EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Jalen Reagor sat on the Giants’ goal line that eluded him during the game and unbuckled his chinstrap as the rest of the offensive players started their walk toward the sideline in defeat.
In the decisive moments of the Eagles’ 13-7 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday, they put the game in Reagor’s hands, and those hands couldn’t deliver.
With just over a minute left and needing a touchdown to win, Jalen Hurts targeted the 2020 first-round receiver three times down the field. The results: three incompletions and two drops, both of which could have ended in the game-deciding touchdown.
The first miscue came on a first-and-10 from the Giants’ 38-yard line. Hurts, who had his own struggles throwing the ball Sunday, gave Reagor a chance on a go route. Reagor got two hands on it, but he couldn’t secure it, partly because of contact from Giants cornerback Aaron Robinson.
Five plays later, the Eagles faced fourth-and-10 from the Giants’ 27 and dialed up another play for Reagor. DeVonta Smith, the team’s leading receiver, implored for his number to be called before the play, screaming to the sideline at coach Nick Sirianni, and he even got open as he streaked toward the end zone.
Still, Reagor was the target, and Reagor got open. He managed enough separation for Hurts to throw the ball his way and to hit him in the hands as he leaped at the 2-yard line. The ball slipped through Reagor’s hands, hit the turf, and the game was all but over.
After the game, Reagor took the podium to accept accountability for the role he played in the ugly loss. Since the NFL changed its media policies to account for coronavirus concerns last season, reporters don’t have locker room access and team officials dictate which players speak after the game. As such, Reagor wasn’t required to speak; he had to agree to field questions from reporters.
Why did he do it?
“Just to take ownership,” Reagor said. “It’s not on one person or one specific thing, but to take ownership of what happened in that scenario.”
Reagor did exactly that. He said he considered both of the potential touchdown targets drops.
“Just two drops. I would say very uncharacteristic,” he said. “You’ve just got to go through the highs and lows and go to the next week and make plays.”
Sirianni, who put his arm around the receiver as they walked off the field together, defended Reagor after the game, pointing out the four turnovers that preceded Reagor’s late-game drops.
“He’s gonna want the one at the end of the game,” Sirianni said. “It never comes down to one play. We turned it over four times, all right? There’s a lot of other things at play there. ... I know why you’re going there with the question. He’s gonna want that one at the end of the game back.”
It’s true, there was enough blame to go around for why the Eagles offense generated just seven points against a defense that has allowed 24.6 points per game this season. Boston Scott had a critical fourth-quarter fumble in Giants territory that killed a promising drive and Hurts threw three interceptions, including one in the red zone that cost the team at least three points in a tight game.
It’s also fair to point out that Reagor could have made up for those mistakes if he reeled in either of the two passes that slipped through his grasp and delivered the Eagles an ugly-but-memorable win at the Meadowlands. Many fans and some commentators were quick to point this out on social media after the game, something Reagor acknowledged during his news conference.
“You gotta take the heat,” Reagor said. “I would say, now, it doesn’t hold as much weight to me. This was for me to take ownership. Whatever’s going to be said is going to be said regardless.”
It has been a difficult stretch of games for Reagor. The Eagles’ offense was one of the league’s most efficient over the previous four games, but the shift to a run-heavy approach led to limited touches for the former TCU standout. In the four games leading into Sunday, Reagor had four catches for 5 yards and three rushing attempts for 13 yards, primarily being used as a gadget player.
He led the team Sunday in targets, getting seven passes thrown his way and catching just two of them for 31 yards. One of those catches was an acrobatic 21-yard grab at the end of the second quarter.
Right now, he’s not having a ton of production,” Sirianni said. “That’s a little bit based on how we’re playing on offense, but we’re gonna need him as we continue through this stretch.”
“Is he explosive enough? No doubt,” Sirianni added. “In his body, he’s got explosive, playmaking ability. He’s one of our fastest guys. He’s one of our quickest guys. He’s one of our strongest guys. We do want to make sure we’re able to get him some touches. The way we’ve been getting it to him on some reverses, arounds, jet sweeps, screens. They haven’t been working, so we got to find a better way to do it, and that’s my job first to do something.”