PHILADELPHIA – There are no moral victories in the NFL, something a frustrated Nick Sirianni alluded to following a last-second 27-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
“I do see growth in this football team,” Sirianni said. “I think we all see that. But we have to keep growing. There are no moral victories in this league, right? A loss is a loss is a loss is a loss.
“That one hurt, and we have to get back and get better from this.”
It hurt because the 3-6 Eagles had a chance to steal it against a superior opponent, one that left points on the field in the first half with some fourth-down flubs despite coming into the game as one of the best teams in the NFL on fourth downs, 9-of-13 overall.
The passionate Philadelphia fans are hardly grading on a curve but maybe they should have been because the Eagles were tied 24-24 through 58 minutes, 58 seconds - until Dustin Hopkins slotted through a 29-yard field goal with two seconds remaining.
As the frontman, Sirianni took the brunt of it, with a bouquet of flowers fired at him as he left the field.
Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, though, was the villain again to many after his unit allowed a quarterback to complete 80 percent of his passes for the fifth time in nine games.
Justin Herbert was the latest elite QB to join what has been a less-than-elite club with a 32-for-38 performance for 356 yards and two touchdowns with a 123.2 passer rating.
“Obviously, any time you play a quarterback like Justin Herbert - there is no surprise I think he's a good quarterback, we all know he's a good quarterback - you have to be on your A-game and have to be - starts with us as coaches,” Sirianni said.
The head coach refused to throw his embattled DC under the bus, however.
“I'm not going to say Jonathan anything because that's - my name is on that, right? So, whatever happens on that field my name is on, offensively, defensively. I'm not the offensive coordinator, I'm the head coach.
"So, again, it's all of us together. So, it's first myself, getting the right calls and putting the players in position, then Jonathan, then the players executing.”
The book on Gannon is he’s too passive but on Sunday he dialed up more blitzes than any other time this season and nothing worked.
Herbert was hit only once in the game and while the ball was coming out quickly, that’s just not good enough.
“Every week is different. I think this week they were getting the ball out so quick. It was kind of hard to get to [Herbert],” Eagles DT Javon Hargrave said.
Earlier in the week Jason Kelce was discussing the team’s lack of success at Lincoln Financial Field this season and mused that Jim Schwartz’s philosophy of an aggressive front lent itself to making things difficult on opposing offenses.
When the Eagles got the lead in the Doug Pederson/Schwartz era, the line would pin its ears back and take aim at various hapless QBs forced to drop into silent counts in front of raucous crowds.
Forget about blitzing, the one-time engine of this defense is just not producing.
“We had a great protection plan,” Herbert said. “Those guys [Chargers T] Storm [Norton], [Chargers C] Corey [Linsley], [Chargers G] Matt [Feiler], [Chargers T] Rashawn [Slater], all those guys did a great job blocking.
“ So when we’re able to run the ball and throw the ball and have enough time for the guys on the outside of the ball, [Chargers G/T] Mike [Schofield III], [Chargers TE] Jared [Cook] all those guys are there to make plays. It makes our offense a lot easier.”
The raw numbers do say the Eagles are not aggressive. Gannon’s defense is allowing a league-high 75.5 percent completion percentage and opposing QBs have a 104.8 passer rating.
The names Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Derek Carr, and Herbert will soon be replaced by Teddy Bridgewater, Trevor Simien, Daniel Jones, and Taylor Heinicke, however.
And that's the kind of context that could turn those moral victories into substantive ones.
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.