EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Let’s freeze a moment — after three Jalen Hurts interceptions, before two Jalen Reagor drops — from the Eagles’ 13-7 loss Sunday to the Giants. Let’s freeze it and pull back from it and consider where the Eagles stood, then and there, in the game and in their season.
Here is the moment: The Eagles are trailing by six points in the fourth quarter, and for one of the rare times Sunday, they are doing things right. Hurts hits Reagor for 10 yards. Boston Scott carries for 3 more. Like a shortstop starting a double play, Hurts sidearms a pass to DeVonta Smith — one of just four targets for Smith all day — for 8 yards and a first down. One minute and 41 seconds remain in regulation, and Hurts hands the ball to Scott, who tucks it under his right arm, surges through a hole, and has nothing but the open green of the MetLife Stadium turf in front of him.
A good trend that went bad
OK, stop the play there in your memory, as if you’re a coach watching film and you’ve just pushed the pause button. For all the mistakes that the Eagles had made against the Giants, for all the mistakes that they would continue making over the game’s final 101 seconds, they were not in a bad spot in that frozen moment. The ball, one would have presumed, was in good hands: Through 60 rushing attempts this season before that carry, Scott had not fumbled. But widen the lens, and you can see the full panorama of circumstances that had benefited the Eagles over the previous week and the opportunity they were about to let slip from their grasp.
On Tuesday, the Giants, having lost seven of their first 10 games, had fired their offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett. Now, if you’re the cynical type, you might suggest that the decision to fire Garrett — a nice man who did not have much of an idea about how to structure an offense and call plays in the modern NFL — was actually a detriment to the Eagles: Their rivals had shed an albatross and would be better for doing so. But it was, if nothing else, a sign of stress and upheaval within the Giants’ organization, and as it turned out, it didn’t help the Giants much on Sunday at all. They scored just 13 points.
So a weak opponent was seemingly made, for the Eagles, even weaker. Then, on Thanksgiving, the Cowboys lost at home to the Raiders, 36-33, in the sort of mismanaged mishmash of a game in which Dallas has specialized for the better part of two decades.
The Cowboys were still 7-4. But they had lost two straight games while the Eagles had won two straight to climb back to 5-6, and even if it was a pie-in-the-sky vision to think the Eagles would catch Dallas in the NFC East standings, they had what appeared to be an easier schedule down the stretch: two games against the Giants, a game against the Jets, and two games against Washington. They weren’t the same team they had been earlier in the season. They were committing fewer penalties and had found a formula — using a terrific offensive line to freight-train teams by running the ball — that made them dangerous.
That Week 18 finale against the Cowboys at least might mean something, at least might be interesting, especially since the Eagles had sneaked their way into the “in the mix” column of those graphics that TV networks love to display when talking heads discuss the NFL playoff race. This was supposed to be, and in reality has been, a rebuilding season for the Eagles. A postseason berth would be nothing but welcome and encouraging.
All those developments were still trending in the Eagles’ direction — they were driving the ball late in the game against an inferior opponent, and a victory would up their record to .500 — when Scott sped through that hole and gained 4 yards before Giants defensive end Dexter Lawrence blindsided him and slapped the ball out of his hands.
‘We beat ourselves’
The Eagles would get another possession after Giants defensive back Julian Love recovered Scott’s fumble. Reagor would let those two long passes, Hurts’ two best throws of the day, sail through his hands like his arms were goalposts. Sirianni claimed that the Eagles had stuck to an offensive game plan similar to the one that had worked so well for them the previous few weeks, but he had Hurts throw the ball an awful lot early, 12 of the first 16 plays, and it led to little but ruin. Hurts finished with 129 passing yards and a 17.5 passer rating. The Falcons and 49ers won Sunday, jumping ahead of the Eagles in the wild-card standings.
“It hurts. It hurts,” Scott said. “They didn’t do anything to beat us. We beat ourselves. That’s been the name of the game. That’s what we’ve done. We shot ourselves in the foot — penalties, whatever it may be. It’s not really what the other teams are doing. It’s what we’re doing to ourselves. … Everything was in front of us. We beat ourselves.”
Reagor and Scott did well to face the music after Sunday’s loss. They didn’t have to answer the media’s questions about those costly mistakes, and it’s to their credit that they did. But their class and accountability did nothing to transform Reagor into a worthy first-round pick or alter the game’s outcome. And if the Eagles do miss the playoffs — and they are likely to now — they will have to live with knowing that their failure came down to three of the worst words in sports.
We blew it.