ARLINGTON, Texas — There’s no sugarcoating it.
That was ugly.
“We’ve been punched in the mouth two weeks in a row. Let’s be honest,” Eagles defensive captain Fletcher Cox said. “We got punched in the mouth two weeks in a row. We got a little blood dripping from our lip. But the thing about this team is we’ll get it stitched up, get all the corrections and now we have a little bit more time to think about it.”
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The Eagles were embarrassed 33-13 by the Cowboys on Sunday night at AT&T Stadium just a week after a similarly embarrassing 42-19 loss at home to the 49ers. Back-to-back losses against two of the NFCs best teams — teams that could stand in the way of the Eagles once they get into the playoffs.
But sometimes you learn an awful lot about the makeup of a team when it’s facing this type of adversity. And the 10-3 Eagles are facing that adversity now. With their backsides on the mat, it’s time to see how the Eagles respond.
“I think the biggest thing for this team now is really find out who the dudes are,” Cox said. “And that's always the case. And I've been part of teams where the dudes in the locker room do something about it. And I've been a part of the team where you know, it kind of crumbles. But now it's time to see the real leadership. The real players. The guys that's elite on this team, myself included, step up and do something about it. Get this team another win.”
Next up: They’ll travel across the country to face the Seahawks on Monday Night Football.
Sure, the Eagles are still 10-3. They still control their own destiny in the NFC East and could very well still end up as the No. 1 seed in the conference.
It’s just hard to think about all that right now. The blood hasn’t even dried yet.
After the the Eagles’ loss to the 49ers last week, Cox spoke about the importance of making sure the team doesn’t fracture. But in these two losses, it’s not like one side of the football let down the other. Both the Eagles’ offense and defense shoulder plenty of blame in these defeats. Neither side has played particularly well, although at least special teams is doing its part.
It’s a total team failure to be outscored by a combined 43 points in back-to-back losses.
“It’s something we’re going through, not something we’re stuck in,” quarterback Jalen Hurts said. “I think that this team will continue to get things done. It’s going to continue to be challenged. It’s all in how we respond to that. I think is a beautiful opportunity for us. You have to have a hunger. You have to have a will, a want-to. I think we’ve got the right guys to do that.”
The Eagles’ issues in this game were pretty similar to the ones they faced against the 49ers last week. The offense got off to a slow start again and ended up scoring just six points.
Early in this game, the Eagles were driving with a chance to keep pace with the Cowboys and Hurts lost a huge fumble.
“We all have to be better. That starts with me,” Hurts said. “That starts with me the quarterback. That starts with me as a leader. The tone that I set. I embrace that challenge.”
On defense, the Eagles again couldn’t get off the field on third down; the Cowboys converted 9 of 16 attempts. They allowed the Cowboys to extend drives, win the time of possession battle and march down the field again and again.
After giving up just 11 touchdown drives of 75+ yards in the first 11 games of the season, the Eagles gave up 8 to the 49ers and Cowboys in the span of five quarters.
“In moments like this, you really see who with us and who ain’t,” veteran defensive end Brandon Graham said. “So I’m happy that so far everybody seems like they’re getting ready to work.”
The problem is that the Eagles felt like everything went the way it was supposed to during the week leading up to the Cowboys game. There weren’t any fractures in the locker room. There was energy at practice. The leaders led and the coaches coached and it still wasn’t enough.
The Eagles were blown out for the second straight week and sent back to the drawing board.
“Adversity can do a couple of things to you,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “It can break you or it can make you way better. And I know that everybody that's in that locker room has been through s— in their lives and has made it to this point. They’ve made it to this point because of the s— they've been through. And so that adversity has made a lot of us in that locker room where we are today, and we’ve got to remember that.
“We’ve got to internalize that, and we’ve got to make sure that they have adversity that we're facing right now we're able to get through and make sure we get better from it.”