Eagles Need to Figure Out the 'Fine Line' with Jalen Hurts

The Eagles young QB has explosive off-schedule playmaking ability but that doesn't always lend itself to consistency
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PHILADELPHIA - Nick Sirianni was picking at the bones of his first NFL loss as a head coach, a disappointing 17-11 setback to San Francisco and one that could be put directly at the feet of the rookie mentor.

It was almost understandable in front of nearly 70,000 at Lincoln Financial Field for the first time.

Sirianni wanted their approval and bent over backward to get it pulling out a Philly Special-like play on 4th-and-goal from the 3-yard line with 4:28 left until halftime.

The design was Jalen Hurts handing off to DeVonta Smith in a jet sweep look. The Eagles' rookie WR flipped the ball to Greg Ward, a former QB at the University of Houston, who was supposed to pass it back to Hurts for the TD.

The result was an ugly incompletion and the ball turned back to the 49ers, who had done basically nothing offensively at that point.

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Rarely is a turning point so stark as the Niners went on a 12-play, 97-yard drive to take their first lead of the game, a lead they never relinquished.

Coaches rarely win a game, but they can lose them and Sirianni likely did exactly that with a play call he wanted back after the game.

"What I regret is I just wanted - I think I should have called a better play and put our guys in better position to score. So, I take full responsibility on that," the coach said.

The Eagles coach understands what he has in Hurts at this stage of the game, an intriguing playmaker whose oft-schedule abilities are paramount to his success.

For that reason, Philadelphia wants to play with the lead.

"We wanted to get an early lead, and to make the [49ers] play from behind," Sirianni admitted. "We didn't capitalize. I think it's a different game, you go up 10-0, and maybe it takes them out of some of their stuff that they really like to do."

Once the Niners took the lead, the Eagles had to rely on throwing the football from the pocket more and that takes away some of the RPO-like offense Hurts excels with away from the menu.

As for extending plays, that's always great, like the 27-yard scramble late from Hurts late in the game, but it also can't be assumed.

The best way to run any NFL offense is to execute.

"It's always this fine line of, hey, throwing it on rhythm but also extending plays if something's not there," Sirianni said.

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Hurts' eyebrows raised a bit post-game after he heard his coach had addressed the matter when asked if the QB held on to the football a little too long on occasion.

“We had a lot of opportunities out there that we didn’t capitalize on," he said. "I think that’s plain and simple right there. We have to be consistent in our execution. I have to be consistent in my execution and operation as a field general.

"It’s something to learn from today – a lot to learn from. They were things we could control, so that’s what hurts the most."

Hurts was great as a runner in the loss, carrying it 10 times for 82 yards and less so as a passer, completing just 12-of-23 for 190 yards. Take away the Watkins play and that 99 yards and no receiver caught more than two balls.

The consistency of a well-executed offense is needed to win games like this.

"The biggest thing is just finish, finish, finish," Hurts said. "We got two games under our belt now, and on the tape we see what we finish and what we didn’t finish. This game, we didn’t finish more than we did. We have to capitalize on those opportunities moving forward and learn from this feeling.”

-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 jmcmullen44@gmail.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.