“I know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that we were the better team, yet to fail nonetheless.”
-Micah Parsons, probably
Overplayed pop culture references aside, I would first like to wish a Happy Veteran’s Day to all those who served out there. You deserve more than one day of recognition, so the least I can do is mention it here.
Our beloved Philadelphia Eagles head into the bye week with an NFL-best record of 8-1. Those nine games have come with a lot of hand-wringing as fans have been quick to point out the various issues that could stand to be addressed. That nit-picking is certainly not without merit: the Eagles have struggled to run the ball, defend the pass, generate turnovers, and protect the ball. Of their eight wins, only three (Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, and Miami) were by two scores, and one (Washington) went to overtime. Their largest margin of victory is 14 points.
And yet, the Eagles do one thing very, very well: they win. But with all of those issues, surely that winning can’t be sustainable, right?
Well, what if it was?
The Unstoppable Force
What if there was simply something about the way the Eagles are built, the way they prepare, the way they play the game, that simply results in performing well enough to win, even if it isn’t always pretty?
In other words, what if the Eagles were inevitable?
What do I mean by inevitable? I certainly don’t mean unbeatable, because the Eagles have already lost once this year, and nine times total under the Sirianni/Hurts partnership (recall that Minshew is 1-3 as a starter). And they remain a 0.500 team in the playoffs at 2-2, although we don’t need extra reminders of that.
No, the Eagles are inevitable in the sense that they will demand near-perfection for a full sixty minutes from their opponent. Otherwise, the Eagles will find a way to overcome and overwhelm whomever they are playing... eventually. Inevitably.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. We’ve seen this before in the past, whether it was the 1980s 49ers, the 1990s Cowboys, the 2000s Colts, the Brady-era Patriots, or the current iteration of the Chiefs. Of course, the Eagles can’t really be compared to those teams unless they win a Super Bowl. But they are rapidly approaching that conversation. Consider a few numbers. (If you’re a fifth-grader who believes in jynxes, stop reading now.)
This is Jalen Hurts’ rank in passer rating this season when the Eagles are trailing (h/t JasonB for grabbing that nugget from the Fox telecast this past Sunday). He is beyond unflappable - he exists in a situational vacuum, where everything going on around him simply does not matter. By and large, there isn’t a lead over the Eagles that is “safe.” In fact...
This is the number of games (including playoffs) the Eagles have played in since the last time they never held a lead or tied the game. The last time the Eagles were beat wire-to-wire was on January 16, 2022, when they lost to the Tampa Buccaneers in the wild card round. In that game, Bruce Arians was the head coach, Tom Brady was the quarterback, and Rob Gronkowski scored a touchdown. If we look at regular season games only, it gets more impressive...
These are the number of days (at the time of publishing) since the Jalen Hurts/Nick Sirianni Eagles have been beaten in the regular season by more than eight points, straight up. I say “straight up” as a caveat to the loss last season against Washington, when the Commanders won 32-21. That game gets an asterisk for me since the last touchdown was scored as a fumble six during a desperation hook-and-ladder play as time expired. I’m not saying it doesn’t count, but it is also not the same as a “typical” two-score margin.
The last “straight up” two-score regular-season loss suffered by the Eagles occurred on October 24, 2021 against the Las Vegas Raiders, with a final score of 33-22. To give some perspective on that loss, Jon Gruden was still coaching the Raiders at that time, and since then they have had three head coaches: Rich Bisaccia (interim 2021), Josh McDaniels (2022-2023), and Antonio Pierce (interim 2023).
Okay, getting blown out is one thing, what about choking? A similar story emerges...
This is the number of 10-point leads the Jalen Hurts/Nick Sirianni Eagles have surrendered (and lost) since Sirianni was hired. The first came (sorry) against the AFC’s inevitable team, the Chiefs, in Super Bowl LVII. The second came a few weeks ago against the Jets where the Eagles lost the turnover battle 0-4. In both cases, the opposing team made every play they needed to make, took advantage of the turnovers they forced, and still only beat the Eagles by a combined nine points.
More Than Luck
My assertion - thesis, if you will - is that these facts about the Eagles are not a coincidence. They are not the result of randomness, or luck. To avoid blowouts, blown leads, and manage comebacks on such a relentless basis is not an accident. It is something that comes with outstanding game preparation, unparalleled game management, an impeccable feel for game flow, and unshakeable confidence. These are all hallmarks of an incredibly well-coached team, in spite of what Nick Sirianni doubters nationwide might say. Sometimes a picture is needed to explain what we all know - that Sirianni is not simply hitting cruise control on a loaded roster, and has in fact been instrumental to their success.
What’s more, is after a season and a half, it’s probably fair to say that what Nick is doing is sustainable. Again, they won’t win every game - they could very easily lose three or four of their next five - but they will regularly require a margin of error of nearly zero from their opponents in order to be beaten. To make an analogy to other sports, imagine facing a baseball team where you had to pitch a no-hitter in order to beat them, or a hockey team where your goalie needs a save percentage of 98% to win. No “ifs” or “buts,” just a constant expectation of “We need to be nearly perfect” from start to finish. That is an incredibly exhausting and stressful position to be in as a team, and unless they are totally locked in it will likely contribute to the exact kind of mistakes they can’t afford to commit. This is what we witnessed this past Sunday against the Cowboys.
Not to say this doesn’t happen. About two no-hitters are pitched each year in the MLB, and shutouts and hockey happen every week. And the Eagles have done their part to increase that margin of error at times with reckless turnovers. But among the issues and subpar problems we like belabor, it is worth remembering what is special about this team - and how sustainable, how inevitable, it is turning out to be.