PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Eagles can take solace they are the lone 10-2 team in the NFL. Yes, that’s still the best record in the league.
But a humbling, harrowing defeat at home to the San Francisco 49ers did more than tighten the race for the top spot in the NFC. It showed the Eagles that a trip back to the Super Bowl may be rockier than expected.
The high-wire football that launched Philadelphia to the top of the league was snipped by San Francisco.
It’s hard to always win from behind. The Eagles had won four straight games when trailing at halftime but got crushed after the break by Brock Purdy and the Niners, who scored 28 second-half points.
It’s hard to cover up a shaky defense against top teams. The linebackers — a sore point most of the season with a unit full of castoffs — got torched over the middle for the bulk of the game. The Eagles addressed that position Monday by signing three-time All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard, who was cut earlier this season by Indianapolis. Leonard should be able to play Sunday night at Dallas.
Philadelphia’s usual high-scoring offense stalled inside the red zone. The Eagles’ first two drives ended with field goals instead of touchdowns, a sign the 49ers had Jalen Hurts’ number and could shut down his normally stout receivers and running backs.
The Eagles took their licks. Much like the Niners had to wait for another shot at the Eagles following their loss in the NFC championship game, now it’s Philadelphia’s turn to stew and wait for a potential rematch in this year’s playoffs.
“I heard a lot of guys back and forth talking about playing them again, and it’s probably going to happen again,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “But there is so much football to be played between now and then. There are so many other good teams also. So that can’t be in our thought process.”
One of those good teams is on deck. The Eagles are set to play Sunday night at Dallas in a game that should have significant sway in the NFC race. With their win at Philly, the Niners (9-3) are back in the race for the top spot, which comes with home-field advantage and a first-round bye. The Cowboys (9-3) could grab a share of the conference lead should they knock off the Eagles.
The Eagles beat the Cowboys last month and could open some distance in the standings with a series sweep. The Cowboys are 3-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Hurts took a shot to the head Sunday that cost him a few plays before he was cleared to return. He knows the Eagles haven’t always played to their capabilities — even if a win is a win — and need to show they can play a full 60 minutes of strong football.
“It’s not a matter of winning or losing. This is about playing to the standard and we didn’t play to the standard,” he said. “When you play to the standard, you win. I don’t think we played to the standard and won yet.”
Wide receivers AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith picked up the bulk of their yards early, but little else went right in easily the worst game of Sirianni’s tenure.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The defense got rocked again. The 49ers scored touchdowns on six straight possessions and tackling was more of an option than a mandate. This comes a week after the Eagles allowed 505 total yards against the Bills.
Big Dom. The Eagles’ chief of security showed more fight than most of the team when he tussled with 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Dom DiSandro has worked for the Eagles for 25 years and is a ubiquitous presence on the sideline and at public gatherings when players are involved. Nicknamed “Big Dom,” DiSandro is a cult figure in Philly — there’s a line of merchandise in his honor — but he added to his lore when he pulled Greenlaw off Eagles receiver DeVonta Smith after a reception in the third quarter. Greenlaw popped up and reached over two officials to touch DiSandro’s face with a closed fist.
Greenlaw was ejected. DiSandro also was told to take a hike. DiSandro stuck around and greeted Eagles players as they trudged to the locker room after the loss.
“I know in Dom’s heart, he truly was trying to diffuse the situation right there,” Sirianni said Monday. “I’m sad that it came to what it came to, that anybody got thrown out of the game. The play was what it was. There was a lot of emotion in that game. I’ve seen Dom have to do that before where he’s trying to diffuse the situation. Again, that’s what he does. Yeah, I know where his heart is and it’s truly to diffuse the situation and to stop what was going on, on the sideline.”
Sirianni. From his tush-push calls to leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl to his T-shirt collection promoting some of his favorite players, Sirianni has done little wrong in three seasons as coach. But what was he thinking leaving Hurts — after he was checked for a concussion — and the bulk of his starters in the game late in a blowout?
Hurts was cleared and returned to play and sounded coherent afterward. But Sirianni needlessly risked the health of a franchise star when the Eagles had no chance to win.
“We were still down two possessions,” Sirianni said. “There was some time. We had our timeouts still. Just trying to continue the game.”
Well, three possessions, actually.
“Yeah, we’re going to fight to the end,” Sirianni said.
Case in point: Running back D’Andre Swift was brought to his knees when he was socked over the middle by cornerback Deommodore Lenoir with about three minutes left in the game. Swift made an exit for the locker room following the hit.
At the time, the Eagles trailed by the final score, 42-19.
101 — Hurts had a rushing touchdown and a TD pass, giving him 101 combined TDs in his four-year career. He joined Donovan McNabb (244, 1999-2009), Ron Jaworski (187, 1977-86), Randall Cunningham (182, 1985-95), Norm Snead (124, 1964-70) and Carson Wentz (121, 2016-20) as the only Eagles with 100 total touchdowns.
Bring on Dallas.
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