Eagles overreactions: Why Hurts' bad game was clearly coming originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Well, that was fun while it lasted.
After a happy holiday weekend of feeling good about the Eagles, the Birds brought their fans all the way back to Earth in Sunday's agonizing loss to the Giants.
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Jalen Hurts looked bad. Nick Sirianni made some rough play calls.
Let's overreact to it all:
1. These are the limitations of Eagles' play style
You weren't sure if it would be this week. In fact, I was pretty sure it wouldn't be. But you knew that, at some point, this kind of ugly, headache-inducing game was coming.
Because the Eagles' recent success has been fun to watch, and it's made sense while it's happened, but it's not a terribly sustainable way to win in the NFL in 2021.
The Eagles were, in theory, mirroring the successes of the Titans, Browns, and Ravens, a trio of run-first teams in the increasingly pass-first NFL. But the problem with the Eagles' imitation of those teams was that the Eagles don't have the type of top-tier skill that those teams have. The Titans can run like that because (when he's healthy) they have Derrick Henry. The Browns can run like that because they have Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The Ravens can run like that because they have Lamar Jackson.
The Eagles have... Jalen Hurts, Jordan Howard, and Miles Sanders. Sanders is a good running back, but Henry, Hunt, and Chubb he ain't.
The lack of elite talent was always going to catch up to them at some point, and when it did they were gonig to have to throw the ball and look for explosive plays. That's where things fall apart with this team. They're not skilled enough at the important positions to mount comebacks or go off-script when the run game isn't working, and we saw that in plain view on Sunday.
The offensive line is perennially banged-up, and when Jason Kelce left the game in the first quarter - An injury to an Eagles OL? That never happens! - Nick Sirianni's confidence in the run game seemed to drop off a cliff for a short time. He shifted into throw-first mode, and Hurts simply can't throw the ball the way a starting quarterback is supposed to throw it.
Luckily Sirianni remembered later that running is actually good, and the Birds resumed moving the ball. At that point, though, the game was much closer than it should've been.
The Eagles can still win games the way they were for a few weeks there. It's viable. But it's not a long-term solution, because there are simply too unanswered questions when things go wrong.
2. Hurts hasn't earned a second year yet
After a few weeks in which Jalen Hurts looked like a potential starting quarterback, largely because the Eagles were able to successfully run the ball and leaned on the ground game, Hurts was objectively bad in basically every category on Sunday.
It was an extremely concerning performance from a guy the fanbase was collectively coming around on, and it reminded everyone that just because he was successful during the win streak doesn't mean he can be The Guy in the long-term.
Less than 12 hours after a notable NFL insider in Ian Rapoport suggested the front office was warming to Hurts, he struggled all over the place and played his worst game of the season.
He was inaccurate from the first quarter, when he missed DeVonta Smith on a routine route where the rookie wideout had clear separation and Hurts simply misfired, missing Smith wide.
He struggled with decision-making later on that same drive, when he tried to squeeze a ball over the middle to Quez Watkins despite having no throwing window. DPI or not, Watkins simply wasn't open.
The inaccuracy and decision-making errors compounded as the game went on, reaching a peak when Hurts threw maybe his worst INT of the year right before halftime:
There were certainly factors working against Hurts - no Jordan Howard, no Jason Kelce for two quarters, and no support from Nick Sirianni, who seemingly forgot about running the ball at times - but those don't excuse the awful play.
Sunday was Hurts' 16th start, essentially a full season of starts in the old days. The contention from Hurts' supporters was that he was growing the way a rookie quarterback should. But after his showing Sunday, I'm not sure if that's true.
Hurts needs to bounce back in a big way over the next five games - particularly through the air - if he wants a fair shot at the QB job next year.
3. Credit the defense for keeping this game close
Jonathan Gannon was (rightly) crushed in the first few weeks of this season, but the Eagles' defensive coordinator has his crew firing on all cylinders right now. It wasn't his fault the offense didn't know how to score.
On Sunday, the Giants converted just three third downs on 11 attempts. Saquon Barkley (12 carries for 39 yards) did very little on the ground. The Eagles' defense stiffened in the red zone over and over, forcing field goal attempts instead of touchdowns multiple times.
A number of Eagles defenders stepped up. Alex Singleton was breaking up passes over the middle, Derek Barnett was pressuring Daniel Jones, and it felt like Giants receivers were working for every single yard they earned against Darius Slay and Steven Nelson.
The defense was also huge situationally. Whether it was forcing a three-and-out (while driving the Giants back 14 yards) after Hurts' third interception of the game, or forcing another three-and-out and keeping momentum on the Eagles' side after the Birds' first touchdown of the game, it felt like Gannon's guys were consistently ready to push back on the Giants when the team needed it the most.
So after a certain point, you simply couldn't blame them when the Giants put together that crushing fourth-quarter scoring drive. The defense was simply out of plays to make. They'd made their contributions, and the offense did nothing in return.
It was a strong afternoon on D, but it ultimately went for naught, which is a huge bummer.
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