3 Takeaways from Eagles' Week 2 Loss
After embarrassing the Atlanta Falcons 32-6 in Week 1, the Philadelphia Eagles fell back to earth a bit on Sunday. Philadelphia put up a valiant fight against a good San Francisco 49ers team, but it ultimately lost 17-11.
While moral victories have no place in the NFL, the Eagles should still feel confident coming out of the loss. This appears to be a better team than the 2020 edition on a variety of levels, and the Eagles are tied with the Washington Football Team and Dallas Cowboys atop the NFC East standings.
Had a few more balls bounced Philadelphia's way on Sunday, the Eagles could easily be 2-0. It's a long season, and the playoffs are very much a realistic goal for this team.
Here's what we learned during Philadelphia's Week 2 loss to San Francisco.
Giving Hurts a Chance Was the Right Decision
The Eagles passed on the chance to draft quarterbacks like Justin Fields and Mac Jones in this year's draft. Instead, they decided to stick with second-year man Jalen Hurts and give him a year with which to prove himself. Only time will tell if Hurts is a better quarterback than both Fields and Jones, but giving him the opportunity was the right call.
Hurts proved once again that he can be an NFL franchise quarterback. While he didn't do enough to beat the 49ers, he was not a detriment to the offense—as Carson Wentz was far too often in 2020.
Make no mistake, Hurts wasn't as special as he was in the opener against Atlanta. He finished a pedestrian 12-of-23 for 190 yards, with 91 yards coming on a single pass to Quez Watkins. However, he also rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. More importantly, he didn't turn the ball over.
Hurts regularly attacked the 49ers defense deep. While he didn't regularly connect with his receivers, he did enough to prevent San Francisco from stacking the box. This helped Philly average a solid 5.2 yards per carry on the ground.
So far this season, Hurts has done nothing to suggest that he doesn't deserve this opportunity. As he continues to grow in Nick Sirianni's offense, Hurts can become a top-tier signal-caller.
It's Going to Be an Up-and-Down Year for DeVonta Smith
Hurts' development will get a tremendous boost if rookie DeVonta Smith can become a reliable No. 1 receiver. The Eagles drafted him 10th overall to be one, and they believe that he can be a star.
"When you have a guy with this kind of character and this kind of physical ability, he's a person you want to bet on," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said, per The Athletic's Bo Wulf.
Hurts appeared to be well on his way in the opener, finishing with six receptions on eight targets for 71 yards and a touchdown. He was less impressive against the 49ers, though, finishing with just two catches and 16 yards on seven targets.
This demonstrates the reality that Smith isn't going to be an overnight sensation. Not every rookie wideout can have a Justin Jefferson-esque inaugural campaign—Jefferson had a rookie-record 1,400 receiving yards last season—but that doesn't mean Smith won't be special.
It's going to take time for Smith to fully blossom. The good news is that the Eagles are starting to find other viable options like Watkins who can make big plays in big games. As this offense continues to jell, Philadelphia's receiving corps should be much better than it was a year ago.
Defense Is Going to Be a Team Strength
While the offense is still finding its rhythm, the Eagles defense is already staging a significant turnaround. After ranking just 19th overall and 20th in points allowed a year ago, Philly appears to be a top-shelf unit.
Through two games, the Eagles rank second in points allowed. Against the 49ers, the defense played more than well enough to win.
San Francisco averaged just 3.1 yards per carry and 4.5 yards per offensive play on Sunday. It began the game with punts on its first four possessions. The 49ers converted just 42.9 percent of their third-down attempts. They scored 17 after dropping 41 points on the Detroit Lions in Week 1.
Philadelphia has now allowed fewer than 20 points in back-to-back games, which is especially impressive considering it hasn't yet forced a turnover. This is a stingy unit that will keep games close in 2021. That could prove to be a winning formula, as Hurts and the budding offense won't regularly be forced to engage in shootout football.
And there will be times this season when Philadelphia's defense wins games outright.
Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.