We all knew it was going to take a perfect game for the Eagles beat Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay.
That certainly didn’t happen.
But hey, good for the Eagles for getting here. Good for the Eagles for winning nine games and making the playoffs in head coach Nick Sirianni’s first season. It’s something to build on. It’s more than most people expected.
But, my word, they were anything but ready to play football Sunday.
There’s no shame in losing a road wild-card game to a 13-win defending Super Bowl champion with the greatest quarterback in history. There’s plenty of shame playing this brand of football.
Turnovers, mistakes, penalties, dropped passes, you name it, they did it. And Brady and company made them pay. The Bucs got out to a 17-0 lead and then coasted the rest of the way, even making it a 31-0 game at one point, to a 31-15 win.
Here’s three takeaways:
A disaster for the unexperienced
This was as much of a disaster as you could imagine for the 23-year-old quarterback named Jalen Hurts. He rushed through his progressions, threw sideways too much, tossed the ball up into traffic, didn’t see guys running open, threw late and behind guys, showed terrible pocket awareness, threw two interceptions, and really just looked overmatched while the game was still in the balance.
That goal-line interception just before halftime was an absolute killer. A chance to go into halftime down 10. Just cannot make that throw.
I’ve been clear about giving Hurts 2022, and it still makes sense. But this was such a set back it has me wondering. He came up so small in such a big game, and what’s most alarming is that the mistakes were self-inflicted. It’s not that the Eagles didn’t win, it’s just how lost Hurts looked. Every one of his limitations was on full display Sunday.
Now, Hurts ran around and made some plays late in the game, and you see why he’s such an intriguing player. But honestly, when this game ended I asked myself, “Can this team win a Super Bowl with Jalen Hurts at quarterback?” And I feel less confident about it than I did before the game.
I expected a lot more from him Sunday, and I just didn’t get it.
Also, the Eagles drafted DeVonta Smith at No. 6 for a purpose. To make big plays. He didn’t do that Sunday, because the Eagles didn’t give him the chance.
The inability to get DeVonta Smith involved was fatal. Your best playmaker, your rookie record setter, your prize first-round pick, and he was an afterthought.
How does that happen?
I blame Sirianni and Hurts for Smith’s complete absence on offense until the game was out of hand. Smith finished 4-for-60 but had one catch for six yards until it was 31-0, and most of his targets were plays where he had no chance.
How many times did we see Smith running free and Hurts never even looked his way a lot?
How many times have I said this year that Jalen Reagor should not be playing.
A lot, is the correct answer.
He can’t catch the football, he can’t get open, he can’t run the stupid jet sweep, he can’t return punts, he doesn’t just fail to help you win games, he helps you lose games. He did it again Sunday and at the worst possible time.
The Eagles’ defense had finally gotten their feet wet and held the Bucs to three straight punts and four straight possessions without a touchdown. The offense was about to get the ball near midfield. Finally a chance to gain some momentum. And then Reagor just sprints under a punt and does what Jalen Reagor does, let the ball sail through his hands, the Bucs recovered and you can’t give Brady second chances like that.
Ok, we all know it was a horrible draft pick. But instead of cutting their losses, the Eagles just keep making it worse by giving Reagor chance after chance after chance. He never should have been on the field Sunday. It’s inexcusable he was even given an opportunity to fumble that ball away.
If there’s one thing this game showed us — and it’s something we all really knew — it’s that the Eagles need playmakers up and down the field. They need edge rushers who can generate consistent pressure. They need linebackers who are more than just hard-working special teamers. They need young, fast playmakers in the secondary. They need all these things so desperately that I’m ready to say forget all this best-player-available nonsense.
The Eagles need to use all three of their first-round picks on defense — which are picks 15, 16, and 19. Period. End of story. And maybe their second and third-round picks too.
What’s to come?
We have plenty of time to talk about the future, but the Eagles’ need for another outside weapon is so glaring. They’re playing football with two NFL-caliber wide receivers, and in the modern NFL you’re not going to get away with that for very long. Reagor halts this offense so much because he keeps getting playing time, he keeps getting targets, and he flat-out doesn’t produce. Smith is an absolute stud. Quez Watkins is a terrific WR3.
Since we’re focusing on defense in the draft, there will be some decent younger veteran WRs available in free agency this offseason, and if edge rusher is priority No. 1, finding a fast dude who can catch the football is priority No. 1A.
All that said and as disappointing as this loss was, I do believe the Eagles are trending in the right direction. They finally have some young players who are producing, they have a loaded offensive line, they’ve got a coach who’s shown he’s got what it takes to build a winning culture, and they’ve got those three first-round picks.
There’s a lot to like about where the franchise is right now. There’s a lot of work to do and a lot of areas they need to get better. But they have the draft picks, they have the cap space, and if general manager Howie Roseman can nail the 2022 draft like he finally nailed this year’s draft there’s no reason to think the Eagles can’t be significantly better next year.
With that, thank you for watching and reading my content about the Eagles this year. I truly do appreciate every single one of you.