3 Takeaways from Eagles' Week 18 LossJanuary 10, 2022
3 Takeaways from Eagles' Week 18 Loss
The Philadelphia Eagles came into Week 18 with a playoff spot already secure. They would be in the dance as the No. 6 or the No. 7 seed, and their game against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday had nothing to do with where Philadelphia landed.
The San Francisco 49ers ended up making the postseason, which dropped the Eagles to the No. 7 seed. This would have happened even if Philadelphia had defeated Dallas—and one could argue that the Eagles didn't put forth much of an effort.
Starting quarterback Jalen Hurts sat, as the Eagles turned to Gardner Minshew II at quarterback. Several other starters—including cornerback Darius Slay and running back Miles Sanders—also sat out Saturday's game.
The Cowboys did suit up many starters, and naturally, they pulled away with a convincing win. It was a contest that didn't mean a whole heck of a lot, but here's what we learned during Philadelphia's 51-26 loss in Week 18.
The Eagles Believe in Jalen Hurts
Hurts hasn't been the most conventional of quarterbacks in 2021. However, the talented dual-threat has done enough to get Philadelphia into the postseason—which is why resting him in the finale was important.
Hurts has been dealing with an ankle injury, and the Eagles wanted to ensure he was healthy for the postseason.
"He has done a really good job these last three games playing within the pocket, and we have done a little bit less with running with him and everything like that," head coach Nick Sirianni said, per Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia. "We just thought this was an opportunity to get him back to 100 percent.
Can Hurts really out-duel Tom Brady in Tamps in a win-or-go-home scenario? Philadelphia must believe so, or else it wouldn't have been adamant about sitting the second-year signal-caller in Week 18.
Gardner Minshew II Is a Solid Plan B
Ideally, the Eagles will have Hurts under center on Wild Card Weekend and possibly beyond. However, if they're forced to rely on backup Gardner Minshew II, they should feel very confident in his ability as a starter.
Minshew won his only meaningful start of 2021, a Week 13 game against the New York Jets. He wasn't spectacular against the Cowboys on Saturday, but he did well while down several offensive starters. Minshew completed 19 of 33 attempts for 186 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also helped keep the offense humming all evening.
Philadelphia completed 10 of 18 third-down attempts and all three fourth-down attempts against Dallas. They equaled Dallas' 22 first downs and ran a whopping 70 offensive plays.
Had the Eagles done even a slightly better job of putting the ball into the end zone, Minshew might have pulled the upset in the finale. Regardless, the Eagles should feel like they still have a chance in the playoffs if Minshew has to put down the tablet and pick up the football.
Philadelphia Could Use Another Big Day from Gainwell
With backs like Sanders, Jordan Howard and Boston Scott on the roster, the Eagles haven't had a ton of room for rookie fifth-round pick Kenneth Gainwell. The Memphis product has only seen double-digit carries three times in 2021, and Saturday was easily his best outing.
Gainwell had 27 rushing yards against the Detroit Lions in Week 8 and 54 yards against the Jets in Week 13. On Saturday, he rushed for 78 yards, a touchdown and an impressive 6.5 yards per carry.
The Eagles could desperately use more explosive running plays against Tampa next weekend. Tampa ranked third in rushing yards allowed and fifth in points allowed. The Bucs do, however, rank a more modest 15th in yards per carry allowed.
The Eagles will try attacking Tampa's defense on the ground. Hopefully, Sanders (hand) will be able to join Hurts in the backfield. Regardless, a strong outing from Gainwell could be huge.