Eagles complete late-season collapse, finish 1-5 stretch with 27-10 loss to Giants
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Jalen Hurts' dangling, contorted finger needed a quick fix. As Hurts waited on the sideline for a tape job, he casually, innocently extended his middle finger — though no doubt, in a game that rapidly spiraled into a disaster, Eagles fans everywhere were doing the same to their televisions.
From best team in the NFL for the bulk of the season to one of the worst ones down the stretch, the Eagles are suddenly on the brink of a potential offseason of upheaval.
Hurts, A.J. Brown and a host of injured, ineffective Eagles can only hope they bottomed out Sunday — a 1-5 finish headed into the postseason that raised doubts about the state of the franchise — in a 27-10 loss to the New York Giants.
The Eagles (11-6) earned the No. 5 seed and will open the NFC playoffs next Monday night at Tampa Bay.
“It's about how you respond to it, and we’ve got to respond," Hurts said. ”This is what it is."
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) passes against the New York Giants during the first quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
If recent weeks are any indication, it could be a short playoff run for the NFC champions. The Eagles entered the game with an outside shot at the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. They didn’t get the needed help in Washington, where the Dallas Cowboys won the game, the NFC East title and the second spot in the conference.
It didn’t matter anyway.
The first blow came when injured starters DeVonta Smith, Darius Slay and D’Andre Swift were unable to play. Fletcher Cox also sat out.
Most of the rest of the Eagles took the game off, too.
How else to explain an embarrassment of effort and execution in easily the worst game in coach Nick Sirianni’s three seasons? The Eagles had the dubious distinction of topping last week’s 35-31 home loss to Arizona as the most inexcusable defeat in Sirianni’s tenure.
“The feeling I'm getting from this team is very scary right now,” Cox said. “Obviously, everybody's pretty sad. We just got beat up by a pretty bad football team, let's just say that. We get to go out and play again next week.”
With the No. 2 seed never really in reach — the Cowboys were 13½-point favorites — Sirianni could have rested his starters and played it safe for the fifth seed.
But out the starters came, and in they went to the sideline medical tent.
Hurts didn’t seem too harmed when last season’s NFL MVP runner-up took a hard hit to the right middle finger on his throwing hand. He was rattled on an incomplete pass attempt on fourth-and-3 from the Eagles’ 48-yard line. Hurts got his finger taped and put on a glove for some warmup passes. He took off the glove and didn’t miss a snap.
Hurts was 7 of 16 for 55 yards and one interception.
Hurts says he's taking the injury — “a really unfortunate, crazy thing," he said — day by day ahead of the Buccaneers game.
New York Giants safety Dane Belton (24) sacks Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) during the second quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
With fellow 1,000-yard receiver Smith already out with an ankle injury, Brown crumpled to the ground and grabbed his right knee on the MetLife Stadium turf. The same turf where Jets QB Aaron Rodgers suffered torn a left Achilles tendon. The same turf other NFL players have trashed and urged for a change to natural grass. Brown wasn’t using crutches and didn’t appear to be in a brace after he left the game.
Sirianni said he hoped Hurts and Brown would be fine for the playoff game.
This week, the talk radio hot takes and social media outrage in Philly will be focused solely on Sirianni’s fate. A road playoff game. No division title. It was inconceivable after the Eagles followed a Super Bowl loss with a 10-1 start.
“I don't have any lack of faith or trust in Nick Sirianni,” center Jason Kelce said.
The Eagles joined the 2022 Miami Dolphins and 1986 New York Jets as teams to lose five of their last six games and still make the playoffs.
As the losses piled up, Sirianni stripped defensive coordinator Sean Desai of his play-calling duties. Matt Patricia wasn’t the answer. The offensive line couldn’t handle blitzes or any serious pressure. The Eagles tensed up — Brown, a co-captain, stopped talking to the media for two weeks — and they tried to put on a unified front in the locker room when pressed on dissension within the team.
But a win against the Giants could have settled nerves, soothed stomachs in Philly. After all, the Eagles had won five straight against New York and 13 of 15 overall (playoff included) and represented the only win in the December collapse.
Look up, though, and there was New York's Saquon Barkley running for one touchdown, then another. Hurts had a pass intercepted. Marcus Mariota replaced Hurts and promptly threw an interception. Tyrod Taylor threw for 229 yards in the first half, and the Giants led 24-0.
Sirianni waved the white flag and pulled his starters. The game was lost. The season could be next.
“Ever since, what was it, four or five weeks ago, when we clinched the playoffs, I think everybody's just been waiting for the playoffs,” tight end Dallas Goedert said. “Not something that is a great thing. But I think everybody is going to be ready to go and we're going to show the world what we're capable of.”
Eagles S Sydney Brown also left the game with a knee injury suffered on a tackle in the first quarter.
Eagles: Hurts threw for a touchdown, ran for another and led the Eagles to a 25-11 win over Tampa Bay in September.
Giants: With another season out of the playoffs, the Giants can only look forward to the draft.