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Slow Starts Have Plagued Both Eagles, Bucs; Will Kobe's 2017 Speech Help?

With the playoffs here, Jason Kelce talked about honing the fine details of fundamentals and assignments, something Kobe Bryant talked about to the team in 2017
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Name the coach with this quote: “We have to do a better job of starting faster. We defer and give up points. We have to get that fixed.”

If you said Nick Sirianni, you’re wrong, though you could easily have been right because the Eagles are slow starters, sort of like car batteries on a sub-freezing day.

The quote was from Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians.

The Eagles’ slow starts have been made into a big deal in Philadelphia, as it should be.

But what about the Bucs, who will host the Eagles in the opening round of the NFC playoffs on Sunday at 1 p.m. (FOX).

Here are Tampa’s last four starts:

  • Trailed Carolina 7-0 after the first quarter and only led 10-7 at halftime last week.
  • Were tied 7-7 with the New York Jets after one quarter and were behind at halftime, 17-10.
  • This is the outlier. Up 7-3 against Carolina after the first quarter and were ahead, 19-67, at the half.
  • Down 3-0 after the opening quarter and 6-0 at halftime in a 9-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints. This was the only loss among the aforementioned slow starts.

Maybe that’s just slightly better than the Eagles’ horrid starts.

Take away last week's Dallas game, when the lineup was filled primarily with deep reserves and practice squad players, here are the Eagles previous three games:

  • Down 10-0 after one quarter vs. Washington and trailed 16-7 at halftime.
  • Tied 3-3 at halftime vs. the New York Giants.
  • Behind Washington 10-0 after the first then battled back to tie 10-10 at the half.

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The Eagles won all three.

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What’s a coach to do?

Nick Sirianni was asked that very question on Wednesday.

“You always try to go in with your best plays ready to go and you're also trying to get information on what's happening out there as well,” the Eagles coach said. “So, it's both. You want to be able to do some things that you know you're going to start off well and get a successful first drive and second drive, et cetera, but then also gather information in that time.

“I don't think there is anything that you can do any differently than the process we have right now, to be completely honest with you. Like any other time, we have to put the players in position to make plays and the players have to execute when they go out there.

“Again, we're all in this together as far as that goes. Sometimes I think it's been a little bit, ‘Hey, the offense started slow, defense was hot,’ or vice versa, right? We just have to put it together as a full team of starting fast on both sides of the ball at the same time.”

Slow starts haven’t really hurt either team…yet.

But these are the playoffs; one loss and you’re done.

“Earlier this week, Jason Kelce came to me, and we were talking and just discussing the playoffs,” said Sirianni. “What he said I really thought was valuable. He said, ‘The things that lose you games in the regular season also lose you games in the playoffs.’

“We really were talking about assignments and fundamentals, the minute details of what you do and how you do it. Know what to do, know how to do it. I must've said that 50 times to the team (Wednesday). Know what to do, know how to do it. Know what to do, know how to do it. And that just kind of amplifies.”

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Sirianni wanted that message to sink in, so he found a video of Kobe Bryan giving the Eagles a speech during the 2017 season, a gem dug up by Sirianni’s assistant, Tyler Scudder.

“His message was exactly the same,” said Sirianni about Kobe’s speech four years ago. “It was, ‘Hey, the fundamentals and technique get amplified more and more so and the assignments get amplified more and more so in the playoffs.’ Kobe went on to tell a story about Game 7 or Game 6 of the Miami Heat versus the San Antonio Spurs. He really dove into a fundamental mistake that somebody made to help make that game change.

“So that is the message, is the emotion of the game is going to be there. All we can do right now, and my message is to (Jalen Hurts), to the team, is control what we can control right now.”

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.