3 Takeaways from Eagles' Week 3 Loss
Things started out bad and only got worse for the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night. The Dallas Cowboys scored a touchdown on their opening drive, while Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts threw an interception on his. While Philadelphia trailed by only a touchdown after one quarter, it never got closer. Dallas eventually pulled away for a convincing 41-21 win.
It's a far cry from what Eagles fans saw in Week 1, when Philadelphia was the bully winning by multiple scores. A competitive loss in Week 2, followed by Monday night's blowout suggests that the Eagles are moving in the wrong direction. They're at least not getting better by the week. Next up is a date with the explosive Kansas City Chiefs.
The Eagles can still be competitive in 2021. They could even make a late playoff push. We learned on Monday, though, that they're not quite ready to contend with Dallas at the top of the NFC East.
Here's what else we learned during Philadelphia's Week 3 loss.
Hurts Is Still in the Learning Stages
We haven't seen it quite as much in 2021, as rookies Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Justin Fields have all experienced growing pains. However, young quarterbacks playing well has become a common sight in the modern NFL.
Hurts played extremely well in the opener, throwing three touchdown passes and rushing for 62 yards. He showed flashes in Week 2 but didn't play quite well enough to win. The flashes of physical greatness were present again on Monday—Hurts compiled 361 combined passing and rushing yards—but Hurts' two interceptions were impossible to overcome.
The first came with Philadelphia in scoring distance, and the Eagles did end up scoring on a Fletcher Cox recovered fumble. The second came early in the third quarter, with the Eagles in Dallas territory. It was returned by Trevon Diggs for a touchdown.
Hurts also struggled on third down, as Philadelphia converted just four of 12 third-down opportunities. It was 0-for-2 on fourth down.
The reality is that while Hurts has the tools to develop into Philadelphia's next franchise quarterback, he's still a work in progress. This was only his seventh NFL start, and it's unfair to expect Hurts to be perfect every week. The offense is still coming together under new head coach Nick Sirianni too, so against talented teams like Dallas, bad days are just going to happen.
On a positive note, Hurts demonstrate leadership and maturity after the game by taking responsibility for the loss.
"I didn't do a good enough job of running our offense, of doing the things that I need to do," he told reporters after the game. "So it's on me. This one's on me,"
The future is still bright for Hurts, but fans can expect ups and downs throughout his second season.
Sirianni Is Also Learning on the Fly
Hurts isn't the only member of the Eagles who is still adjusting to a new role. Sirianni is now three games into his inaugural campaign as an NFL head coach, and it showed on Monday.
While Sirianni has been in the NFL since 2009—he began his career as a quality control coach with the Chiefs—this is his first time at the helm of a franchise. He had few answers against the vastly more experienced Mike McCarthy on Monday, which only exacerbated Hurts' growing pains.
It didn't help that Sirianni's squad seems to have discipline issues. The Eagles were penalized 13 times for 86 yards against Dallas, and penalties have become a trend.
According to The Football Database, the Eagles are the most penalized team in the NFL. They've been flagged 35 times for 232 yards through three games. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are second on the list with eight fewer penalties against.
During the ESPN broadcast, Sirianni appeared frustrated with defensive end Derek Barnett after he picked up one of the team's 13 flags on Monday night. He was asked about it after the game.
"I was frustrated with the pre-snap penalties, regardless of if it was Derek or if it was anybody," Sirianni said, per Chris Franklin of NJ.com.
At least Srianni recognizes that there's a problem. The next step is for him to get his players to field a more disciplined brand of football. This team is still finding its way, and it's going to be difficult to win when mental mistakes are constantly giving free yards and first downs to the opposition.
The Eagles Are Willing to Put the Ball in Hurts' Hands
Perhaps it was a sign of Sirianni's inexperience. Perhaps it was a calculated plan to earn Hurts some confidence. Whatever the reason, the Eagles abandoned the run early and never went back to it against Dallas.
Philadelphia called exactly three running plays designed for running backs on Monday. Miles Sanders carried twice. Kenneth Gainwell carried once. The other nine running plays were scrambles by Hurts.
Sirianni tried explaining his strategy after the game.
"I know they are what they are, but when you don't have that many plays in the first half, whether that's because you have penalties that stop drives, defense was on the field quite a bit, and then you're in position in the second half where you're down two scores the whole time," Sirianni said, per CBS Sports' Jeff Kerr. "That's where that kind of comes into play."
It was not a great game plan with an inexperienced quarterback under center—and that's on Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. For better or worse, though, it does show that the Eagles have plenty of confidence in Hurts to be the offensive focal point.
It would probably behoove the Eagles to bring a bit more balance to the offense moving forward—particularly next week against a Chiefs team susceptible to the run. However, we're likely to see more games where virtually every play runs through the quarterback.
Philadelphia is not afraid to let Hurts cook. While that may hamper the offense in some games, it's going to allow the Eagles to know exactly what they have in Hurts by season's end.