The Eagles (Actually) Stink!
4:53 PM EST on December 19, 2023
All the Eagles had to do was stop the backup QB and everything would be lined up for the playoffs. It wouldn’t have been perfect, it might not even have been good, but it would inarguably have been better if they had simply managed to stop Drew Lock from driving the Seahawks 92 yards in just under two minutes. It would have been another frustrating win, but it would still have been a win after two straight losses, and would set the team up for its easy three-game stretch to end the season.
You already know that the Eagles did not stop Drew Lock. It only took him 84 seconds to put the Seahawks ahead on a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Jalen Hurts threw a pick on the next possession, and Seattle beat the Eagles 20-17. After a 10-1 start, the Eagles are spiraling, and not in the overwrought ways that fans have talked about them spiraling all year long. If they win out—they play the Giants twice and the Cardinals—they will win the NFC East. That's eminently doable, but Philadelphia no longer looks like one of the best teams in the league.
The loss came a day after Jay Glazer broke the news that the Eagles had demoted defensive coordinator Sean Desai in favor of Matt Patricia, who joined the Eagles as a senior defensive assistant in the offseason. Desai nominally kept the title of DC, but was moved upstairs to the coaches’ box. Patricia came down to the sideline. The team used some clever wording to pretend it wasn’t a complete change at DC, but that’s what it was. Desai was demoted, and Matt Patricia—Matt Patricia!—was now the defensive coordinator. Nick Sirianni said he made the decision midweek: “I did what I thought I needed to do in the best interest of the football team. I didn’t feel like, made some adjustments there, didn’t feel like we were playing well enough and coaching well enough on defense. So I made an adjustment.”
That defense came into the game 22nd in the league in DVOA. Seattle scored a little less than what they’d been averaging, although they were quarterbacked by the backup. And before that final drive, Philadelphia's defense had been OK. The Eagles allowed a touchdown to start the second half, but they forced four three-and-outs and held Seattle to a field goal when the Seahawks were driving to tie the game in the fourth quarter. After the Seahawks cut it to 17-13 with 10 minutes left, the Eagles moved the ball 30 yards to the Seattle 45 in just four plays. The game feels a lot different if Hurts continues to move the ball down the field instead of throwing a bomb into the end zone that gets intercepted. It feels much different if, after the defense held again, the Eagles move the ball a bit more after getting to first-and-10 at the 47 with 3:45 left. It feels much different if they punch it in for a 14-0 lead after getting to the Seattle 3 late in the second quarter. The Inquirer’s Jeff McLane even asked if the Eagles changed the wrong coordinator.
The defensive coordinator switch seemed like a panic move at the time, and while the defense gave Hurts and the offense opportunities to salt the game away in the fourth quarter, neither unit really finished the job. The Eagles defense really did give the team a chance to win, but also really was awful on the last drive. James Bradberry IV allowed 87 of the Seahawks’ 92 yards on that final drive; when your cornerback is giving postgame quotes like, “He just ran past me,” the game has not gone the way you wanted. At 10-1, the Eagles were two games ahead of anyone else in the league and Hurts was the MVP favorite. Now people are comparing Hurts to Carson Wentz on local sports talk radio and Brian Johnson is now under fire. A month later the Eagles are bad, just like I told you.
Or, anyway, the Eagles’ offense has regressed. In Week 9 the Eagles began a six-game stretch against some of the best teams in the league. Hurts has not thrown for 300 yards in any of those games; his only game approaching it came against the 49ers when the Eagles were throwing a bunch in an attempt to get back into a game they eventually lost by 23. Hurts threw for just 143 yards last night.
It has been trending this way for a while, in retrospect. The Eagles offense has become predictable, and they are not able to overcome that except when they run the tush push. I previously wrote the Eagles need to run the tush push even more, and I was not joking. It is their most reliably successful play of the season. Sometimes it seems like their only successful play of the season. Tucker Bagley shared an illuminating stat as the Eagles floundered on offense last night: The team scored 20 points 10 times in the first half last year. They also did it in all three of their playoff games. They have not done it at all this year. “I don’t think we were committed enough,” Hurts said postgame, adding that the Eagles have “lost games because I could be better.”
It has actually been a pretty nice day for Philadelphia sports overall. Twice today already I’ve heard people call the Eagles “bums.” The fans have, in basically just a month, completely turned on the team. Everyone has been complaining all season, but now the complaints have quite a bit more teeth. Maybe they were always right, or maybe the team has slid towards fans’ most deranged expectations. Either way, the Eagles stink!