The Defense Blew the Game, Not Hurts
It has always astounded me, before and after retirement, how many people miss the big story to suit their own agenda. So let’s make one thing clear from the outset on this miserable Tuesday after another gut-punch of a loss by the Eagles.
The defense blew the game.
Yes, Jalen Hurts was less than good, well below his own so-so standard in this puzzling season, but he did not lose the game. The worst job in Philadelphia sports is Eagles QB, and you can see the problem up close this week. Fans always blame the quarterback even when there is a far more obvious culprit. Facts mean nothing to the QB-centric critics in this city.
Here is the simple truth: In the Seattle rain, Jalen Hurts handed the ball to the backup QB of the Seahawks 92 yards from a victory with 1:52 left to play. The odds of a win were better than 90%, according to analytics. Drew Locke is not Tom Brady. Hell, he’s not even Geno Smith, the usual Seahawks starter.
What happened next was entirely predictable. Just check my last couple of blog posts. I was warning fans when the Eagles were 10-1 that this defense was lousy, bordering on terrible. Well, we saw it in all of its awfulness in the final minutes of the Eagles’ third straight loss.
If you’re looking for more specific blame to lay, look no further than No. 24, James Bradberry, who gave up four big passes on that final drive, including the game-winner. How does a veteran cornerback allow a rookie, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, to get behind him in that spot? How would any NFL defensive back allow the throws to D.K. Metcalf that preceded that 29-yard TD catch?
The defense stinks, from top to bottom. It stinks when Sean Desai is calling the plays, and it stinks when Matt Patricia is making the calls. The defensive line, once thought to be elite, is invisible in big moments. The linebackers and secondary, never emphasized on a Howie Roseman roster, are playing worse than the afterthoughts they were when they were signed and drafted here.
And Nick Sirianni is about to find out what happens in Philadelphia when the Eagles disappoint their intense fan base. Sirianni lied when he said he was OK with Desai last Tuesday, having already made the decision to switch to Patricia. Then he compounded the indignity with the same tired narrative after the loss.
“The blame starts with me,” he says, over and over, like a trained parrot.
I challenge the media to ask the obvious follow-up the next time Nick takes responsibility for failure. I embraced the moment many times at WIP by then asking how many times a coach can blame himself before his bosses start thinking about changing the guy in charge.
- Now that we have established the major role of the defense in the defeat, let’s explore how the offense came up so short, too. Hurts was brilliant in his two methodical scoring drives, mixing runs with big third-down passes at the start of the game and again right after Seattle had tied the game at 10 in the third quarter. The rest of the time, meh.
I realize I am becoming known as an apologist for the franchise QB, but I blame the play-calling for a big part of Hurts’ problems. That decision, in the midst of another impressive drive, to throw deep to Quez Watkins was grounds for immediate dismissal.
Why? The run was working. The clock was running. Why?
And, of all the options, why Quez Watkins, who has become notorious for being involved in catastrophic plays? The fact that Watkins offered little resistance in the end zone as Julian Love cradled the ball in his arms should have surprised no one.
After the game, Sirianni said he would always try that play when a wide receiver was singled up on a safety, completely disregarding the identity of the receiver. A.J. Brown, yes. DeVonta Smith, OK. Quez Watkins, never.
Watkins’ best hope in the immediate future is that he will sign with a team that plays the Eagles twice a season, because he might actually be able to make a play or two against the stiffs in the Birds’ secondary.
I was going to pronounce the season dead after that debacle on Monday night, but I won’t. It’s Christmas week, a time when we all have visions of miracles.
But I will say it will now take a Christmas miracle for this sorry defense to make a run deep into the playoffs. Never has a team looked more one-and-done than this underachieving bunch.
Have a Merry Christmas, everyone.
It will probably be the last chance for Eagles fans to be merry for a very long time.