The first month of the regular season has served as a harsh reality check for first-year coach Nick Sirianni. The 2021 Eagles are undisciplined in many facets, and their self-inflicted wounds have cost them one too many times.
Through four games, the Eagles have committed a league-high 44 penalties. That figure is the most in franchise history to start a season and comes in a category where the team doesn’t want to be setting benchmarks.
“We’re upset — we’re furious that we’re 1-3,” Sirianni said. “The self-inflicted wounds have to stop. We keep putting ourselves in holes with penalties. We have to use this tape and get better from it.”
Numerous times against the Chiefs on Sunday afternoon, the home team allowed the visitors an opportunity at second chances. What hurt the Eagles the most was their inability to stay sound and play under control during crucial moments.
In a game that was decided by 12 points, the Eagles had three touchdowns that were called back due to penalties. The team was penalized nine times compared to Kansas City’s six flags.
“We just have to find a way to clean it up,” safety Anthony Harris said. “Get on the film and continue to come in with the right attitude. Each player and each coach has to figure out how to come together and be on the same page. Continuously find a way to execute and be able to get wins.”
To recap, here are the three Eagles would-be touchdowns that were nullified by penalties:
Quarterback Jalen Hurts’ 6-yard completion to tight end Dallas Goedert in the second quarter. Called back due to ineligible receiver downfield on offensive lineman Andre Dillard.
Hurts’ 3-yard completion to tight end Zach Ertz in the third quarter. Called back due to offensive pass interference on wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside.
Hurts’ 34-yard completion to wide receiver DeVonta Smith in the fourth quarter. Called back due to illegal touching on Smith.
Sirianni did his best to explain all three costly mistakes.
“[The officials] thought Arcega-Whiteside pushed him downfield,” said Sirianni. “They thought it was offensive pass interference. They have a tough job. I know they’re trying to get it right. Sometimes they [get it right]. Sometimes they don’t. Whether or not they got that right, I’ll keep my opinion to myself. But they have a tough job, just like all of us.”
Regarding Dillard’s penalty, Sirianni said: “We have to adjust how we’re blocking it, how we’re teaching the blocking schemes. That’s what we’re going to have to do because we obviously can’t shoot ourselves in the foot.”
And finally, Sirianni discussed Smith: “He ran out of room. I said the same thing with wide receiver Jalen Reagor on the other [illegal touching penalty vs. 49ers in Week 2], he’s got to work a better release at the line of scrimmage. DeVonta will be the first one to tell you that, to save the quarterback room. It’s a technique thing.”
Besides penalties committed on scoring plays, the defense also was flagged numerous times. The unit’s miscues allowed the Chiefs to extend drives and ultimately, tack on points.
In the second quarter, defensive lineman Derek Barnett was flagged for roughing the passer on second-and-10 from the Eagles’ 15-yard line. The penalty — Barnett’s ninth career personal foul — moved the Chiefs to right outside the end zone. Two plays later, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes capitalized on Barnett’s mistake with a shovel-pass touchdown to tight end Jody Fortson.
“That’s something I need to correct and I’m continuing to work on,” Barnett said before Sunday’s game. “I can’t put my team in a tough position even if it’s 5 yards, 10, whatever it is.”
Said cornerback Darius Slay after the game: “Penalties are costing us. They keep extending drives. We need to get off the field. They are tough.”
Since being hired at the beginning of the year, Sirianni has preached five core values to his team: accountability, football IQ, fundamentals, compete, and connect. These values are written in large bold letters inside the team’s practice facility at NovaCare Complex; Sirianni even had T-shirts created with each phrase printed on the apparel.
But his message has yet to hit home.
The first three values listed — accountability, football IQ and fundamentals — have been noticeably absent on the field. It’s costing the team, which has lost three consecutive games in a season that is quickly dwindling away.
“My message is really never going to change, win or lose,” Sirianni said. “We’ve got to make our corrections and get better from it.”
If the Eagles don’t clean up this troubling trend, they’ll continue to commit the same types of penalties. And the team will continue to review the same mistakes on film over and over again.
With 44 penalties, the Eagles are well ahead of the rest of the league. The next closest team, Houston, has 31.
“We’re clearly not there as a football team,” Hurts said. “We’re not a finished product. No player on this team is a finished product. We’ve got to put it together.”
“We control the penalties. We control the little things. It’s on us.”