It’s not the end of the world. But, man, there’ve been times the last couple weeks it’s sure felt like it.
For the second straight week, the Eagles were largely non-competitive in a lop-sided loss against one of the NFL’s top teams.
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A week after the Eagles lost 42-19 at the Linc against the 49ers, they lost 33-13 to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.
That’s 12 consecutive years the Eagles have failed to sweep the Cowboys and six straight years they’ve lost in Dallas – four of them by 20 or more points.
But as crazy as it seems, the Eagles can still see their way to the NFC East title and No. 2 seed at worst in the NFC just by beating four teams with losing records. We’ll explain how down below.
Here’s our 10 Instant Observations off an ugly one in North Texas.
1. With 70 seconds left in the first quarter last Sunday, the 49ers punted. Why is that significant? Because until the third quarter Sunday night in Dallas, it was the last time the Eagles’ defense stopped somebody. The 49ers scored touchdowns on their next six drives and only failed to reach the end zone when they took a knee on their final possession. Then the Cowboys opened this game with TD, FG, TD, TD on their first four drives before finally punting with 12 minutes to go in the third quarter. So that’s 10 straight drives an opponent scored on the Eagles – nine touchdowns and one field goal - and that’s just inexcusable. How do you allow points on 10 straight drives? Who’s at fault for the defense’s collapse? Nick Sirianni because he's the head coach and he’s responsible for everything. Sean Desai because he just hasn’t been able to get this thing on track over the past month and a half. Howie Roseman deserves some of the blame for failing to supply the defense with enough playmakers. But for me the players are mostly to blame. They’re just not making plays. But the real mystery to me is this: Through Week 7, this was the No. 6 defense in the NFL, allowing 21 points and 290 yards per game. Since then, it’s 2nd-worst in the league, allowing 30 points and 369 yards per game. They’ve now allowed 30 or more points in three straight games for only the seventh time in franchise history and 109 the last three weeks – the 3rd-most in any three-game span the last 50 years. What happened? Did teams figure them out? Did they wear down? Is it just a product of facing a bunch of elite offenses? A little of everything? The defense did play better in the second half, holding the Cowboys to two field goals. But by then the damage was done. The Eagles still have a lot to play for. They also have an awful lot to fix.
2. But it’s not just the defense. This is two weeks in a row the offense has been a muddled mess. Only 19 points against the 49ers and just six Sunday night in Dallas. Not all that shocked at what’s happened with the defense, but I didn’t expect the offense to sputter. Not like this. When you get those moments – “What on Earth are they trying to do here?” – yeah, that’s not good. They’re not doing anything well at the moment on offense and that’s baffling. The offense was supposed to carry the defense. They have stars up and down the line of scrimmage on offense. Six points in a game of this magnitude is hard to imagine. Heck, the Eagles’ defense actually outscored the offense. Not good. Don’t blame it all on the defense.
3. They haven’t all been his fault. But 15 turnovers in 13 games for Jalen Hurts is definitely concerning. In his first three seasons, Hurts lost six fumbles on 2,316 snaps. This year he’s lost five in 883 snaps (plus Sunday night). So he’s gone from losing a fumble every 386 snaps to losing one every 176. So more than twice as often. Why is he fumbling so much? There are times Hurts tries to do too much with the ball in his hands, times he runs into traffic in the pocket trying to escape the rush, times he simply is unaware of defenders in the area. Sunday’s fumble was just a good play by safety Donovan Wilson stripping Hurts in traffic, but it can’t happen. The Cowboys had just taken a 7-0 lead, the Eagles had a nice drive going deep in Dallas territory and then that. When Hurts was dealing with that knee injury, he was staying out of harm’s way, taking a knee before he got hit if he was in the open field. And it made sense. As often as Hurts takes off and runs – both on called runs and scrambles – there’s just not a lot of good things that can come out of it. He’s just got to be more careful. But that’s not in his nature.
4. You’re going to hear a lot about how the Eagles dropped down to the No. 5 seed with this loss, and while that’s technically true, the reality is that the Eagles still control their destiny in the NFC East and will win the division and lock up the No. 2 seed if they win out. How is that possible? While it’s true that the tiebreakers currently put the Cowboys in first in the NFC East based on their superior division record over the Eagles (4-1 to 3-1), if both teams win out and finish 14-3, the Eagles would win the tiebreaker with a better conference record, since other than their split, the Eagles would have lost to the 49ers and Jets, and the Cowboys would have lost to the 49ers and Cards. So things may seem bleak right now with back-to-back losses, and there’s certainly a lot to be concerned about, the Eagles can see their way to the No. 2 seed with wins over the Seahawks (6-7), Giants twice (4-8) and Cards (3-10). And even if they slip up, the Cowboys still have the Bills (7-6), Dolphins (9-3) and Lions (9-4) before finishing with Washington. Losing back-to-back games 20 or more points isn’t ideal, but there are worse places to be than 10-3 and controlling your destiny for the No. 2 seed.
