NFC East Reporter
They have been trying to put a happy face on their problems for more than a month. They’ve insisted that everything isn’t nearly as bad as it seemed. They’ve clung to the hopes that they’d be able to fix everything before their inevitable march to the Super Bowl.
Yet now, with the NFL playoffs finally beginning, it sure looks like the Philadelphia Eagles are already done.
It’s not just that they were humiliated by the New York Giants, 27-10, in their regular-season finale on Sunday afternoon. Nor is it just that they ended the regular season losing five of their last six games, including the last two to two teams that have combined for a total of 10 wins.
It’s more about how they’ve fallen so far, so fast and so hard. It’s about how they went from looking like one of the best teams in the NFL to playing like one of the worst. This once-powerful team suddenly looks like a team in chaos, incapable of fundamental football, with a collective body language that isn’t exactly screaming out “We’re the defending NFC champs!” They can’t tackle on defense. They can’t move the ball consistently on offense. They are prone to bad mistakes in big spots.
“It f—king sucks the way we’ve played the last six games,” said Eagles center Jason Kelce. “We’ve got a lot to fix. It’s the worst stretch of football since Nick (Sirianni) has been here. And it’s very frustrating.”
There is no doubt about that. And it just keeps getting worse. It was bad enough that they had to pull their starters at halftime on Sunday rather than risk their health in a lost cause, but they’re already banged up on top of everything else. They lost receiver A.J. Brown with an injured knee on Sunday in a game where they were already without receiver DeVonta Smith (ankle). And just before he was mercifully pulled from this blowout loss near the end of the first half, quarterback Jalen Hurts injured a finger on his right (throwing) hand.
Not that they were going to win the NFC East even with a healthy team anyway — the Dallas Cowboys took care of that with a 38-10 win in Washington on Sunday afternoon. But they had a chance to at least finish the season with a little momentum, against a bad Giants team with nothing to play for at all. They could have at least tried to end the season with their dignity intact.
Instead, the Eagles were trailing 24-0 at halftime to a team that averaged an anemic 15.6 points per game this season, on their way to ending the season with the ugliest, most humiliating, most inexcusable performance in Sirianni’s three seasons.
Cowboys beat Commanders to capture NFC East over Eagles
And now they get to go on to the playoffs on the road, starting next weekend in Tampa Bay.
“You have to flush it,” Sirianni said of the hideous finale. “You have to flush this last month.”
Added defensive tackle Fletcher Cox: “We’re going to find out what kind of team we have.”
They might not like what they find. The flaws in Philadelphia have been on display all season, but they’ve really been visible to everyone over the last six weeks. They’re most evident on defense where their tackling issues are terrible, no matter how many times Sirianni tries to insist they’re somehow one of the best-tackling teams in the league. They’ve given up an average of 30.9 points and 401.1 yards over the last seven games.
And keep in mind, just two games into this slide, Sirianni made the ultimate panic move — demoting his defensive coordinator, Sean Desai, and turning the play calling over to Matt Patricia. And somehow Patricia managed to make the defense worse. His tenure began with his defense giving up a 92-yard, game-winning drive in the final minutes to Seattle’s backup quarterback Drew Lock on Dec. 18. And in the three games since they’ve given up an average of 29 points and 385.3 yards in games against the Giants and Cardinals — the 28th and 26th-ranked offenses in the league.
Their offense has been better, but only in spots — and certainly not the big spots where they’ve been unable to find the big play. Obviously, what they did on Sunday was horrible, with just 299 total yards. Hurts threw for only 55 before he was mercifully lifted. Even without Brown, Smith and running back D’Andre Swift (illness) they should have done better than that.
Put it all together and it’s exactly what it looks like: A great, big mess that’s been building since Week 1, and a team that peaked far too early and is now stuck in what may be an irreversible slide.
“I mean, none of us are quitters,” Sirianni insisted. “We all get up off the mat when we’re down and we keep going. When you get hit in life, when you get hit in football, you’ve got two options: You can stay down, or you can get you can get the f–k up.
“I know this group is fighters, I know this group will get up.”
But will they? They haven’t yet. And they are very nearly out of time to fulfill the promise they showed when they were 10-1 and looked ready to roll to their second straight Super Bowl. Since then, it’s all gone terribly wrong. And there may be no easy solutions to a failure that seems so remarkably complete.
All they can do now is promise to fight until the bitter end, even if the end has already hit them.
“There’s a lot of doubting, but that don’t matter,” said Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham. “It’s about how we handle what’s coming next. Right now, people are going home and packing up their lockers. We’re still in this thing. We’ve got some life left. We’ve got some pride about us.”
“In the end, it’s about how you respond,” Hurts said. “We have to respond.”
They’ve been saying that, of course, for more than a month, yet their disturbing slide has continued. It may be too late to stop it. There’s just no reason to believe these Eagles are capable of responding now.
Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.
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