Why did Nick Sirianni’s play calling hit a wall against the 49ers?

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – AUGUST 27: Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni during the National Football League preseason game between the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles on August 27, 2021 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

On Sunday afternoon the Eagles hosted the San Francisco 49ers in the team’s first home game of the season. It’s been a year since the Eagles had the Linc filled with over 69,000 fans. Hopes were high after a week one win and the energy was electric. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long.

The battle in the trenches was immense. Both defensive lines are among the best in the NFL but it seemed as if Sirianni feared the 49ers more than he should’ve. It reminded me of the movie, ‘the Waterboy’. For some reason, the Eagles head coach lost his mojo when a better coach was standing on the opposite sideline.

The play-calling was vanilla. It was a hit-or-miss formula that proved the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over. Sirianni relied on the RPO heavily in this game while sprinkling in some inside runs with even fewer outside. It seemed like he expected the 49ers to bite off the play-action looks despite a lack of success on the ground. This led to hammering the run on 3rd & medium’s that were just wasting drives away.

It was either the Eagles went for the deep ball or they went for option looks and curls. There were very few in-between styles of plays. No crossing routes with receivers running across the field. No out routes with the Eagles taking advantage of Smith’s ability. More importantly, they didn’t involve any of their tight ends after Sirianni backed the idea of getting the ball into Goedert’s hands as much as possible.

Now granted, they were playing a linebacker core that is top tier but you still have to take your chances and put the ball into the hands of your playmakers, especially against a secondary that was flailing and missing both of its outside starting CB’s. The Eagles became a one-dimensional team on offense as the Falcons did against them one week ago, and mixed in with some strange play-calls that sucked momentum out of th offense, it was to be their demise.

None more so than the 4th and goal decision to try and replicate the Philly special. A 91-yard pass to Quez Watkins set the Eagles up in perfect stead to at least get points on the board. Without a single QB sneak attempt, the Eagles ran out their three tries and decided to go for it on fourth down by bringing back the most iconic play in franchise history. This would be great if the Niners defense hadn’t been defending read-options all day long and physically being forced to key in on Hurts every single time. The play, predictably, fell incomplete, with Hurts being blanketed.

This game showed Eagles fans one thing, and one thing only – that Nick Sirianni is still a rookie head coach. He has to go through his adversity just like any rookie player has to. What matters the most right now is how he responds to his mistakes. How the team responds to their coach’s body language this week and his ability to adjust going forward. The good news is, he’s at least showing the self-awareness needed to take that step.

So, it was my fault. I didn’t call good enough plays right there. I didn’t put the players in good enough positions, but we’re all in this together, coaches and players.

Sirianni limited his offense against the 49ers, but the reason why remains a mystery. Instead of trying to figure it out, the focus has to be on beating the Cowboys and opening up the offensive playbook.

Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire