The one play Nick Sirianni would love to have back originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
It was 33-6.
Then the Saints scored a touchdown and the Eagles went 3-and-out.
Then the Saints scored another touchdown and the Eagles went 3-and-out again.
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Then the Saints scored a field goal, and all of a sudden that 33-6 lead was down to 33-22 and the fans at the Linc were getting restless.
“I got too conservative,” Nick Sirianni conceded after the game. “I'll say that right now. I'll say it out loud. I got a bit conservative with the play calling that allowed them to work their way back into the game. So that's on me.”
Sirianni did call a couple passes on those two 3-and-outs, but they were the type of short passes that weren’t going to go anywhere even if they were completed.
That’s the dilemma facing coaches with big leads. Do you focus on running clock and punting or do you stay aggressive and keep the pressure on the opposing team?
Usually, when you bottle up and wait for the clock to hit 0:00, it doesn't work.
“I think we got pretty run heavy,” he said. “Again, that's kind of been what we've been doing this last month of the season. But that doesn't mean you just don't pass the football.”
After the Saints closed to 11 points, the Eagles finally got a couple first downs, including J.J. Arcega-Whiteside’s huge 23-yard catch-and-run. Jalen Hurts’ 24-yard TD run with 4:09 left put the game away.
The Eagles have certainly been on the other end of this. They scored a couple late touchdowns against the Cowboys and Chiefs, turned a 28-7 deficit against Tampa to 28-22 and made the Raiders game somewhat interesting with a couple 4th-quarter touchdowns after Vegas led by 23.
Sirianni learned a lesson Sunday.
He even singled out one play that he really wishes he hadn’t called. That was the first play of the Eagles’ drive after the Saints cut the lead to 11 points with their third score in 7 ½ minutes. It was a short sideways pass to Jalen Reagor intended to let Reagor use his speed and pick up some safe yards.
Needless to say, it didn’t go anywhere. It actually lost a yard, giving the Eagles a 2nd-and-11 on their own 26 with more than seven minutes to play.
“I called the screen that I didn’t like to Reagor,” Sirianni said Wednesday. “The way their defensive ends were playing, I didn't love that call. I thought, ‘Hey, I passed it there and I was being a little conservative on the type of pass I used.’ That's one play I really want back.
“But again, we were running the ball well. It got a little bit sloppy, and I just felt like I started that with the way I was calling it.”
The very next play was the big JJAW gainer that finally gave the Eagles some breathing room and took a lot of the pressure off. But things were definitely getting tense at the Linc, and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon noticed it.
“I looked up and I see the crowd and it’s like, ‘Boy, this is getting a little closer than what you would want it to be at this point in the game right now, especially where the game was,’ you know?” he said.
The Eagles wound up allowing 22 points in the fourth quarter, only the fourth time in franchise history they allowed seven or fewer points through three quarters and then 22 or more in the fourth.
Gannon said with his group it was just a matter of guys letting up in the final minutes of a game they thought they had won.
“I wouldn't say we took our foot off the pedal,” he said. “As the game went on, being up like we were, then they kind of got back into it, the teaching point to our guys is, on Monday and when they come back in here, we still have to execute at a little bit higher level than what we did.
“I thought the execution was high in the first half, third quarter pretty good, fourth quarter I thought we got leaky in some things, rush and cover, cover and rush.
“We've just got to execute a little bit better so it prevents some of those points from going on the board and nobody's really tight in the stadium. I'd like to see our execution be consistent throughout the game.”
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