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Jalen Hurts has one of his worst performances in Eagles’ 41-21 loss in Dallas | Analysis

The Eagles looked sloppy and overwhelmed against the Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts covers his ears during the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday, September 27, 2021 in Arlington, Texas.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts covers his ears during the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday, September 27, 2021 in Arlington, Texas.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

ARLINGTON, Texas — All week long, first-year coach Nick Sirianni embraced the Eagles-Cowboys storied rivalry. He created T-shirts that read “BEAT DALLAS” and distributed them to the entire locker room. He gushed about the pride from fans across the region. He raved and preached “Dawg Mentality.”

But when it mattered most, Sirianni and the Eagles faltered in prime time and lost 41-21 to the Cowboys.

A lot went wrong on Monday night. Here’s our instant analysis on the Eagles’ latest loss.

QB Breakdown

Week 3 marked one of Jalen Hurts’ worst performances in his young career. For a majority of the night, the second-year quarterback looked uncomfortable in the pocket. He was noticeably inaccurate on multiple throws and his timing with his receivers wasn’t crisp.

Hurts completed 25-of-39 throws for 326 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. On his first interception, he underthrew Jalen Reagor on a go-route and was picked off by Cowboys defensive back Anthony Brown. Hurts’ second turnover resulted in a pick-six from Cowboys defensive back Trevon Diggs, who expertly jumped DeVonta Smith’s stick route. Smith fell on the play, but Hurts’ pass was doomed from the beginning as he threw behind the rookie wideout.

“I didn’t do a good job of leading,” Hurts said. “I didn’t do a good job of running the offense. This one is on me.”

Some silver lining: With everything going against the Eagles, Hurts strung together a couple of quality drives in the second half. His nine-play drive in the third quarter was capped by a touchdown completion to tight end Zach Ertz and Hurts found Greg Ward for another touchdown reception in garbage time.

The first score marked Ertz’s 37th career touchdown reception and moved the nine-year veteran into sole possession of seventh place on the team’s all-time receiving touchdown list. Ertz, who was elevated from the COVID-19/reserve list Saturday, finished with two catches for 30 yards.

Play-calling woes continue

Sirianni vowed accountability after his play-calling miscues in Week 2. But some of his decisions in Week 3 raised even more eyebrows.

The Eagles attempted just one rushing play — a Hurts keeper that went backward — in the first quarter. Sirianni’s failure to incorporate the rushing game led to the Cowboys owning time of possession: 11 minutes, 17 seconds compared to the Eagles’ 3:36.

The Cowboys then opened the second quarter with a 13-play scoring drive that spanned 65 yards and ate up 7:50. Moments before Cowboys tailback Ezekiel Elliott pounded his way into the end zone for a 3-yard rushing touchdown, the defense appeared gassed with all 11 players holding their hands on their hips. When the offense can barely stay on the field, the defense will suffer.

The Eagles played from behind in the second half, but it was borderline unacceptable for them to finish with only three rushes from their tailbacks. Miles Sanders rushed just two times for 27 yards. Kenneth Gainwell had one carry for 2 yards. Hurts finished with eight carries for 31 yards, but a majority of his rushes occurred on rollouts or scrambles.

Sirianni blamed the lack of rushing calls on game rhythm.

“Those numbers get skewed sometimes,” Sirianni said. “When you don’t have lots of plays in the first half, whether it be penalties or not extending drives, you’re in a position in the second half where you’re down — that comes into play. [Sanders] is a good playmaker, we want him to touch the ball more.”

“It was just the way the game went.”

Grading the offensive line

This unit surely missed two of its starters, left tackle Jordan Mailata and right guard Brandon Brooks. In his first start, rookie Landon Dickerson looked raw versus a banged-up defensive front. He allowed at least one sack and multiple pressures. Dickerson was also flagged for two penalties.

Andre Dillard, a 2019 first-round pick, started in place of Mailata at left tackle. Throughout training camp, Dillard was unimpressive and dealt with multiple injuries, which led to Mailata winning one of the team’s only position battles of the summer. Dillard had a respectable performance against the Cowboys, but overall, the Eagles were outmatched in the trenches.

The offensive line received another blow in the second half when left guard Isaac Seumalo was carted off the field with a foot injury. He was replaced by Nate Herbig.

Finally: Eagles force first turnover

Despite the defense not recording a single turnover through the first two games, coordinator Jonathan Gannon remained calm and insisted last week “it will eventually come.” That turnover finally occurred in the first quarter — with the Cowboys up against their own end zone, defensive linemen Javon Hargrave and Derek Barnett collapsed the pocket and forced a strip-sack fumble. Fletcher Cox pounced on the football and the Eagles were awarded a touchdown.

» READ MORE: Eagles coach Nick Sirianni’s game plan backfires in blowout loss to Dallas Cowboys

Penalties, penalties and more penalties

For a coaching staff that preaches fundamentals as one of its core values, the mistakes from the Eagles are becoming unacceptable at this point.

The team committed a whopping 13 penalties worth 86 yards compared to the Cowboys’ three penalties. The Eagles lead the league in penalties with 35. For perspective, the Rams have committed the least amount of penalties, seven, through the season’s first three games.

Some of these calls are bang-bang, but many of these mistakes can be cleaned up with self-correction. That begins with teaching principles in the film room, where the blame ultimately falls on the head coach, as Sirianni himself acknowledged.

“We gotta go back to work and get better at that because that’s obviously unacceptable,” Sirianni said. “We’re all in this together. It starts with me, and it’s unacceptable on my part. We got too many penalties.”