Anyone who’s played Madden understands that this was one of those games where the computer decides you simply aren’t going to win. Unfortunately, there is no reset button in the NFL.
When the schedule makers put this gauntlet of games together for the Birds, we knew they weren’t going to make it through unscathed. There was bound to be a loss or two in here somewhere. This week, the 49ers entered Philadelphia looking for blood. They’ve been talking trash since losing the NFC Championship Game in Philly last year. They dressed in all-black coming into the stadium.
Everything about their words and actions told you they were a desperate team, hungry for some payback. And give them credit, they backed it up.
Anytime there’s a game in which your team absolutely gets its brains beat in, you can start to talk to yourself. You begin to either rationalize what you saw, analyze it, and try not to overreact, or take in the beating viscerally and personally, taking a flamethrower to the entire place in the hopes it’ll make you feel better. Either reaction is understandable, if more or less volatile than the other.
The Eagles’ 42-19 beatdown at the hands of the 49ers is pretty simple. A tired Eagles team got bullied by a talented and, on this day at least, better-coached squad. Most of us believed the Birds’ run of comeback wins against some of the best teams in the NFL meant they would follow suit and handle a San Francisco team they had dominated in the NFC Championship Game 11 months before, but there were many outside of Philadelphia (especially the Vegas oddsmakers who were, once again, on the money by making the Eagles a 3-point home underdog) who knew the 49ers were a tough match-up for Philly.
That said, no one saw a monumental butt-kicking coming. In the wake of this shellacking, here are 6 lies and 6 truths we’re telling ourselves as we’re left to deal with the aftermath of the Eagles’ humiliation on Sunday.
Lie: The Eagles are overrated and stink
Truth: The Eagles are still a really good football team
The Eagles have not played a complete game yet this year. They’ve trailed at halftime in each of their last five games. They’ve been out-gained by 95+ yards in each of their last five. Continuing to beat good teams playing this way was unsustainable and it caught up to them on Sunday.
And yes, you have to look at the 49ers offensive roster and what the Eagles had in the back half of the field on Sunday and admit who the better unit was. San Francisco’s offensive DVOA is No. 1 in the league for a reason, and without Nakobe Dean and Zach Cunningham to at least help at linebacker, Shanahan picked on Nicholas Morrow and Christian Elliss all day long.
Great point by @RoobNBCS — the only 3 linebackers the Eagles had available today were guys they cut & brought back. That’s something within their control they did not address.— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) December 4, 2023
Also, no way you should get blown out on a day when Hurts had so much time to throw. THAT surprised me
But think about what the Birds accomplished in the weeks leading up to Sunday’s game against San Fran.
There’s not a team in the NFL that would’ve beaten Miami, Dallas, Kansas City, Buffalo and San Francisco in a 6 week stretch.— Mark in Philly (@MarkHenryJr_) December 4, 2023
When everyone buries the Eagles tomorrow, please try to remember they still have the best record in the NFL with the hardest strength of schedule.
In the last few weeks, the Eagles beat Tua Tagovailoa, Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. Yeah, Brock Purdy beat them on Sunday, but let’s not forget this team is still 10-2, still owns the best record in the NFL, is still one game up on the rest of the NFC and has played the most difficult schedule in the league.
One awful, brutal, horrific outing against the undisputed best team right now doesn’t change that.
They were also done in by the law of averages, which simply does not allow you to continue a streak of five straight wins in games in which you trailed by at least 10 points and being 5-0 when trailing at halftime.
There’s a reason this part of the schedule was called a “gauntlet.”
Lie: The defense was uninterested
Truth: The defense was tired
I love Seth Joyner, but I disagree with this take.
Over the long haul, the Eagles’ preference to spend money on the defensive line and at cornerback over the safeties and linebackers is a good strategy, but against the 49ers, it bit them bad.
Sean Desai did not have a magical adjustment to make at halftime. They couldn’t take away Purdy’s first reads and force him to hold onto the ball long enough for a tired pass rush to get to him. And, yes, this defense was tired. Here’s why.
Against the Bills last week, the defense was on the field for 92 plays. Against the Chiefs, it was 74. They were playing for the third time in 13 days, while the 49ers were playing for the first time in 10 days.
Here’s the reality: 49ers are really good. And Eagles just beat the Cowboys, Chiefs and Bills, back-to-back-to-back. After the first quarter, 49ers did a great job of exploiting mismatches. Even if the Eagles could have survived Morrow and Elliss getting trucked, team had no legs— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) December 3, 2023
Darius Slay looks tired and slow. Haason Redick and Josh Sweat are playing too many snaps. The defensive line rotation has taken a hit with injuries. Nolan Smith has been a non-factor. Communication in the secondary continues to be a long-standing issue.
Those are not excuses, but if it looks like the Eagles were disinterested in this game, it’s more likely they were simply exhausted.
Lie: Brian Johnson and Sean Deseai are to blame for this loss
Truth: Nick Sirianni has to be better as the executive head coach
If you’re not going to call the plays so that you can oversee everything happening on the sidelines, then you need to have more of a feel for the situation than Sirianni showed in the second half.
Down 28-13 and facing a long 4th-and-1 inside his own 35, there was absolutely no reason for the Eagles not to go for it.
Sure, had they not converted, the Niners would have already been in field goal position and the game would have been over, but one of the defining characteristics of Sirianni’s Eagles is their aggressiveness. They are the bullies. Not only that, the likelihood of the defense getting a stop after the punt in that spot was not great, as nearly everyone online vocalized in real time.
