021. .Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

ATLANTA — By the middle of the fourth quarter, only green jerseys lingered in the stands at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Of the 68,333 fans in attendance for Sunday’s game between the Eagles and Falcons, many of them cheered loudly for the visitors, who are returning to Philadelphia with a 32-6 victory in the season opener.

Here’s our instant analysis of the Eagles’ win:

QB Breakdown: Hurts impressive in opening-day start

Second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts only played in two series during the preseason, which prompted questions about his readiness for the season opener. But Hurts exuded poise and maturity in Week 1. Although skittish at times — he underthrew a wide-open Zach Ertz and threw behind DeVonta Smith on a third-down drag route — Hurts made big plays when needed.

His best play of the day was a 9-yard touchdown completion to tight end Dallas Goedert. Hurts faced early pressure, escaped the pocket, rushed to his right and made a precise throw across his body to a diving Goedert. That type of athleticism will go a long way for a starting quarterback.

“It was a really great play,” Sirianni said of Hurts’ connection to Goedert. “Sometimes you don’t think you’re going to get what you get. It sure helps when your quarterback can get out of that situation and make a big-time play. He made a heck of a football play.”

Hurts’ final numbers: He completed 27-of-35 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns. Hurts also rushed seven times for an impressive 62 yards.

Sirianni expresses confidence in offense in clutch situations

An influx of penalties can be expected in Week 1, but Sunday’s miscues had to be discouraging for Nick Sirianni, who consistently preached fundamentals as one of his core values during the summer. The Eagles committed 10 penalties in the first half alone, 14 for the game. Cleaning up those mistakes will likely be a point of emphasis in practice this week.

Miscues aside, Sirianni’s play-calling debut will be best remembered by the coach’s gutsy decisions in clutch situations. On two occasions, the Eagles were stopped on third down inside field-goal range, but Sirianni elected to go for it. Both times, the Eagles failed on fourth down, leaving a potential six points off the board. His dauntlessness represented a refreshing new chapter for the franchise.

One decision that did pay off for Sirianni was a two-point conversion attempt at the end of the second quarter. Following Goedert’s touchdown catch, the Falcons committed an illegal formation penalty during the extra-point attempt. Sirianni sent his offense back on the field, and running back Miles Sanders rewarded him with two points as he punched his way into the end zone.

“It shows the type of aggressiveness he has in us,” Sanders said. “We know the type of offensive line we have. We want to take those chances.”

Rookie WR Smith makes history

After selecting the wide receiver Smith with their top pick in April’s draft, the Eagles are hoping the reigning Heisman Trophy winner makes a big impact on the team’s future. Smith certainly got off to a nice start. His first career catch was an 18-yard touchdown pass from Hurts in the first quarter. On the play, Smith lined up in the slot and pulled off a hesitation move at the line to beat his defender. Ertz also made a nice pick near the line to free up Smith.

Smith finished with six catches for 71 yards. His six receptions tied a franchise record for most catches by a rookie in his debut. So far, Smith’s route-running and separation skills look as advertised. He will handle a heavy workload in the offense moving forward.

Impact player: Javon Hargrave

Defensive lineman Javon Hargrave made life tough for 36-year-old Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan. Not only did Hargrave sack Ryan twice, but also he caused plenty of disruption in the backfield and helped clog up rushing lanes.

The Falcons recorded 146 total yards during their first two drives, which resulted in back-to-back field goals. But after that, the Eagles forced Atlanta to punt six straight times, along with two turnovers on downs. Consider that a loud statement from Hargrave and new Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon.