PHILADELPHIA – The absence of Jalen Hurts has led to big problems for the Eagles.
The Eagles quarterback, a leading MVP candidate, missed his second straight game with a shoulder injury. Gardner Minshew didn’t play well in his place, and neither did the Eagles’ offense in Sunday’s 20-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
An interception Minshew returned 11 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter was a crushing blow. But really the damage was done through a lackluster first half. The Eagles didn’t get their first first down until 12 seconds were left.
Then, after recovering a bit in the second half, Minshew couldn’t convert a quarterback who jumped on a 4th-and-1 from midfield in the fourth quarter. He then threw that crushing interception to Marshawn Latimer.
“Obviously it wasn’t Gardner’s best game and it wasn’t our best game offensively,” Eagles coach Nick Siriani said. “Not even close, right? Gardner is capable of playing better. We’re able to coach better and we’re able to play better as a unit.”
The loss was damaging in many ways, starting with the fact that the Eagles (13-3) missed out on a chance to not only clinch the NFC East, but the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, with the bye that comes with it.
The Eagles can still accomplish both goals with a win over the Giants. Or they could end up as the top wild-card team — and thus in the playoffs — if they lose to the Giants and the Cowboys beat Washington next weekend.
Not surprisingly, Eagles center Jason Kelce said, “I’m not even focused on it right now. I could give two (expletives) about being ranked No. 1 right now. We’ve got to fix a lot of things. I’ve got to get a lot of things fixed. Here’s to what I’m focused on.”
The Eagles certainly saw the difference between Hurts, who is a leading MVP candidate, and Minshew, who went 18-for-32 for 274 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Minshe has three interceptions in two games in place of Hurts.
He couldn’t get the offense going in the first half, when the Eagles were held to a goalless goal for the first time this season. They didn’t get their first first down of the game until 12 seconds left in the half. And when the Eagles required Minshew to convert on a 4th-and-1 at midfield with 8:32 left, he lacked a QB snake, a play that’s all but guaranteed thanks to Hurts’ ability as a runner.
“We just couldn’t get rolling,” Minshew said. – It’s one of those things where you try to get a first, first down, and we kept shooting ourselves in the foot and hindering ourselves. They are also good protection. There’s not a lot of room for error when you play a team like that.”
The errors were not tied for turnovers compared to the previous two losses, when the Eagles committed four turnovers in each. Rather, the mistakes were penalties, such as the holding call on left guard Landon Dickerson that nullified Kenny Gainwell’s 28-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.
On that drive, the Eagles settled for a field goal.
Minshe’s highlight was a 78-yard pass to AJ Brown with 45 seconds left in the third quarter, when Brown made a deep tackle, then brushed off his defender and raced about 35 yards into the end zone.
That put the Eagles up 13-10 heading into the fourth quarter.
It appeared to be a matter of time before the Eagles beat the Saints, who didn’t come close to scoring after leading 13-0 at halftime. That’s in large part thanks to the defense, which added seven more sacks and tied a team-high 62 for the season. Now “Orlov” has 68.
And then Minshe threw the game-tying interception. With 6 minutes left, the Eagles took possession by the 9. On second down, Minshe tried to hit Brown on a quick screen, but Latimer jumped into the play, made the interception and scored.
“Originally it was in the press (coverage),” Brown said. “I tried to get Gardner’s attention to look up, but he never looked back at me.”
Added Minshew: “They made a great adjustment to jump the route. I should have seen that leverage when we made the move.”
At that point, with 5:27 left, the fans, who had already booed the team throughout the first half, began broadcasting to the exits.
That’s because the Saints had 22:50 of the first half, the Eagles only 7:10.
Still, the Eagles had a chance, even after a penalty on Dickerson nullified an Eagles touchdown early in the second half.
Dickerson was untrustworthy in the penalty box when he was the “pancake” of the player he was blocking. Left tackle Jordan Mailata said he thought the penalty was going to be called on him and that the referee simply confused Mailata’s No. 68 with Dickerson’s No. 69.
“I sit there and say, ‘Maybe you’re confused with the numbers,'” Mailata said. “But (the judge) is talking to Landon … and I’m like, ‘He obviously hasn’t seen a (expletive) ) pancake before in his life.’
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But really, it was just one in a long line of bad offensive games for the Eagles.
“It was just bad football … it’s a shame,” Miles Sanders said. “We just have to clean it up before it becomes real.”
It’s about to become real.
Getting a record
By the way, it was Brandon Graham who got the Eagles’ record sack in the first half. The sack also gave Graham 10 points on the season, the first time he has reached double figures in his 13 seasons.
For the first time since sacks became an official stat, the team has 4 players in double figures. Graham (11) joins Hesson Reddick (16), Josh Sweet (11) and Javon Hargrave (11).
The Eagles need 4 more sacks to tie the NFL’s all-time sack record in a season set by the Chicago Bears with 72 in 1984.
“It was nice to do something special, to break the record to have four people hit double figures,” Graham said.
Almost a record
Brown’s 78-yard TD reception gave him 93 yards per game on 3 receptions, leaving him with 1,401 yards on the season. He is just 9 yards shy of tying Mike Quick’s 1983 team record.
Josh Sweet suffered a terrible injury
It turned out that Sweat suffered a serious injury in the first quarter. He tried to tackle Adam Prentice on third-and-1 from the 19. Pott went and slammed his hands into the turf. But he didn’t seem to move his legs, so he remained face down on the lawn for several minutes.
A cart was brought onto the field and Pot slowly climbed onto it as the entire team came up to wish him well. The Eagles announced that Sweat suffered a neck injury and was taken to a local hospital as a precaution. He was covered in sweat, and the team announced that he would be released from the hospital on Sunday evening.
Not only the key player is hurting
Right tackle Lane Johnson is out with an abdominal injury. and DB Avonte Maddox with a toe injury. Neither will return to the playoffs. The Eagles promoted kicker Brett Kern to the practice squad. This is his third and last elevation. The Eagles will need to make room on the 53-man roster for Kern to play again.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.