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February 13, 2023

What they're saying about the Eagles: Great run, brutal end

Maybe the most dominant Eagles team we've ever seen was stopped just short of being the franchise's greatest ever.

It's the day after, and if you woke up to the somber quiet that only comes with a Super Bowl defeat, you're far from alone. 

The Eagles battled and Jalen Hurts more than rose to the occasion, but in the end, old problems and Patrick Mahomes came back to haunt them. The defense ran out of answers, and eventually, out of time against Kansas City's high-powered offense, and the Eagles lost Super Bowl LVII to the Chiefs, 38-35.

Maybe the most dominant Eagles team we've ever seen was stopped just short of being the franchise's greatest ever. 

There's no Lombardi nor parade in a few days' time, just what was one last forced party(?) on Broad for the people who still wanted their money's worth paired with the looming realization that the party was finally over.  

Great run. Brutal end. 

Here's what they're saying about the Eagles the day after the Super Bowl:

Pick up the pieces

EJ Smith | The Philadelphia Inquirer

You can look ahead to the bigger picture, and there's going to be a lot to process there over the next few weeks – free agency, the draft, the likely Super Bowl brain drain, etc. – but the Eagles themselves were never fans of that approach. 

They always kept the task at hand directly in front of them, but after Sunday night, there was only the Super Bowl defeat, and as EJ Smith chronicled from within the locker room postgame, just the sound of unbuckled shoulder pads hitting the ground to break the silence and the realization that this was the last time the 2022 team will all be together.

But words, Smith wrote, eventually had to be said at some point:

“That’s the terrible part about it,” Eagles linebacker Kyzir White said. “This team will look completely different. We’ve got a lot of pending free agents. You gotta really enjoy every moment, you might not suit up with them again.”

White and his fellow linebacker, T.J. Edwards, are two of the 10 starters set to hit free agency. Edwards echoed the sentiment that the 2022-23 Eagles stand above the other teams he’s played for in his four years with the Eagles.

“You just have a bunch of guys that just care about each other,” Edwards said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve never been a part of a core like this with guys that are unselfish and care about one another and want good things for other people. It’s really rare, so I think I’ll remember the ping-pong games and stuff like that. There’s not a guy on this team that I don’t like or care about. It’s a big roster, so to say that means a lot. It’s a special group, for sure.” [The Inquirer]

Hope, but never a promise

Sheil Kapadia | The Ringer

The Eagles made it all the way to the Super Bowl, and on the biggest stage, Jalen Hurts more than showed up. 

He's their guy, and the offense will return next year mostly intact. 

But Hurts is also due for a new contract and the defense, which failed to get the crucial stop they needed against Kansas City, is going to have a lot of holes to fill. 

They have good things going for them, but the road only gets tougher from here, and there are never any promises of making it back. 

Wrote Sheil Kapadia:

The Eagles have been chasing sustained success for a while now. They won the Super Bowl after the 2017 season and made it back after the 2022 season. In the four years in between, they went 31-33-1. After 2017, the Eagles thought they had their long-term coach and quarterback in Pederson and Carson Wentz. Now it’s Sirianni and Hurts. This version feels more sustainable. But committing to Hurts also likely means a new contract in the neighborhood of $47 million to $50 million per year.

Piece it all together, and the Eagles have a leg up on most teams with their coach, quarterback, and young talent. But they had a 10-point lead at halftime of the Super Bowl and couldn’t hold on. There are no guarantees of getting that close again in the next few years.

“The unknowing is kind of the sad part,” said Mailata. “This team’s not gonna be the same next year, and we understood that heading into the game. We talked about it a lot in our team meetings and just the brotherhood and relationships that we formed this year up until this point and how special this group is, this team. It’s definitely sad, man. It’s out of our control. But we tried to make the most of it with our time together and fell short in the end.” [The Ringer]

About that fumble

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

As good as Hurts was though, that second-quarter fumble that got taken back for seven was a huge momentum swing. 

It didn't break the Eagles' backs totally by that point, but it hurt. 

Wrote Reuben Frank:

The one blotch on his historic performance was Hurts' second-quarter fumble that Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton picked up on one bounce and returned 36 yards for a touchdown.

