Eagles need to rebound after back-to-back losses to avoid another season of ‘what-ifs’?

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Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts reacts after an incomplete pass on a third-down play against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

The reason the Eagles have back-to-back losses is not an issue that is solely on the defense, the offense, roster construction with the players, or the coaches. There is a plethora of problems and a lot of blame to go around. It also looks eerily familiar.

The 2023 Eagles are starting to remind me of the 2018 team that they “ran back.” The year after their first Super Bowl victory, Howie Roseman and the Eagles brought back most of the same players for another season and a chance to repeat as World Champions. It seemed like the logical thing to do and nobody could fault the sentiment. Still, aging veterans started to struggle, an offense that had taken teams by surprise suddenly seemed predictable, and whatever unexplainable magic it is that brings teams together to share in a Championship, just wasn’t there. It isn’t there right now either.

That season ended with a lot of almosts and what-ifs

They almost didn’t win a single playoff game in 2018, but the famous double doink heard around the world, in Chicago saved them.

This year, the Eagles have been down by 10 or more points at halftime many times and needed huge rallies from the offense to come back and win. That formula was never going to be sustainable. They almost lost a few of those games, and have now lost 2 in a row.

Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (91) sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

In 2018 the fan base could only wonder what if Alshon Jeffrey makes the catch in the divisional playoff round in New Orleans? Do they go on another magical run that ends in green confetti raining down?

This year, more of the same. What if Jalen Hurts was healthy? What if Nakobe Dean didn’t get hurt? What if they do not turn the ball over so frequently? And on and on.

Confidence

The truth is they have been playing sloppy football. They have been outcoached, dropped passes in crucial moments, and turned the ball over to kill drives.

Versus Dallas, Eagles Quarterback Jalen Hurts only threw passes to 3 different receivers all night, AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert. Punter Brandon Mann had the only other pass on the night which he threw to the only other receiver who was targeted, Olamide Zaccheaus, for a brilliant 4th down fake that converted a first down.

Whether this is a coaching issue as a result of scheming deficiencies or a lack of trust on behalf of Jalen Hurts is irrelevant. It needs to be better. They are predictable and ineffective. They are also playing undisciplined football. The Eagles were penalized 10 times resulting in 95 yards. 

Eagles cost themselves dearly

Jalen Hurts killed the first drive in the red zone by fumbling at the Dallas 20. AJ Brown followed that up by dropping a catch that he would make 99 out of 100 times, and it would have moved the ball to the Dallas 4-yard line. DeVonta Smith couldn’t come down with a TD pass in the endzone and he fumbled the ball away after a great catch and run that had the Eagles down to the Dallas 10-yard line. Yet another drive ended with a turnover.

The offense struggled so badly, that the defense outscored them 7–6. This was the first time during the Nick Sirianni era that the offense hasn’t scored a touchdown.

The defense has not found an identity

The Defense started slow and allowed a touchdown drive off the opening kickoff. Stopping the opposition to convert third-down was once again a huge issue. The defense allowed 5 of 6 third down conversions and then allowed the one they did stop to convert on 4th down.

Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Jalen Carter, left, runs with the ball while scoring on a fumble recovery as teammate Haason Reddick (7) gestures and Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Terence Steele (78) chases him during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Eagles did do a better job controlling Cee Dee Lamb, who was limited to 6 receptions for 71 yards and a TD after allowing him to run wild for 191 yards the last time they met, but Dak just found the open guy all night long. The Cowboys controlled the clock and the line of scrimmage. 

The lone bright spot came when Fletcher Cox forced a fumble that bounced into the hands of defensive rookie of the year candidate Jalen Carter. Carter rumbled yards for the Eagles’ only touchdown. A rare highlight during a very rough and forgettable night.

Leadership

The leadership of this team will be asked to rally the younger players and navigate them through this difficult stretch. Keeping the team focused and learning from their mistakes is what will determine if this team falls apart and becomes a footnote in Eagles history, or if they rally together and go on another magical run. 

Brandon Graham believes they can clean up these mistakes and get back to the team everyone thought they were Everybody is acting like the sky is falling, but we’re 10–3 and control our destiny.

But, there is very little harmony or continuity with the offense or defense right now and most observers do not share his optimism.

Fletcher Cox has also been in this position before, and he is hoping to see the same fight in this group as the one from 2017 that rallied back after a tough stretch in December to go on and win a Super Bowl.

“We’ve been punched in the mouth 2 weeks in a row, blood is dripping from our mouth. It’s time to find out who the dudes in this locker room are” 

That is the question everyone is curious to learn, and so far, does not have an answer to.

With blood still on their mouth, can the Eagles get up from the mat, or will it be another year of almosts and what-ifs?

David

As always, thank you for reading.

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AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth