3 Takeaways from Eagles’ Week 16 Loss vs. Cowboys
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Eagles QB Gardner MinshewCooper Neill/Getty Images
The Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday in a game that stings on multiple levels. Losing to one of your rivals never feels good, but the loss prevented Philly from locking up the NFC’s No. 1 seed and it showed a few cracks in an Eagles defense that has been mostly great this season.
Of course, the Eagles didn’t have star quarterback Jalen Hurts for the contest, which mirrored the first meeting between these two teams. The Eagles beat Dallas in Week 6, but the Cowboys didn’t have Dak Prescott in that game.
There’s a good chance these two NFC East rivals will meet again in the playoffs, and if both quarterbacks are healthy, it could be one of the games of the postseason. Saturday’s was pretty special, even if it put off clinching a first-round bye for another week.
Here are our three biggest takeaways from the Eagles’ Week 16 loss to the Cowboys.
The Eagles Probably Win with a Healthy Hurts
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Eagles QB Jalen HurtsMichael Reaves/Getty Images
While watching the Eagles run rampant through the Cowboys defense on Saturday, it was obvious that Gardner Minshew probably deserves a starting job somewhere. The Eagles backup threw for 355 yards and two touchdowns and looked like he belonged on the field opposite Prescott in a high-stakes game.
Of course, Minshew isn’t Hurts. He doesn’t provide the same dual-threat ability, and he didn’t do a good enough job of protecting the football against Dallas. The 26-year-old was responsible for three turnovers (two INTs, one fumble) and came up just short in a 40-34 shootout.
Dallas scored the final 13 points of the game.
With a healthy Hurts under center, there’s a good chance the Eagles are already the NFC East champions and eyeing a first-round playoff bye. Despite the shoulder injury, Hurts may be back for Week 17.
“My understanding is that there’s a real chance that Jalen Hurts, who’s considered day-to-day with his injury, pushes to play,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said Sunday.
We may see Hurts in next week’s home game against the New Orleans Saints. If the Eagles do win, they’ll be able to rest their starters in the season finale against the New York Giants.
Injuries Continue to Be Concerning
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Eagles OT Lane JohnsonMitchell Leff/Getty Images
Even the best teams can be derailed by injuries, and that’s a real concern for the Eagles. Philadelphia did get tight end Dallas Goedert and safety Reed Blankenship back for the Cowboys game, but injuries continue to loom large.
Hurts’ injury is the most glaring, but it’s far from the only significant one. Standout defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson remains sidelined after suffering a lacerated kidney in Week 12. Two more injuries cropped up in the Dallas game.
Cornerback Avonte Maddox suffered a toe injury in the second quarter and was ruled out in the third. Star offensive tackle Lane Johnson also went down, and his injury could mean a substantial loss.
“Eagles RT Lane Johnson is dealing with a groin/abdomen injury, per source. An MRI is expected to examine issue further,” ESPN’s Tim McManus tweeted Sunday.
The offensive line is one of Philadelphia’s strengths, and losing Johnson for any length of time would be a massive blow. With the secondary missing a couple of key players, the Eagles surrendered 347 passing yards Saturday.
Heading into the playoffs, the injury bug might be the foe that Philly should fear most.
Philadelphia Can’t Expect to March Through the Playoffs
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Eagles RB Miles SandersMichael Reaves/Getty Images
For much of the 2022 season, the Eagles have felt like an unstoppable force. They’ve still only lost two games—both to division rivals—and they are as complete as any squad when healthy. However, injuries and recent struggles suddenly leave Philadelphia feeing less like a potential postseason juggernaut.
Philadelphia narrowly escaped the Chicago Bears in a 25-20 game in Week 15. It lost to the Cowboys in a game when the defense didn’t make the huge plays it’s been accustomed to making.
Dallas racked up 419 yards of total offense despite averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. The Eagles run defense (4.6 yards per carry allowed) has been the one constant liability, but the Cowboys largely beat Philadelphia through the air.
The four turnovers loomed large.
Teams with balanced, efficient offenses and stout defenses match up well with the Eagles. Dallas and the Washington Commanders, who beat them in Week 10, have shown that already. The San Francisco 49ers are another big potential playoff threat. The Eagles have already secured a playoff berth, but getting through the postseason won’t be easy.
While Philadelphia will have every reason to rest players and get healthy if it locks up the No. 1 seed next week, it cannot lose focus. The Eagles won’t simply be handed a trip to Super Bowl LVII.