The play cost the Eagles seven points.

The Chiefs won by three.

No game comes down to one play, but that one really hurt.

"I always hold myself to a very high standard in everything that I do," Hurts said. "Obviously, I try and control the things that I can. I touch the ball every play, so I just try and protect it. 

"But it hurt us. You never know what play it will be, but it hurt us. You look back and reflect on some of the things that you could have done more, you could have tried and done something to change the outcome of the game." [NBCSP]

About that hold

Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports Philadelphia

But then there was that 3rd and 8 hold from James Bradberry on Juju Smith-Schuster late. With the game tied at 35, little time, and Kansas City well within field-goal range, that one was a total backbreaker. 

Bradberry didn't hide from it postgame. He owned up to it and wasn't interested in debating the call after the fact. Referee Carl Cheffers gave his explanation of it afterward

The game was over with. It was done. But that did hurt.

Wrote Zangaro:

Did he think this particular hold was enough to warrant a flag?

“That’s not up to my judgement,” he answered. “I was hoping he would let it go but of course he’s a ref, this is a big game and it was a hold. So they called it.”

It’s unfair to say this game came down to one penalty because the Eagles’ defense was shredded for most of the second half. Before this holding call, the Chiefs had already scored three touchdowns, including two on 75-yard drives, to erase a 10-point halftime deficit.

It’s just that if the Eagles did get that stop on 3rd-and-8, they still would have had a chance. [NBCSP]

The best Super Bowl ever?

Seth Wickerhsam | ESPN+ ($)

It's not what any fan wants to hear (or read) right now, but in terms of entertainment value – a battle between Hurts and Mahomes that went down to the very last second – Seth Wickersham pondered if the football world just witnessed the greatest Super Bowl ever:

It was a masterpiece by Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts, something special that goes beyond the fact that they combined for 600 yards of total offense and seven touchdowns. Each time their teams needed them to answer, they did. It started as soon as the game did. Hurts took the Eagles down the field on the opening drive for a touchdown. Mahomes answered with a touchdown pass to Travis Kelce. Hurts answered that answer with a deep corner route to A.J. Brown. Even when Hurts fumbled, leading to a Chiefs touchdown, he made up for it, leading the Eagles to 10 unanswered points to end the first half.

And then, it was on. The Chiefs' second-half offensive possessions went like this: touchdown in 10 plays, touchdown in nine plays, touchdown in three plays, field goal in 12 plays. And it almost wasn't enough. We haven't seen a quarterback as good on third and fourth down in a Super Bowl as Hurts since ... Tom Brady against the Falcons, maybe? The Eagles were 11-of-18 on third down, so many of those conversions either Hurts squeezing through his snowplow of an offensive line or hitting passes that were a fingernail away from getting knocked down or intercepted. Philadelphia head coach Nick Sirianni was fearless, his offense converting two of two fourth-down attempts. [ESPN+]

What could've been

Bo Wulf | The Athletic ($)

But being on the losing end of it, greatest game or not? That's always going to sting.

From Bo Wulf's observations of the Eagles' locker room postgame:

“You made this journey awesome,” Sirianni said.

Kelce, the 35-year-old gravelly voice of the team, nodded and thanked Sirianni in return as they embraced. Then he shook his head.

“It’s hard to get here.”

After falling painfully short in a 38-35 classic, the 2022 Eagles will forever be left with regret. They will be haunted by what-ifs about fumbles, penalties, missed tackles and questionable decisions. They will wonder what would have happened if only Hurts and the offense had gotten the ball in the end with enough time to go win the game. Most of all, they will lament that this group they consider special did not get to celebrate together.

“We had a shot, man,” said defensive end Josh Sweat. “Beautiful year, man. It was beautiful and I just wanted it for these guys, man. I’m hurt. I just wanted to see this group get it done.

“I didn’t even think about me and what I wanted. I just wanted it for the people I play next to. I just wanted them to have a smile on they face at the end of it. That’s all it was, man. I know it sounds soft as hell, but I really just wanted them to have a good time. That’s all it was.” [The Athletic]

What a team. What a run. What a bitter ending. 

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