But perhaps even worse was Sirianni’s decision to put Jalen Hurts back into the game trailing by three scores after he had just gone into the locker room under the concussion protocol. Even if they weren’t concerned about a concussion, the last half of the 4th quarter should have been Marcus Mariota time. There’s no way D’Andre Swift should have been on the field late in the game to absorb that soul-crunching hit that would have rattled the bones of even the toughest player in the game, especially when he was grossly under-utilized when it actually mattered.
And for everyone concerned about the lack of a consistent Eagles’ running game this season, that falls as much on Sirianni as Johnson. Sirianni, as the head of the coaches, is in charge of the gameplan. He’s in charge of the personnel usage. If there’s something happening he doesn’t like, he has the ability, as the sideline CEO, to step in and change something.
Final RB snaps— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) December 4, 2023
Scott 6 https://t.co/wuA1SyLd6G
The fascination with Kenny Gainwell is mind boggling, as is the desire to jam Quez Watkins on the field whenever he’s healthy, who played 64% of the offensive snaps, with Olamide Zaccheaus at 33% and Julio Jones at 14%.
These are the types of things that should not happen when you’ve got a CEO head coach.
It was a weird mix of passivity and then over-aggression/bravado for those decisions to live next to each other, and pointed to a day in which Sirianni, who is an extremely good head coach, was not on his A-game.
Lie: This was just a blip
Truth: The Eagles needed a dose of humility
It felt as if the Birds had been living on borrowed time. We knew they couldn’t continue to win the way they had been, but when you are able to pull off the seemingly impossible week after week, it’s difficult to be too hard on yourself as a player.
Hurts can talk all he wants about not playing “up to the standard”, and I’m sure he believes it. Buy-in is hard to come by when you continue to steal from the devil like they have been. The Eagles haven’t played to “the standard” yet this year, and while the fact they’re 10-2 in spite of that is great, a loss like this proves this team has a lot of work to do.
The 49ers are the best team in the NFC. It is not the Eagles. They are not the bullies at the moment. They got bullied. Humility can be your friend. It’s time to regroup and get the underdog mentality back.
Lie: The Eagles offense is inconsistent because of Brian Johnson
Truth: The Eagles offense is inconsistent because Jalen Hurts isn’t running
Again, the offense has done enough good things this season to be 10-2. We shouldn’t allow one bad game to tarnish what has been an MVP-caliber season by Hurts and A.J. Brown and a unit that has averaged 27.4 points per game even after putting up just 19 on Sunday, 4th-most in the league.
But it’s uneven. We can all see that, and that is because so much of what the Eagles do, especially in the run game, is predicated on Hurts being an active and dangerous runner. That aspect of his game, aside from a few well-designed QB runs near the goal line in the last couple games, has been absent.
Hurts isn’t a running threat (he hasn’t really been all season) which makes running out of shotgun hard and the Eagles refuse to run from under center.— Shane Haff (@ShaneHaffNFL) December 4, 2023
Nobody can run exclusively out of the shotgun without the QB being a big impact in the running game. https://t.co/Yk1lJh5IBU
When the offense is going well, the Eagles are running 12-15 play drives that eat up 85 yards and 6-7 minutes of clock. In their first two possessions yesterday, the offense did move the ball well, but it was almost exclusively through the air. That worked until the Eagles hit the red zone, where some early-season issues scoring TDs inside the 20 resurfaced. On the second drive, an awful Hurts sack made their second field goal inevitable. And as the Niners’ offense took control of the game, the Eagles could not rely on their rushing attack to eat up clock and gobble up first downs.
Lie: The Eagles are doomed
Truth: The Eagles, and other championship teams, have suffered embarrassing in-season losses before
In 1994, the Eagles went into San Francisco and utterly destroyed Steve Young’s 49ers 40-8. It was a complete and total decimation of a team everyone believed was the best in the NFL. San Francisco went on to win 10 in a row and 13 of their last 14, including the playoffs, where they averaged 43.6 points per game in winning the Super Bowl.
In 2017, the Eagles also fell to 10-2 after a dispiriting loss to the Seahawks in Seattle. Yes, the deficit was only 14 points, but the offense was anemic that day, and confidence levels certainly took a bit of a hit. The Eagles went on to win the Super Bowl.
The 2021 Rams lost to the 49ers 31-10 and then beat them in the playoffs en route to winning the Super Bowl. The 2020 Bucs won the Super Bowl despite suffering a 38-3 loss at the hands of the New Orleans Saints in Week 9. The ‘18 Patriots were hammered 34-10 by the Titans in Week 10 and lost two other games by 10+ points in Weeks 2 and 3. The 2015 Broncos lost 29-13 to the Chiefs during their 2015 Super Bowl season.
I could go on. This happens. A loss like Sunday’s does not necessarily mean the Eagles cannot beat the 49ers should they face them in the playoffs, and it doesn’t mean they’re doomed.
It does mean this isn’t going to be a cakewalk to the Super Bowl. It does mean the Eagles are going to have to, at some point, play a complete football game. Heck, maybe even two of ‘em! It does mean they’re going to have to shake this off, rest up, get Dallas Goedert back, hope Shaq Leonard chooses the Eagles and get ready for a Sunday night match-up against the Cowboys that will either stabilize their hold on the No. 1 seed in the conference and all but clinch the NFC East, or dramatically reduce their chances to secure home field advantage in the playoffs and open up the very real possibility of being a wild card team.