Someway, somehow, the Eagles continue to claw their way to victory when defeat appears imminent. Those outside Philadelphia call it luck. Fans in Dallas and San Francisco call it rigged officiating. I call it winning, because winning is all that matters.
If a dumb quarterback gets sacked when he absolutely cannot take a sack; great. You were in position to force that stupidity. If a receiver drops a touchdown pass; great. You were in position to benefit from that failure. If a receiver runs a corner instead of a post; great. You were in position to benefit from that miscue. The Eagles don’t need to apologize for winning. They do, however, need to be better.
The weather could also be better. The Eagles are a visor vibe squad. The rain and inclement weather means the visors don’t come out. AJ Brown’s stats are way down without the visor. Visor-less Hurts looks 15% less in control. Even D’Andre Swift and DeVonta Smith look a touch slower without the sleekness of their visor. While winning when the visor vibes are bad is a great sign, the Eagles still must improve.
Being better starts with Jalen Hurts. Even Hurts admitted as much. Yes, he’s come through in the clutch time and time again, but you know what else is awesome? Coming out of the gates and killing it. I understand the record and the late game heroics have Hurts as the current MVP favorite, but don’t the other three quarters matter? Hurts was again awful for most of the 1st half and into the 2nd. He again couldn’t read the defense. He was indecisive. He was hesitant to make plays with his legs and he made another careless turnover. You can’t pull the football from the back, see pressure and let go of the football hoping the running back is still there. That’s insane. Hurts is anything but a wuss, but it did look like he didn’t want to get hit and panicked. Avoiding a hit there is likely another byproduct of the knee injury, but I will say it again; he appears more injured early in games then he does late. Is it a confidence or comfort thing?
Of course, it’s not all Hurts’ fault. For one, the defense has been mostly atrocious, especially on the back end. It’s understandable that the pass rush won’t get home against elite scramblers like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, but the secondary is part of the pass rush too. You have to cover people. The Eagles apparently can’t do that anymore. The Chiefs converted 47% of their 3rd downs two weeks ago. The Bills converted 59% last week and more than half a dozen of those were 3rd and long. For reference, the NFL average is about 38% and the worst is 47% (Arizona). The Eagles now rank 30th in the NFL in opponent 3rd down conversion percentage. Getting off the field is just one of too many problems plaguing the Eagles right now.
I know, I know, they’re 10-1 and apparently can’t lose. Yes, that is all great. The Eagles fight and definitely know how to win. However, what the Eagles have been doing is no recipe for long-term success. It is going to bite them.
They can’t keep starting slow. They can’t continue to turn the ball over. They can’t ignore the running game. The offense can’t look lost for a large portion of games. They must put games away when given the opportunity. All of these cracks have been around since September and quite honestly none of them have been fixed. Are the Eagles just that good that these issues don’t matter? Maybe, but the 49ers are really good. Dallas is potentially really good. The Eagles need to be dominant to get back to the Super Bowl and we’ve only seen that dominance flash at the most crucial time. Is that a skill? Perhaps. Maybe the Eagles are just waiting for the games to truly matter. Regardless, three of the aforementioned issues are a really big deal, in my humble opinion.
First, why do they not run the ball more? The Eagles offensive line is built to maul. Let them churn out defenses on the ground, and especially when it’s raining and/or Hurts looks lost or out of rhythm. The one excuse I can understand here is preserving D’Andre Swift for the playoffs. He’s missed time throughout his career and he’s certainly the Eagles best running back. If limiting his touches is to keep him upright then I get it, but why not give Rashaad Penny some run? Running the ball is more about the line than the back anyway. The Penny mystery is frustrating.
Remember when the Eagles would close out wins with dominant, 5-8 minute drives? I miss those. The Eagles couldn’t do it against the Patriots and still won. They failed miserably at the Jets and it cost them the game. In three consecutive games the Eagles had a chance to close out the game with the ball in regulation and failed to do so. Against the Cowboys, the Eagles had three chances. On those three drives they ran nine plays, totaled 14 yards and burned only 3 minutes and 42 seconds of game clock. Against the Chiefs, the Eagle offense got one 1st down then went backwards and punted after five plays, burning only two minutes and 39 seconds. Against Buffalo, the Eagles went three and out when they could have put the Bills away. The Eagles defense is bad. The offense needs to be the closer and they’ve failed in a big way thus far.
Finally, the Eagles offense lacks identity and direction at times. There’s no way the Offensive Coordinator is going to change at this point in the season. However, it is quietly a problem the Eagles must fight through. Brian Johnson is learning on the job. Learning on the job for a Super Bowl contender is high stakes. I don’t understand the endless QB draws or RROs (run-run option) when your quarterback shows no urgency or desire to run the football. Yes, it has worked late in games, but that’s only when Hurts has decided not to let his injury dampen his play. Call those plays then. Don’t call them when Hurts is running like a 60 year old.
Also, not being able to get the football to your best playmaker for six consecutive quarters is kind of a big deal. AJ Brown had two receptions over 90 minutes of game time before the 2nd half against Buffalo. Brown is a cheat code. Get him the football. We’re 12 weeks in and there have only been one or two weeks when both Brown and DeVonta Smith went off. Use the weapons. Get Swift involved in the passing game. Many times it seems the Eagles offense runs five plays over and over again just hoping the outcome will be different.
10-1 is great, but surviving is not what I would consider a viable strategy for a successful Super Bowl run.
Thursday Night Pick; Seahawks +9.5