Slumping Eagles in a world of hurt without injured QB Hurts

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Eagles are in a world of hurt without Jalen Hurts.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way.

For all the coachspeak from Nick Sirianni about how the Eagles win together and lose together, it’s been jarring for fans and the franchise to watch just how poorly the offense has played in consecutive losses without Hurts.

Gardner Minshew was not expected to play like Hurts — the quarterback was, after all, a leading MVP candidate — but with each overthrown pass, each sack taken, each three-and-out, each failed rally, Minshew instead has evoked memories of some of the worst backup play in team history. Think Jeff Kemp or Mike McMahon bad. Minshew couldn’t even be trusted to defeat a Saints team with a losing record while playing at home as a seven-point favorite.

The Eagles will not go anywhere except an early vacation should Minshew have to make a playoff start.

“Obviously, it wasn’t Gardner’s best game and it wasn’t our best game as an offense,” Sirianni said. “Not even close, right?”

Right.

The Eagles were shut out in the first half for the first time all season and their 10 points were their fewest all season.

Now the good news.

Hurts could come back Sunday in the regular-season finale against the New York Giants. Sirianni was blunt after the Eagles lost their second straight game without Hurts: “If he’s ready to go, he’ll play.”

The Eagles need to beat the Giants next week to clinch the NFC East and secure the top seed in the playoffs. A loss by Philadelphia and a win by Dallas would give the Cowboys the NFC East title.

Yes, in Philly, somehow a 13-3 campaign isn’t a reason to celebrate headed into the last game of the regular season.

“There’s still no pressure,” wide receiver A.J. Brown said. “We’ve got to go out and play ball. We’ve got to go out and execute.”

Easier said — and done — with Hurts behind center.

WHAT’S WORKING

Sacks. Lots of them. The Eagles are getting to the QB at a record rate, and they added seven more sacks against the Saints. The Eagles have a team-record 67 sacks. Only four teams have more sacks in NFL single-season history — the 1984 Bears (72), 1989 Vikings (71), 1987 Bears (70) and 1985 Giants (68). The 17th game could give the Eagles the NFL record.

The Eagles became the first NFL team since 1982 (when sacks became an official statistic) to have four players — Haason Reddick (16), Javon Hargrave (11), Brandon Graham (11) and Josh Sweat (11) — with 10-plus sacks in the same season.

Reddick had his third straight game with at least two sacks.

WHAT’S NOT

Nothing clicked on the offense. While it can’t all be blamed on Minshew, let’s just say, is Hurts ready?

STOCK UP

The 34-year-old Graham finally reached double-digit sacks for the first time since he broke into the league with the Eagles in 2010. The longest-tenured Philly athlete is one of the more beloved Eagles — both for the way he returned from a significant injury last season and a famous strip-sack in the Super Bowl — and even the loss couldn’t stop his teammates from beaming in the locker room when asked about “BG.”

“I get really emotional for him because I know how hard he’s been working and how hard so many people counted him out after coming back from that Achilles injury. It’s really big for a guy that’s in his 13th season,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said.

STOCK DOWN

Did anyone mention Minshew?

OK, it wasn’t just the beleaguered QB who couldn’t convert a sneak on a late fourth down ... or threw a devastating pick-6 late in the fourth quarter with the outcome still in the balance ... or whose idea of a scramble was to run backward and get sacked ... that crushed the Eagles.

Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen gave 1,000-yard rusher Miles Sanders only two carries in the first half. He finished with 12 carries for 61 yards.

INJURIES

Sweat suffered a neck injury and left the field on the stretcher but tweeted Sunday night, “ I’ll be back this season!”

KEY NUMBER

1 — Win, and the Eagles have the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

NEXT STEPS

The Giants clinched a playoff spot and are locked into the No. 6 seed. Will they rest their starters and treat it as nothing more than a tuneup for the postseason? The Eagles thumped the Giants 48-22 just a month ago. But they lost to Washington and Dallas in the second meetings after winning the first ones.

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Dan Gelston, The Associated Press