The Philadelphia Eagles entered Sunday’s Wild Card playoff matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looking to advance in the postseason after securing a playoff spot with a 14-3 record in the regular season. However, the team suffered a shocking 31-14 loss that raises serious questions about the Eagles’ leadership and direction going forward.
First Half Gives Hope
The Eagles started strong on Sunday, with quarterback Jalen Hurts finding tight end Dallas Goedert for a 16-yard touchdown in the first quarter. The score gave Philadelphia an early 7-0 advantage. The Eagles defense also impressed early, forcing two interceptions off Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.
“The whole team came ready to play,” said head coach Nick Sirianni. “We were executing and putting ourselves in a position to win.”
At halftime, Philadelphia held a 14-10 lead and looked poised to pull off the road upset. But things would unravel quickly after the break.
Historic Second Half Collapse
What transpired in the second half will go down as one of the biggest collapses not just in Eagles playoff history, but in NFL postseason lore. The Buccaneers outscored the Eagles 21-0 after halftime, dominating on both sides of the ball.
Brady tossed two touchdowns in the third quarter to put Tampa Bay ahead 24-14. Meanwhile, Hurts and the Eagles offense completely sputtered, picking up just 78 total yards in the second half. With the loss, Philadelphia became the first team in NFL history to enter the playoffs at 13-1 or better and fail to score a second half point in their first postseason game.
“We just fell apart,” said Goedert. “We stopped executing and making plays.”
The collapse was made even more disappointing given the Eagles owned the best record in the NFL entering the playoffs. But the team failed to show up when it mattered most, leading to questions about the makeup of a squad that faded badly down the stretch after starting the year 11-1.
Hurts Declines to Defend Sirianni
After the loss, Hurts declined opportunities to defend the job status of head coach Sirianni. When asked if he wants Sirianni to return next season, Hurts tersely replied: “I don’t know what’s going to happen.” The non-committal response speaks volumes about internal tensions that may exist in the locker room.
Reports indicate Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie will seriously evaluate Sirianni’s standing after the late season slide and one-and-done playoff exit. Lurie has not hesitated to make coaching chances after disappointing ends to seasons, having previously moved on from Chip Kelly and Doug Peterson.
Sirianni said after the game that he has not considered his job security: “I’m thinking about those guys in the locker room, I’m not thinking about myself.”
But should Lurie opt for a change, Hurts’ comments indicate the players may welcome a fresh start under new leadership.
What’s Next for Philadelphia?
The Eagles entered 2023 with Super Bowl aspirations and now face a long offseason filled with difficult decisions. Evaluating the quarterback position will be priority number one. Hurts showed flashes of brilliance but ended with a thud. Philadelphia must decide whether he is truly a franchise cornerstone worth building around.
The team also has major holes on the defensive side of the ball that must be addressed. Sunday saw Brady torch the Eagles secondary for 271 yards and 2 scores after intermission. Upgrading the talent in the defensive backfield through the draft and free agency should be a top focus.
Finally, the team has the ominous matter of Sirianni’s status to resolve. Player devotion to the young head coach seems lukewarm at best. Lurie has a reputation for making swift changes when disappointed, meaning Sirianni will likely need to make a compelling case to retain his job.
In just over 12 minutes of action, the Eagles went from Super Bowl contenders to a franchise in flux, their present and future both plunged into uncertainty after an absolutely nightmarish ending to their once-promising season.
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