The midseason collapse of the Philadelphia Eagles | The Triangle

The midseason collapse of the Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles headed into their Week 13 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers with a 10-1 record, with their only loss coming in Week 6 against the New York Jets. Within five weeks, their victories against Miami, Dallas, Kansas City, and Buffalo showed how potentially dangerous the Eagles were against top-ranked opponents. 

Head Coach Nick Sirriani was one of the key factors in their success. They were top of the NFC conference and had the chance to repeat as the number one seed. The Eagles’ signature move, the ‘Tush Push,’ was unstoppable as Jalen Hurts broke the rushing touchdown record by a quarterback. Their dominance echoed their form from last season, where they made a charge to a Super Bowl appearance. Yet the matchup against the 49ers and the matchups that followed showed how different the Eagles were compared to last year.

The 49ers returned to Lincoln Financial Field for a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship, in which they lost both of their quarterbacks in a 31-7 loss. Despite the Eagles taking a 6-0 lead in the opening quarter, the 49ers began to take control of the match. Deebo Samuel had 138 total yards and 3 total touchdowns on their way to a 42–19 rout of the Eagles 

The following week against the Dallas Cowboys was just as poor as against San Francisco. The Eagles had beaten Dallas at home earlier in the season, but the Dallas offense was dominant throughout the second matchup. Dak Prescott threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns while the Eagles did not score an offensive touchdown. A Jalen Carter fumble recovery touchdown was the lone instance where the Eagles saw the end zone. The Eagles lost 33-13 and fell to a 10-3 record, the same as the Cowboys. This loss also meant that they lost the #1 seed to San Francisco as they broke the head-to-head tiebreaker. 

Their Week 15 matchup saw them enter Seattle to face the then 7-7 Seahawks. The Eagles were now in the midst of the NFC title with San Francisco and Dallas in the hunt, but a victory at Lumen Field would help ease the nerves of the Philadelphia faithful. Heading into the fourth quarter the Eagles led by ten points thanks to two Jalen Hurts rushing touchdowns and a Jake Elliott field goal. However, Seattle’s defense was able to hold the Eagles scoreless in the final quarter. With less than a minute remaining, the Seahawks backup quarterback threw a 29-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Jaxson Smith-Njigba for the game-winning touchdown. Seattle upset the Eagles 20-17. 

Questions began to arise within the Eagles head coaching staff and players. Offensive coordinator Brian Johnson was unable to achieve the offensive efficiency that previous coordinator Shane Steichen did the previous year. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai also underperformed with a pass defense, that ranked as one of the best last year. Though Matt Patricia replaced Desai in mid-December, the birds still faced devastating losses. Additionally, Eagles cornerback James  Bradberry received a lot of flack for allowing every successful pass in Seattle’s game-winning drive, including the pass to Smith-Njigba. 

The Eagles’ Week 16 matchup saw the 4-10 New York Giants in a divisional showdown. Touchdowns from Jalen Hurts, D’Andre Swift, and DeVonta Smith helped the Eagles score 33 points on the Giants. However, New York was able to stay within arm’s length of Philadelphia. The Giants scored touchdowns through running back Saquon Barkley, quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and a defensive 76-yard pick-six from Adoree Jackson. With the Giants down by one possession late in the fourth, a desperation heave by Tyrod Taylor was met by Eagles rookie cornerback Kelee Ringo to intercept the pass and give the Eagles a 33-25 victory. They improve to 11-4.

After returning to their winning ways in Week 16 against the New York Giants, the Eagles welcomed the Arizona Cardinals to Lincoln Financial Field for the penultimate match of the season. The Eagles were still in the hunt for the NFC East as a result of back-to-back losses for the Dallas Cowboys. The first half saw the Eagles dominate, with their defense holding Arizona to just six points and their offense two touchdowns. Jalen Hurts found Julio Jones twice in the endzone and rookie cornerback Sydney Brown intercepted Kyler Murray’s pass and returned it for a 99-yard pick-six. 

The third quarter was all Cardinals as Kyler Murray threw two touchdown passes to level the match 21-21. Early in the fourth, Hurts found tight-end Dallas Goedert to take the lead again, but the Cardinals answered with a touchdown of their own and leveled the game again, With less than two and a half minutes remaining, Jake Elliott’s successful field goal gave the Eagles a narrow 31-28 lead. However, their defense was unable to fend off Arizona’s rushing offense, as running back James Conner punched in the game-winning touchdown to hand Philadelphia their fourth loss in five weeks. 

