We keep waiting for the real Eagles to show up, and 16 games into the season, the sad truth just is that this is the real Eagles team.
Not elite. Not consistent. Certainly not a Super Bowl contender. Just a massive, underachieving disappointment.
And a season that began with so much promise – a 10-1 start with signature wins over the Dolphins, Chiefs and Bills – has turned ugly with four losses in five games, including this unthinkable setback at the Linc Sunday to Jonathan Gannon and a Cards team that came in 3-12, was 1-7 on the road and was a 12-point underdog.
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The Eagles are still in the playoffs, but does it even matter anymore?
Here’s our 10 Instant Observations from the Cards’ 35-31 win over the Eagles.
1. We’ll start with the defense, and this was just a horror show. The 27th-ranked Cards offense came to the Linc - and this is a team averaging 18 points and 306 yards per game – and scored 35 points and netted 449 yards. They scored touchdowns on all four second-half drives, all at least 70 yards. Catastrophe. The Cards hammered the Eagles’ beleaguered defense up and down the field. Drive after drive after drive. They piled up 32 first downs – their most in a game since 2008 – and put together scoring drives of 64, 59, 75, 77, 77 and 70 yards, roaring back from a 21-6 deficit with 29 2nd-half points. That’s impossible. But it happened. The Cards manhandled the Eagles. Beat ‘em up. Out-muscled ‘em. They ran for 221 yards. Kyler Murray completed 80 percent of his passes and threw three touchdowns. What’s the answer? The Eagles have tried different safeties and linebackers. They’ve changed coordinators. They’ve gone with old guys and young guys. They’ve traded guys, cut guys, promoted guys, signed guys. And however you draw it up, this is just a terrible defense. Once again, very little pressure from the edge. No sacks from any of the edge rushers. Missed tackles everywhere. Bad angles to the ball carrier. Guys out of position. The young guys will get better. Sydney Brown, Kelee Ringo and Eli Ricks have bright futures. But right now? As currently constructed? If you can’t stop the Cards, you can’t stop anybody.
2. And the Eagles’ inability to finish games has reached epidemic proportions. This was the ninth time this year the Eagles have built a double-digit lead at some point in a game. They’ve only won two of those nine games by double digits and they’ve lost three of them. So in games they’ve led by 10 or more points, they’re more likely to lose than to win by 10 or more points
Here’s a look at those nine games:
Week 1: Led the Patriots by 16, won by 5
Week 2: Led the Vikings by 20, won by 6
Week 3: Led the Bucs by 19, won by 14
Week 6: Led the Jets by 11, lost by 7
Week 7: Led the Dolphins by 14, won by 14
Week 9: the Cowboys by 11, won by 5
Week 15: Led the Seahawks by 10, lost by 3
Week 16: Led the Giants by 17, won by 8
Week 17: Led the Cards by 15, lost by 4
They have no trouble racing out to big leads, but then they just can’t sustain it. On either side of the ball. Is that coaching? Game planning? Execution? A little bit of everything. There’s something missing when a team is just unable to put lesser opponents away. Week after week after week after week after week. This Eagles team is missing the killer instinct good teams must have. They build up these big leads and they don’t know how to finish teams off. How to stomp on their faces. How to maintain their momentum. And if you don’t have that, I’m not sure it’s possible to find it.
3. Through Week 10, the Eagles had the No. 1 run defense in the NFL. The best. They were allowing 66 yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry. That’s more than half the season. Then disaster. Yeah, they’ve played better teams, but since then they’ve allowed 153 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. Their entire d-line has worn down under the weight of too many snaps. Their linebackers have had their moments but ultimately just aren’t good enough. The Cards ran it 40 times for 221 yards – the most yards against the Eagles since early in 2016, Doug Pederson’s first year as head coach – and the most at the Linc since 2015, Chip Kelly’s last year. This is only the 11th time since 1990 the Eagles have allowed 220 rushing yards a game – and that’s a span of nearly 600 games. James Conner is a good back. But 128 yards? He’s not that good. They’ve gone from the best run defense in the league to the worst. And going in the wrong direction.