5. That said, I see this as one of the biggest challenges Nick Sirianni has faced since he became Eagles head coach. Losing back-to-back blowouts with Jalen Hurts healthy and available, that’s not supposed to happen. Hurts hadn’t lost back-to-back games at all in more than two years, so to lose by 23 and 20 points – even against these two opponents – is shocking. Sirianni is at his best when he’s navigating this team through adversity and he’s got a healthy dose of adversity right now. Because the Eagles didn’t just lose these last two games, they weren’t competitive. That’s scary. They’ll arrive back in Philadelphia at about 5 a.m. Monday morning and then leave on a 5 ½-hour flight to Seattle five days later. There’s no reason the Eagles can’t beat the Seahawks, Giants, Cards and Giants, but the challenge for Sirianni is keeping this team confident, keeping it believing, keeping it hungry. I think he will. These players believe in him, and there’s no reason not to. But a couple losses like the Eagles just experienced will test this team. We’ll learn what they’re made of over these next four weeks.
6. In 2019, it was 37-10. In 2020 it was 37-17. Then 41-21 in 2021 and at least a competitive 40-34 last year. But what’s crazy is that since 2019, the Eagles have lost four road games by 20 or more points and all four have been in Dallas. Do the math: The Eagles are 0-6 in their last six games at AT&T Stadium, losing by an average of 17 points.
7. Three turnovers, no takeaways. There’s a recipe for disaster. I’m always going to be huge on turnover margin. It’s the one stat that really takes into account both offensive and defensive play making. When the Eagles are plus-one or better, they’ve won 21 straight games dating back to the Chiefs in Week 4 of 2021. When they’re minus-1 or worse they’re 8-9 during the same stretch. They were minus-2 Sunday night in Dallas – two of the fumbles deep in Dallas territory - and after starting the season plus-4 in their first four games they’re now minus-9 over the last nine games. They had eight takeaways through Week 3 and they have just six in their last 10 games. Makes it very tough to win when you’re turning the ball over on offense and not getting turnovers on defense. You’re not going to overcome minus-3.
8. It was an odd game for Jalen Hurts. He wasn’t awful. But he also didn’t look like an MVP. He finished a pedestrian 18-for-27 for 197 yards, no TDs, no INTs and the fumble. He made some nice throws here and there, it just seemed like he never got into a rhythm, never got comfortable, never showed that spark we’re used to seeing from him every week. And once again, it was pretty much all A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. Those two combined for 14 catches for 167 yards (and each lost a fumble), but everybody else combined had 58 yards.
9. The Eagles had only allowed five field goals of 59 yards or more in franchise history and never two in the same season. Then Brandon Aubrey made a 60 and a 59 Sunday night. Factoring Joey Slye’s 61-yarder in the second Washington game, half of the field goals of at least 59 yards ever made against the Eagles have been this year.
10. A couple hours before the 49ers game, Dave Zangaro and I were watching punter Braden Mann and kicker Jake Elliott tossing the football around on a mostly empty field at the Linc, and we couldn’t help be impressed and mildly shocked by Mann’s arm. The kid can spin it. So it wasn’t all that surprising to see Mann acquit himself so well on that 28-yard pass to Olamide Zaccheus on a fake punt in the second quarter. The Eagles don’t run a lot of trick plays, mainly because they don’t need to. Their offense has been good enough over the last few years that there hasn’t been a reason to. But down 10 and pinned back on their own 33 early in the second quarter facing a 4th-and-2 seemed to be the perfect time and the Eagles ran the fake punt flawlessly. Mann became the first Eagles punter to complete a pass since John Teltschik completed an 18-yarder to Mark Konecny against Washington at RFK in 1988 and it was the longest completion by an Eagles punter since Sam Baker’s 58-yarder to safety John Mallory against the Cowboys at the Cotton Bowl in 1968. The Eagles only got a field goal on the drive, which was a letdown. But, hey, for a brief moment, Eagles fans had something to cheer about.