ARLINGTON, Texas – The final numbers will say Jalen Hurts played a good game. He didn’t.
Was it all his fault?
Of course, not.
As center Jason Kelce said afterward when informed that Hurts took all the blame for a 41-21 drubbing to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night: “Obviously we all know that’s not true. Whenever you get beat like that, it’s everybody. Losses like that don’t happen just because of one guy, but that is the way you would expect Jalen Hurts to feel.”
Kelce is right.
Tight end Zach Ertz is right, too, when he said about Hurts: “Jalen’s 23-years old, everyone’s acting like this is his fault. Jalen is a great player. He’s going to be a great player for a long time in this league, so as an offense we all have to play up to our ability and everything will be all right.”
There is plenty of blame to toss around in every nook of the locker room and every cranny of the coaches’ offices.
It starts at the top with head coach Nick Sirianni, but Hurts is the quarterback, and with that job description comes a microscope that amplifies everything by 1,000.
To be blunt: If he doesn’t play better, he won’t be the quarterback of this team in 2022.
Hurts finished with a passer rating of 86. Respectable.
He completed 25 of 39 throws for 326 yards and two touchdowns. Very good.
Things is, he did most of that with the game well out of reach, after the Cowboys took a 34-14 lead with 11:26 to play in the fourth quarter. Only seven of the Eagles’ points had come from the offense.
“I didn’t execute,” said Hurts, then said those same three words again. “I didn’t do a good enough job of leading. I didn’t do a good enough job of running our offense, doing the things that I need to do. It’s on me. This one is on me.”
Asked what was going on, Hurts took the blame again.
“Things didn’t go my way” he said. “Things didn’t go our way. It’s tough. All I can do is take complete ownership for how I played and how it affected the team in the end. I gotta do a better job, clearly.”
Hurts said early in his postgame press conference that his answer to just about every question would be that he didn’t do his job.
“I didn’t do my job,” he said. “I didn’t my job and we didn’t win the game. If I do my job, we win the game. I didn’t do my job.”
Penalties did the Eagles no favors. It seemed like they were forever in first-and-20 after some holding call or second-and-long.
Fixing that falls on the head coach. So does game-planning, and right now, Sirianni isn’t doing very well in either area.
The head coach talked about knowing his team needed to score points to keep up with a high-powered Cowboys offense, so he devised a game plan as such.
It didn’t work and there weren’t any adjustments.
There was no pre-snap motion on any of their 53 offensive snaps, according to Seth Walder, ESPN’s sports analytics writer.
And for goodness, sake, where was the running game?
Two runs for Miles Sanders?
There were 12 rushing plays overall, but some of those were Hurts scrambles.
Sanders is one of this team’s best offensive players. He had three catches for 28 yards. His first run of the night didn't come until midway through the second quarter. He went for 24 yards. On the same drive, he carried for three yards on a play that began with 5:55 to go in the second, then wasn't given the ball again.
That's almost surreal when you think about it.
“We wanted to make sure we were able to keep up with them,” Sirianni said. “We knew they were an explosive offensive. We wanted to be able to push the ball down the field and hit some of the underneath zones that we saw while also obviously mixing the run game in there.
“In the screen game, again, you fall behind a little bit and you have to get off that game plan a little bit. We knew we had to score with this team because we knew they were able to score and score quickly.”
There are growing pains with a first-time play-caller, but frankly, what Sirianni showed against Dallas was worse than the curious play-calling he had in the loss to the Niners.
He sounded like the strategy was to win a shootout in a hostile environment with more than 93,000 fans showing up for the Cowboys' home opener.
Maybe the strategy should have been, let's slow the game down.
Let's run, run, run and run some more to keep that high-powered offense off the field.
“We are still young,” said Ertz. “We just have to grow up fast. It doesn’t get any easier obviously. Especially this week with the Chiefs. I feel like we can have a dynamic running game if we get ahead of the sticks. We can have a dynamic passing game if we are playing on time, in rhythm. We just have to put together 60 minutes as an offense.”
That’s the coach’s job, and he needs to grow up, too, and figure out how to call plays that take advantage of his players’ strengths.
“Atlanta game was a glimpse of what we can be as an offense,” said Ertz. “The past (two) games we have not played well, and that is just a matter of fact. We have to be better.”
It starts with the coach, but the quarterback isn't far behind.
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.