The Eagles flew up to North Jersey to face the Giants for the second time in two weeks. Despite their losses, the Eagles were still able to win the division with a win against the Giants and a Dallas loss to the Washington Commanders. 

The Giants maintained complete control over Philadelphia as they went into halftime up 24-0. Coach Sirriani decided to pull all of the starters for the second half and begin to prepare for the playoffs. The Giants won 27-10 as the Eagles finished the regular season with an 11-6 record. They are only the second team in the NFL to finish with 7 losses after starting 10-1.

With the Cowboys clinching the NFC East, The Eagles clinched the first wildcard spot to set up a matchup with the NFC South Champions: The 9-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  

The game started with Tampa Bay receiving the opening kickoff. Coach Sirianni has often talked about how important it is to get off to fast starts so the team doesn’t have to play from behind, and this time it was up to the defense to get the game started on a good note. They failed to do so, letting Tampa Bay drive down the field and kick a field goal. This was not the way Sirianni and the Eagles wanted to open up the game.

Down 3-0, Hurts and the offense took the field. If they could march down and score a touchdown, there would be hope that this offense could carry the team to a victory. They instead got just 19 yards through 5 plays and were forced to punt.

On the very next drive, Tampa Bay drove 79 yards in 4 plays and took a 10-0 lead. Poor tackling was a theme throughout the game and was very prominent on the first touchdown of the game.

With 5:35 remaining in the second quarter, with the Eagles down 16-3. They finally were able to get the offense going, with Hurts finding DeVonta Smith for a 54-yard completion followed by a Dallas Goedert red zone TD to bring them within one score. And then everything fell apart. As the Eagles kicked the extra point, Tampa Bay was offside, allowing the Eagles to move a would-be two-point conversion from 2 yards out to 1 yard, which calls for the patented ‘Tush Push,’ one of the most successful plays in NFL history. The Eagles tried, and failed, and that was the beginning of the end. Down 16-9 going into halftime, Tampa Bay would go on to outscore them 16-0 in the second half, making for a brutal 32-9 loss and the end of the Eagles season, one that looked so promising just weeks ago. 

Watching tape from the Eagles’ week three victory against Tampa Bay shows just how far this team has fallen. In that game, they dominated on both sides of the ball and came out with a 25-11 win. The team that showed up in the wildcard round, however, is a far cry from what it once was. 

For a football team as strong as the Philadelphia Eagles, they demonstrated their dominance with a 10-1 record over the first twelve weeks. Yet the San Francisco loss led to a snowball effect of multiple losses which saw them finish the season with a 1-6 record over the final seven games. To make things worse, legendary, fan-favorite, All-Pro center Jason Kelce announced his retirement after thirteen seasons with Philadelphia. 

So what went wrong with the Philadelphia Eagles? Usually during the offseason a team would address the changes that need to be made and make the adjustments to improve the team. Whether by signing a free agent, trading for an established player, or through the NFL Draft, there are multiple ways to bolster a football team. 

Eagles offensive coordinator Brian Johnson was unable to efficiently utilize a star lineup that was the -third-highest-scoring offense last season. Their Pro Bowl-studded offensive line with the likes of Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson and Landon Dickerson gave Jalen Hurts enough time and space in the pocket. Hurts’ receivers, the likes of All-Pro A.J Brown, Heisman award winner DeVonta Smith, and tight-end Dallas Goedert, have all had a decent season, with Brown and Smith having 1,000+ receiving yards. Yet Brian Johnson’s mundane and predictable tactics prevented the Eagles from having the success they had last year under Shane Steichen.

Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Sean Desai has had a difficult time managing an Eagles defense that soared the previous year and ranked 8th best under Johnathon Gannon. Four Eagles had double-digit sacks as they combined for 70 total, the third most in NFL league history. However, this year it was their secondary that caused them to finish third-to-last in points allowed. They were unable to cover their opponents man to man, and when they played zone defense, they allowed their opponents to find the open holes and run for a huge gain. Key factors for their struggling defense included injuries, aging players, and young rookies who hadn’t had much experience. The only bright spots in this defense are linebacker Haason Redick having another double-digit sack season and Jalen Carter having a Defensive Rookie of the Year caliber season. 

The Eagles desperately need to make changes if they want to make it back to the Super Bowl. With contracts soon to expire, players aging out of their prime and the teams around them improving, their window of opportunity is slowly getting smaller. Do they make adjustments to the coordinator position? Do they part ways with players to make way for new ones? One player they will have to part ways with is star center Jason Kelce, who embodied the team as well as the spirit of the season. Are the Eagles as good as people say they are? Are they still one of the elite teams of the NFL? These questions all need answers before they kick off Week 1 next season.