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December 26, 2022

What they're saying: Eagles did not resemble true contenders, missed (many) opportunities

The Eagles had their issues going in, but a division-clinching game against your biggest rival? That's a game Super Bowl contenders have to win

Eagles NFL
TY-Hilton-3rd-and-30-Eagles-Cowboys-Week-16-NFL-2022.jpg Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys receiver T.Y. Hilton comes down with the catch on 3rd and 30 against the Eagles Saturday.

The Eagles losing to Dallas is never fun around here.

The Eagles losing to Dallas with an NFC East and No. 1 seed clincher on the line, and on Christmas Eve? Yeah, that's brutal. 

But it's where things are at, plus significant injuries to Lane Johnson and Avonte Maddox that will keep them sidelined for the final two regular-season games at least. 

At 13-2, the Eagles still need just one more win for home-field advantage and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

But at the same time, they had multiple chances to wrap things up on Saturday and send fans into the Holidays happy along with increasingly precious rest time for their starters. 

Losing to Dallas, never fun around here. 

Here's what they're saying about the Eagles following the Week 16 loss...

Third and 30

EJ Smith | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Alright, so let's start with the 52-yard elephant in the room. 

The Eagles were up seven in the fourth and had just knocked Dak Prescott and the Cowboys 20 yards backward thanks to back-to-back sacks from Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat. 

They had Dallas on the ropes. One stop likely would have meant a punt and favorable field position for a knockout blow. 

The Eagles got caught instead. 

Prescott hurled one down the sideline to T.Y. Hilton and the Cover 2 coverage broke down. Cornerback Darius Slay was tailing from behind and safety Josiah Scott took an awkward angle to the ball that left him trying to catch up too. 

Hilton caught it. First down Cowboys with a new lease on life. They scored to tie it a few plays later. Momentum had completely shifted. Slay was fuming, but the play itself was emblematic of a bad day from the Eagles' secondary as a whole. 

Wrote the Inquirer's EJ Smith:

“We didn’t make a play and the guy did,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “It’s really as simple as that. T.Y. Hilton made a really nice catch and Dak made a really nice throw and we didn’t make a play.”

The blame is not solely on Scott, though. The Eagles secondary struggled as a whole, allowing Prescott to complete 27 of 35 passing attempts for 347 yards with three touchdowns and one interception made by Sweat. Slay had a costly illegal contact penalty that gave Dallas new life after a failed fourth-down conversion and James Bradberry was in coverage for Lamb’s second score.

Dallas targeted Lamb early and often, picking on Scott and backup safety Reed Blankenship with regularity.

The lackluster showing elicits questions about both Gannon’s calls and the depth pieces on the back end if Maddox or injured safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson miss time when the games matter most.

For now, the Eagles defensive backs just want to keep perspective. [The Inquirer]

A game contenders don't lose

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles had numerous chances to win on Saturday – 12 by Reuben Frank's count – but didn't pull through. 

They still very much control their own destiny for the division title and the NFC's No. 1 seed, and did have their list of issues working against them going in, but at the end of the day and against your biggest rival, championship teams find a way to win regardless.

Wrote Frank over at NBC Sports Philly:

I want to say that true Super Bowl contenders make one of those 12 plays, but that's not quite right. I still think the Eagles can be a legit Super Bowl team, although I'm not as convinced as I was 24 hours ago.

The Eagles have to be better, and I get that there was a lot working against them Saturday. By the end of the game, they were missing Lane Johnson and Avonte Maddox and they were already obviously without Jalen Hurts. They were on the road in a difficult environment against a very good team.

But those are the types of things great teams overcome.


The Eagles still have an opportunity to do some really special things. They're well-coached, the roster is jammed with talent and they're still a 13-2 team that's one win away from a first-round bye.

But they've got to make sure that the mistakes we saw Saturday don't happen again. Or a season with so much potential is going to be over way too early. [NBCSP]

A (somber) first

With his two-touchdown, 113-yard performance on Saturday, DeVonta Smith eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving for the year to join A.J. Brown (receiving) and Miles Sanders (rushing) in the Eagles' 1K club. 

He also helped set a franchise milestone, making for the first pair of wideouts in Eagles history to each reach 1,000 yards in a single season. 

Those types of numbers speak volumes to the Eagles' offensive output this season, but there was hardly any focus on that after losing to the Cowboys.

"We knew we were gonna get another chance," Smith said at his locker postgame. "We got the chance and we just didn't go out there and execute it. 

"You turn the ball over four times, you're not gonna win any game." 

No time for moral victories

Chris Franklin |

Gardner Minshew was solid filling in for Jalen Hurts, going 24-20 passing with 355 yards, two touchdowns (and two interceptions), and a rating of 84.9. 

He kept the ball moving and gave the Eagles a chance, which is all a team ever really looks for out of their backup quarterback. 

However, there's not much time for moral victories. The Eagles lost and still need that one more win to lock the top positioning up for the playoffs. 

There's work to do. 

Wrote's Chris Franklin:

After the game, Minshew was not taking any solace in moral victories, saying he could have played better.

“We lost, so that sucks,” Minshew said. “You always want to do your job well enough for the team to win, but I felt like I didn’t do it. Obviously, at this point, there are things to grow on and things built on, so we have a lot to clean up.” []

There's a decision to make too, depending on Jalen Hurts' health:

The Eagles will have a decision to make leading up to next week’s game against the New Orleans Saints. The Eagles will be in the same situation as they were this week, deciding if Hurts’ shoulder is well enough to play and decide if they should reinsert him as the starter. If Hurts cannot play, Minshew said he would be ready to step in again and try to clinch everything in front of the fans at Lincoln Financial Field.

“I’m just trying to win,” Minshew said. “Anytime you step out there, that’s all it is. There are a ton of guys that put in a ton of effort and a ton of work into this team and into this season. I just don’t want to let them down and do everything I can for them to win and get that first seed in the NFC.” []

The man off the field

Jeff Neiburg | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Brandon Graham is the Eagles' nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, a yearly honor that recognizes a player's commitment to the betterment of their community. 

That nomination, however, goes well beyond efforts from the past 12 months. In his 13th season, all with Philadelphia, the veteran defensive end has impacted numerous lives off the field and Jeff Neiburg over at the Inquirer recounted the stories of a few

I highly encourage you to take a few minutes and read them all through HERE, but before we go, an excerpt from the story of Chase Merriweather, who was put in touch with Graham after a life-threatening case of influenza when he was three: 

The Merriweather family returned to their then-South Jersey home (they live in Blue Bell now) on Christmas Eve, 2013. This past Dec. 14 was Chase’s ninth “Alive Day,” a day the family honors every year, the day they decided to have his amputations, and the day he started his road to recovery.

Less than three years into that recovery, a 5-year-old Chase got a boost in the form of a bear hug from Graham. The Eagles had gotten wind of Chase’s story, and produced a video on him as part of their “Road to Victory” series.

The Merriweathers were invited to an Eagles event, and Graham was there. That embrace, Chad said, changed a lot for Chase.

“For someone to genuinely reach out, really take interest in your child the way he has, and see what that real life, tangible impact is, words can’t describe it,” Chad said.

“I’m not going to say that Chase wouldn’t be where he is today without this or that, but there are certain things and certain impactful moments along the way that you can really point to that suggest, ‘These are the reasons why he’s so independent. This is why he’s so confident. This is why he is who he is.’

“And BG ... has, without question, been a very significant part of his road to recovery.” [The Inquirer]

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