The Eagles headed into Dallas with a very strong chance of staying alive in the NFC East divisional title race. Things started off well. They leaped out to a 14-3 lead after the first quarter, their biggest since week one, and even the Panthers were able to beat Washington. That hope lasted all of a few heartbeats and before we knew it, it was back to the same old story. Here’s everything you need to know.
Jalen Hurts started out promisingly enough. He helped the Eagles rally down the field in an opening drive dominated by running plays and seemed to find his confidence with a simplified passing game. But when Michael Gallup started ripping the secondary to shreds and a double-digit lead flipped on its head, things changed.
Hurts hit a rookie wall. With 3 turnovers on the day and his 9th fumble on the year, the second-round pick looked flustered entering the second half. He would stare down open receivers, miss simple throws, and seem a little too panicky inside the pocket.
There were some obvious flashes of potential and some impressive moments along the way, including a beautiful 81-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson, but this was the weakest performance of the year from Hurts in a game that was positioned to be his strongest.
He wasn’t the biggest issue on the offense, but that phrase sounds a little too familiar. Hurts not being on his A-game throughout simply removed the masking of the many issues this offense faces.
The offense looked dire
The Eagles had 5 false starts in a night where they were flagged 12 times. The offensive line struggled mightily against Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence, receivers struggled at times, the running game was sporadic and Doug Pederson called a game that slowly edged the team out of contention for the win…but more on that shortly.
If anything, all this game did was reaffirm that Carson Wentz really wasn’t the main cause of offensive stagnation here. Is he as athletic as Jalen Hurts? no. Can he do the things Hurts can do with the ball in his hands? Probably not. But if Hurts is forced to throw the ball under duress constantly, as a rookie, in the biggest game of the season, and those strengths are taken away, does he really bring that much more to the table?
The Eagles have a LOT of work to do this offseason.
Doug Pederson struggles again
After starting out almost exclusively running the ball, the Eagles soon deviated to their original gameplan of…not doing that. Only ever down by a maximum of two scores for the majority of the game, the team simply let the running-game once again slip into the back pocket. Miles Sanders did see a healthy dosage of carries (15), but it did feel like the Eagles opted to turn to chunk plays as opposed to being smart.
Speaking of which, setting up a perfect opportunity to bring the lead back down to 10 on third down with a 51-yard field goal attempt, Doug Pederson opted to go for it on 4th and 15…which went as many would expect. This may well have been the turning point in the game where all hope faded away.
It’s been a problem all season long, but being unable to put away an atrocious Cowboys defense and consistently just play a game of 4th down blackjack is a really bad sign for a Head Coach who had actually done a really good job in facilitating the QB change and mixing things up to give his offense some life.
The Eagles really need a CB2
Darius Slay picked off his first Eagles interception in eyebrow-raising fashion and had a fairly solid day at the office. That mattered little when Michael Jacquet, last week’s UDFA sensation, was bullied into oblivion by Michael Gallup and company. If you have one lockdown cornerback and a total vacancy at the other spot, which way is the QB going to throw?
Andy Dalton threw for 377 yards, 3 TD, and 1 INT on the day. Two Cowboys wideouts had over 100+ yards receiving, and Jacquet gave up the second-most individual yards of any CB this season. Not good.
It’s not all on Jacquet. The Eagles could’ve started Mills at CB, and realistically should already have an insurance policy in place for an injured Avonte Maddox. They didn’t. That has to change this offseason.
Pass-rush losses really hurt
Losing Fletcher Cox just a few minutes into the game stung, as did not having Josh Sweat on the field. Not having Derek Barnett on the field only added salt into the wounds. The Eagles pass-rush struggled to generate any kind of substantial pressure without three of their biggest contributors.
It wasn’t the sole reason behind a total defensive collapse, but a failure to get to the QB resulted in Dalton having all the time in the world to wait for his wideouts to burn a very vulnerable secondary over and over again.
The butterfly effect.
It’s time for the Eagles to engage tank mode
As things stand right now, the Eagles would be picking sixth in next year’s NFL Draft. A loss next week may just tip them into the top-5. It’s time to buckle up, Eagles fans, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire