Birds: After Sloppy Loss, Fundamentals Emphasized
After riding a wave of optimism and anticipation for the better part of four weeks, the Eagles on Sunday were dealt a proverbial deathblow by a lowly divisional foe, falling to the New York Giants, 13-7, in devastating fashion.
The most prominent big-picture takeaway from Sunday’s stunner was the glaring ineptitude in both execution and preparation offensively.
Given the magnitude of his team’s fruitless final sequence, Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni has been forced all week to relive the game’s memorable ending – a fourth-down pass that bounced off the hands of Jalen Reagor at the goal line and fluttered helplessly to the MetLife Stadium turf.
And it wasn’t just the drop that stuck with him.
“We didn’t do a great job executing the route discipline out of that play,” he said, “with DeVonta and Quez [Watkins]. But it turned into a scramble, and we got an open look. Jalen made a good throw. Like I said, want to just be able to finish that play off. Again, no one wants to make that play more than Jalen [Reagor].”
While the final act of Sunday’s gut-wrenching loss has seemingly been replayed on a continuous loop, the aforementioned play was also a microcosm of the self-inflicted wounds that resurfaced to conspire against the heavily favored Eagles.
“It never comes down to one play,” Sirianni said. “We put ourselves in that position where it came down to the last play, where I know all the eyes were on him and all the criticism will be on him, but this is an ultimate team game, and there are a lot of other things led to that coming down to the last play. It never comes down to just one play.”
But few could have predicted the unraveling that took place up the New Jersey Turnpike.
An offense that had rebranded itself midseason after toiling for the first seven weeks and had helped the Eagles win three of four came to a screeching halt, committing four turnovers, several back-breaking penalties, and a litany of costly drops.
Route-running from wide receivers not named DeVonta Smith lacked detail, decisiveness, and nuance.
Backup interior offensive lineman Nate Herbig, typically dependable, committed an egregious holding penalty that wiped out a 24-yard Jalen Hurts run in the second quarter, along with another penalty that negated a Boston Scott touchdown.
Speaking of Hurts, the second-year quarterback played the worst game of his young career, completing 14-of-31 pass attempts for 129 yards and three interceptions – contributing to an anemic 17.5 quarterback rating.
Hurts reverted to older tendencies and struggled with his delivery and working through progressions.
Although Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham deserves credit for scheming to limit the effectiveness of Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert, the lack of rapport and timing between Hurts and other options was apparent.
The Giants also took some shots on Hurts early on some RPOs, and Hurts never quite appeared to settle into the game, appearing flighty in the pocket and hastening throws.
“I think the most important thing, when you go out there and play a game, is just to have the right attention to detail,” Hurts said on Wednesday. “And that’s what I’ve been talking about, and I think that’s something that we lacked as an offense, something that I lacked in last week’s game. So it’s something that I definitely want to do a better job of this week, regardless of the circumstances.”
One way to view the letdown, in the midst of a playoff push, is that it’s the byproduct of a young Eagles team that was harshly reminded of how quickly its fortunes can change when detail, focus, and execution fall by the wayside.
Despite a soft schedule and their recent growth, the Eagles simply couldn’t — and can’t this Sunday — afford to overlook an opponent and expect to prevail.
Every game must be treated as must-win.
“I think we have a fire lit under us,” Sirianni said. “There is no doubt. I think this is a hungry team that wants to do well, that craves to do well, and works their tail off to play well every week.
“And I really believe that the guys here have won a lot — a lot of veteran guys have won a lot of football games, and they know the best teams they have been on have practiced well. I believe that we practice well. We practice hard, we practice physical, we practice at great tempo with great detail.
That’s a tribute to the guys we have on this team and the way we want this thing led. So that is our only mindset is: How do we win this game? All I care about is how we get ourselves ready to win this game. I think when you’re in that mindset, if you get into the mindset of what are the things we have to do to make the playoffs, it doesn’t matter unless you take care of your own business.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.