Eagles' Sirianni downplays suggestion he's fighting for his job in the playoffs
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Nick Sirianni tried his best to do what he does so well — even when it seems Philadelphia has turned on the Eagles coach — and put a positive spin on an epic collapse.
“It wasn't too long ago that we beat Tampa up there,” Sirianni said.
Not too long ago?
Try the third game of the season in September. Back when the Eagles had that fresh, defending NFC champions feeling and the “tush push” was about to take over the NFL. Back when Jalen Hurts was healthy and had another run at an MVP season in sight.
Back before it all went wrong.
The Eagles (11-6) are a shell of the team from that game in the wake of an epic 1-5 collapse that has them on the road to play Tampa Bay in an NFC wild-card game. Hurts threw for a touchdown, ran for another and the Eagles dominated the Buccaneers 25-11 in Week 3.
Hurts heads into the rematch with a mangled middle finger suffered in Sunday's 27-10 loss to the New York Giants. Wide receivers A.J. Brown (knee) and DeVonta Smith (ankle) are hurt. Cornerback Darius Slay hasn't played in weeks since he had knee surgery.
Sirianni was optimistic on Monday that Hurts would play against Tampa Bay.
“We’ll see as the week progresses, but I know he’s going to be sore,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that. I know that finger is going to get stiff, and he’s going to have to go through hard work to make sure that he’s ready to go. I have no doubt that he’s going to do everything he can do to do that, and that he’ll be able to play through his bumps and bruises because I’ve seen him do it.”
The biggest ache of all may belong to Sirianni's bruised ego.
The third-year coach — nearly 11 months removed from leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl — could be coaching for his job in the playoffs. If the Eagles won 12 or 13 games this season (they won 14 last season) and still lost a playoff game, there's little chance Sirianni would be on a hot seat.
Instead, player after player after player was asked in a somber locker room if he still had faith in Sirianni.
“I think everybody in the locker room has faith in Nick Sirianni,” center Jason Kelce said. “It hasn’t been pretty the last month. But we’ve had a lot of really, really successful football with Nick. I think he does a lot of really, really good things organizationally.”
Sirianni tried to downplay talk that the locker room no longer believes in him.
“I know I felt in that locker room that we’ve got a lot of belief in that locker room,” he said. “We know everybody, there are a lot of teams that would want to be in our position of making the playoffs. We’re in the playoffs, and we’re moving onto Tampa Bay, and everything.”
That is the good news. The Eagles still have a chance. And if they can find the groove that got them to 10-1 — when they were the best team in the NFL — then they can find a way to beat Tampa Bay.
The Eagles might want to look at what worked in the first game against Tampa Bay.
D’Andre Swift ran for 130 yards on 16 attempts for Philadelphia. Hurts was 23 of 37 passing for 277 yards and two interceptions, while Brown finished with nine receptions for 131 yards.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Most everything else.
Hurts got injured against the Giants in large part because the offensive line has struggled picking up the blitz and with pass blocking in general.
“Sometimes we weren’t ready for them and that’s my job,” Kelce said. “I need to put us in a good situation and sometimes we just didn’t pick it up, or it was missed blocks. It was one of those where they just had our number.”
It's hard to find a silver lining in the Eagles' playbook. The Eagles can only really bank on the fact they beat Tampa Bay before. Sirianni said he will stick with offensive coordinator Brian Johnson and defensive play-caller Matt Patricia in the playoffs.
With playoff seeding on the line, the Eagles were humiliated in consecutive weeks by the four-win Cardinals and six-win Giants. If the Eagles couldn't beat the worst of the NFL when they absolutely needed to, how are they going to rebound in the playoffs?
“It’s about taking advantage of the opportunity,” Hurts said. “Do I think we’ve done a good job of doing that? No. Not as of late. That takes complete ownership of every individual doing that. Now, it’s about finding that deep in our souls and figuring out ways to win.”
Besides the boldface names, safety Sydney Brown's season is over with a knee injury.
59 — In their last six games, the Eagles have been outscored 182-123.
Only five teams — last done by Tampa Bay in 2020 — have ever won three road playoff games to reach the Super Bowl.
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