4. I can’t tell you how much I hated the play calls on the Eagles’ field goal drive in the final minutes, the drive that gave them the lead at 31-28 with 2:33 left. The Cards had already scored on three straight TD drives of at least 70 yards. The Eagles couldn't stop them. You have to assume the Cards are going to score seven so you have to score seven. You have to. You have to be aggressive. You have to drive the ball down the field. After Jordan Mailata’s holding call on a D’Andre Swift, the Eagles had a 1st-and-20 on the Cards’ 30-yard-line but the first two play calls were wonky Jalen Hurts keepers – one gained four yards, the next lost three yards – and neither one had a chance. So now it’s 3rd-and-19 and they called a little screen to Kenny Gainwell that looked like it was just to get a few extra yards for Jake Elliott to kick into the wind. Anybody watching the game knew the Cards were going to go down the field and score. The Eagles’ only chance to win that game was getting seven. A field goal was getting you beat. And how did it play out? Elliott made the field goal, like he was always does, and seven plays later the Cards scored. Ballgame.
5. Because the Cards played such a high level of ball control and held the ball for so long – a few seconds short of 40 minutes – the Eagles only ran 47 plays – 25 fewer than the Cards. The Eagles scored 31 points but seven came courtesy of Sydney Brown’s 99-yard pick-6 so that’s 24 from the offense. Ultimately, the offense managed 275 total yards, 17 first downs and 24 points against a world-class terrible defense. And while most of the fault for this collapse is on the defense, it would be a mistake to let the offense off the hook. They didn’t hit any big plays – nothing over 23 yards, nothing in the second half over 18 yards. They’re still not good enough or consistent enough running the ball. They were 1-for-4 on third down in the second half. Jalen Hurts was OK – he threw three touchdowns – but wasn’t effective as a runner, averaging just 3.1 yards on eight rushing attempts. Including those two ill-fated plays on the field goal drive. Hurts isn’t the problem, but the offense should be so much better than what we’re seeing. There’s just not a lot of juice on that side of the ball either.
6. Can we put 32 first downs in perspective? First of all, the Cards came into the game averaging 19 first downs per game. They recorded 32. That’s insane. They had 19 of them in the second half. The Cards ran 38 plays in the second half. HALF OF THEM WERE FIRST DOWNS. That’s utterly insane. That’s the most first downs the Eagles have allowed since a loss to the Saints in 2015 – in the last few weeks of Chip Kelly’s coaching tenure – and the 4th-most they’ve allowed since 1990. Mind-blowing.
7. Here’s the latest on Josh Sweat: One sack in the last nine games. He’s one guy I just didn’t expect to have such a decline. A Pro Bowler in 2021, a career-high 11 sacks last year, 5 ½ sacks in the first seven games, one sack in the last nine games. The Eagles’ lack of pass pressure has been shocking. They had 30 sacks in the first nine games, 11 in the last six games. They haven't gotten a sack from an edge rusher in their last three games and they haven't gotten a sack from an edge other than Haason Reddick in their last five games. Those 70 sacks seem like such a long time ago.
8. The Eagles look to me like a team that’s got nothing left. The tank is empty. Maybe it’s partly mental, partly physical, but I’m really curious to see how they respond to the biggest challenge this franchise has faced in a long time. The biggest challenge Nick Sirianni has faced since he got here. Can Sirianni get the thing back on the rails? Is his voice getting through to the team? Is there any fight left in the locker room? Is this even fixable? I know what my answer is. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong.
9. Think about this: The Cards average 18 points per game coming into this weekend. So that’s 9 points per half. Less than a touchdown and a field goal. And they scored TWENTY-NINE Sunday at the Linc against the Eagles AFTER HALFTIME. That’s the 11th-most the Eagles have ever allowed in a second half and the 5th-most in Philadelphia. And the Cards’ comeback from 15 points down is the 9th-largest ever against the Eagles in Philadelphia. The more you look into this collapse the more unbelievable it is. Maybe they can get their act together in the playoffs, but after what I saw today? I just don’t believe they can.
10. We’ll finish on a positive note. Sydney Brown’s 99-yard interception return was longest ever by an Eagles rookie and 3rd-longest in franchise history. Lito Sheppard has the two longest INT returns in franchise history, both against the Cowboys – a 101-yarder off Vinny Testaverde at Texas Stadium in 2004 and a 102-yarder off Drew Bledsoe at the Linc in 2006. Jerry Norton in 1957 and Malcolm Jenkins in 2015 also had 99-yarders. The longest previous pick-6 by an Eagles rookie was a 87-yarder by Lee Roy Caffey off Giants QB Glynn Griffing at Yankee Stadium in 1963. With Kelee Ringo’s INT a week ago vs. the Giants and Brown, the Eagles have had rookies recording their first career interceptions in consecutive games for the first time in 36 years. Last time it happened was 1987, when cornerback Cedrick Brown picked off Neil Lomax in a win over the Cards at Busch Stadium on Nov. 1 and a week later Jerome Brown intercepted Jay Schroeder in a win over Washington at the Vet.