February 21, 2024

The shortcoming to make changes paired with a protection that couldn’t cease anybody led to the collapse of the defending NFC Champs.

By Chris Murray
For the Philadelphia Sunday SUN

ABOVE PHOTO: Coach Nick Sirianni Photograph: Webster Riddick

After the Philadelphia Eagles’ ignominious exit from the NFC Wildcard playoffs by the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, all that’s left for offended followers is theory about what went unsuitable and who’s accountable.

Watching Eagles proprietor Jeffrey Lurie seethe within the press field because the 32-9 loss progressed, was a microcosm of how what began as a season crammed with promise and a return to the Tremendous Bowl ended with the group shedding six of their seven. That hangover of shedding the earlier 12 months’s Tremendous Bowl crashed down on the Birds in gorgeous vogue.

All of it got here all the way down to the teaching workers and the participant’s failure to scrub up the shortcomings that plagued the group even once they jetted out to a 10-1 begin. It was the failure of the teaching workers on either side of the ball as a result of they made no changes to assist their gamers on the sector, particularly after that devastating loss to the San Francisco 49ers again in November.

In that sport, the Eagles’ protection couldn’t sort out anyone. Deebo Samuel tossed linebacker Nik Morrow apart like he was day-old rubbish.

The Niners protection blitzed and pressured Jalen Hurts to the purpose the place 49ers defensive finish Nick Bosa mentioned that they gave the Cowboys and possibly the remainder of the league the template to defend Hurts, who, together with the remainder of the offense, was by no means the identical after that sport.

It’s straightforward to place the blame on Hurts, who threw a career-high 15 interceptions and had 5 misplaced fumbles — 20 whole turnovers. There are some observers who’re saying that he has regressed from his excellent season final 12 months. The numbers don’t lie.

However as a lot as you’ll be able to speak about Hurts troubles at studying the blitz, particularly in Monday’s loss to the Buccaneers and the regular-season finale towards the New York Giants, all of the noise from the Eagles’ collapse has obscured the truth that Hurts was chargeable for profitable the vast majority of the 11 video games the group gained this season.

In video games over playoff groups just like the Miami Dolphins, Kansas Metropolis Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams and the Buffalo Payments, Hurts made performs to guide the group to wins.

In these 10 wins, Hurts and the offense had their share of sluggish begins whereas the protection was giving up 472 to a group like Washington, the group that completed in final place within the NFC East, the chorus from gamers and coaches was “We’re going to scrub this up.”

After struggling to get an additional time dwelling win over the Washington Commanders again on Oct. 1, which made them 4-0, I requested A.J. Brown if the group was on its approach to taking part in their finest video games of the season, particularly in mild of the group’s inconsistency on either side of the ball. He mentioned that the Eagles have been ultimately going to get it collectively.

“We’re nonetheless placing it collectively,” Brown mentioned again then. “No one needs to be taking part in their finest proper now. We’re nonetheless striving each day to repair the little issues and head in the best path.”

Sadly, it by no means got here collectively.

The 42-19 loss to the 49ers not solely uncovered the weaknesses of each the protection and the offense, however how poorly the teaching workers led by head coach Nick Sirianni and the gamers responded to being punched within the mouth. The losses mounted.

It went from dangerous to worse. After getting blown out by the Dallas Cowboys, head coach Nick Sirianni demoted defensive coordinator Sean Desai and inserted Matt Patricia in his place.

It didn’t assist in any respect.

Within the subsequent sport, the Eagles’ protection allowed the Seattle Seahawks, led by a backup quarterback, to drive 92 yards to a game-winning landing. One week later, the protection allowed the last-place Arizona Cardinals to roll up 221 dashing yards whereas scoring 35 factors.

Even after a lackluster win over the New York Giants, the Birds’ offense, led by offensive coordinator Brian Johnson, by no means discovered its rhythm once more. In two straight weeks — the common season finale and their wildcard playoff loss to Tampa, Hurts and the Birds’ offense couldn’t assault the blitz.

Ultimately, the Eagles’ season got here to an abrupt finish as a result of the coaches did a poor job of constructing any form of changes to assist the group within the final half of the season. Whereas the offensive points are apparent, I’ll add Basic Supervisor Howie Roseman and his continued incapability to acknowledge the significance of a great linebacker to what went unsuitable with the protection.

It could be a good suggestion if within the upcoming draft, the Birds’ entrance workplace centered on the protection and drafted a top quality linebacker, one thing they haven’t had since Jeremiah Trotter, and a greater defensive backfield.

As for the offense, I might counsel that the Birds subsequent offensive coordinator concentrate on creating a working sport, working with Hurts on how one can learn blitzes higher and how one can make changes as the sport goes alongside.

As I write this, Eagles proprietor Jeff Lurie is preparing for his year-end interview with Sirianni. My guess is that anxious followers who would relatively be making ready for Division Collection events this weekend may have their eyes on the outcomes of that assembly.