First of two parts.
Today, we look at what Eagles fans should worry about regarding their team, as the regular season winds down and the playoffs loom.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at the positive factors still enjoyed by this 13-2 team, which is one victory away from clinching home-field for the playoffs.
Eagles players, coaches and fans know nothing hurts like losing to Dallas. Those defeats go deep. They scorch the soul.
- “We are hissed,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said matter-of-factly after Saturday’s 40-34 loss.
Cox’s sentiment was echoed, with more volume, by several players in the Eagles’ locker room. Players weren’t happy with their performance. They weren’t happy with the outcome.
They knew they left money on the table — as quarterback Jalen Hurts likes to say — the opportunity to win the NFC East, clinch home-field for the playoffs and beat dreaded Dallas.
Their mission was unaccomplished. They left Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on Saturday night a bit humbled and a lot furious. Players were angry at themselves for not making a key play or two that would have defeated and shut up the Cowboys.
WIN WITH A BACK-UP QUARTERBACK?
Eagles players expected to win with back-up quarterback Gardner Minshew. But Eagles fans really didn’t expect to beat the Cowboys with Minshew did they?
Minshew played well — well enough to win. His two interceptions weren’t necessarily his fault — Dallas defenders outmuscled Quez Watkins for both of them. Minshew threw for 355 yards and looked solid.
Minshew looks like he can win a game, if necessary, and it might be necessary.
- “He did a good job, especially for the situation,” said center Jason Kelce, giving his seal of approval to the back-up quarterback. “It’s a good team, on the road. It’s hard and we put up points. We just gotta do a better job of taking care of the football.”
Back-up quarterbacks are second-string for a reason. While Minshew played well, can he sustain that level? Depending on Hurts’ shoulder, Minshew’s presence might be necessary.
The Eagles played a sloppy, forgettable game. The four turnovers were deadly — they turned into 20 Dallas points, three of the possessions starting in Eagles’ territory.
In their other loss, to Washington, the Eagles lost three fumbles and an interception.
- “It’s pretty standard in this league: You turn the ball over, you’re going to lose more games than you’re going to win,” Kelce said.
- “Gotta take care of the football. Defense got some turnovers and had a chance for another one.
- “We preach ball security and do a lot of drills. It didn’t fall our way today.”
Dallas’ third-and-30 conversion in the fourth quarter was unforgivable, especially when your best cornerback, Pro Bowler Darius Slay, was on the case. If the Eagles get the ball back there, with a seven-point lead and less than eight minutes to play, they have an excellent chance to win.
- “Good throw by Dak [Prescott], good catch by him [T.Y. Hilton], but if everybody just do their job that play would be stopped, easily,” Slay said.
- “Me being the leader in the secondary, that can’t happen. That changed the game, changed momentum … so we got to execute that better on the back end.”
There are more troubling issues for the Eagles.
- Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson limped off the field and right into the blue medical tent. The initial report was a groin/abdomen injury that will require an MRI. This is concerning news for the team’s best lineman.
- Avonte Maddox, who made several big plays in the first quarter, injured his toe. He was seen in a walking boot after the game. The Eagles already are shorthanded at safety and nickel back, so losing Maddox could be devastating.
- Rookie nose tackle Jordan Davis received a friendly-fire head injury.
- Why do the Eagles throw to Watkins so frequently?
- Why did the Eagles’ top-ranked pass defense get torched by Prescott, who completed 77 percent of his passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns?
Hurts’ status is uncertain. He reportedly has a SC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder — an injury to the joint where the collarbone meets the breastbone.
Will Hurts sit out Sunday against the Saints? Should he?
At what level of health should Hurts play? Ninety percent? More? You know Hurts is going to want to play, especially after the Dallas loss.
“Jalen is our starting quarterback,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said after the Dallas game. “If he’s healthy, he’ll play.”
The Eagles haven’t won at Dallas since 2017, the Super Bowl year. That’s five consecutive losses in Texas against your biggest rival.
The Eagles’ turnover gravy train has derailed. They turned over the ball seven times in the last two games, a sure recipe for disaster. The Eagles no longer lead the NFL in turnover differential. They are second at plus-9.
On top at plus-12?
That’s a lot of potential gloom and doom. It’s the NFL, where every team has issues. When your shortcomings are revealed against your biggest rival — with so much on the line — it’s natural to take the team’s temperature.
There are plenty of positive aspects about the Eagles. Tomorrow, we’ll look at those.