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Morning Roundup: How did the veterans react to Sunday's bitter defeat?

Sydney Brown
Sydney Brown

Before you dive into this New Year's edition of Morning Roundup, presented by DraftKings, don't forget to check our immediate recap and analysis of Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

• Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro's 10 takeaways from the game
• Road to Victory: The latest playoff scenarios, standings, and more
• Owen Boyle's game recap and live updates

Nick Sirianni's message: 'Stick together'

Earlier this season, the Eagles were undone by turnovers in losses to the Jets (4), Cowboys (3), and Seahawks (2).

Sunday's disappointing loss to the Cardinals saw a 21-6 halftime lead disappear as Arizona scored touchdowns on all four of its second-half possessions, and the Eagles were unable to turn a recovered onside kick into anything more than a field goal.

After starting the season 10-1, the Eagles have dropped four of five games and sit at 11-5 entering the final week of the regular season. On its own, the record is strong considering the difficult schedule, good enough to ensure a third-straight playoff berth. Over the past month, however, the Eagles went from controlling their destiny for the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage to needing help to win the division and get a home playoff game.

Head Coach Nick Sirianni's core value of connection is critical as the Eagles are faced with yet more adversity as the regular season comes to a close.

"Stick together. Stick together. Everyone's got to stick together," Sirianni said. "I think there's going to be a lot of people trying to point the finger at different things and everybody's got to stick together, right. We win as a team. We lose as a team. And together is the most important thing that we can be right now.

"We are in the playoffs. A lot of teams want to be in the playoffs. We are in the playoffs. We still can do some things here and our goals are still in front of us. Can you get the 1-seed? Can you win the division? I know you can't get the 1-seed now, but can you still win the division? Yes. Stick together because we still have goals, and we still have things that we want to accomplish."

Sirianni has emphasized the power of belief during some of the rough patches this season and hammered that home again on Sunday.

"I do believe. I still believe in the guys in that locker room, the players. I still believe in the coaches. I think we've got the guys in this place to get turned in the right direction," he said. "We don't have much time, obviously, right. We've got one more game before playoffs start, and we've got to do everything we can do to get back on track this upcoming week."

The Eagles know that they will not just magically wish themselves out of their funk with unabated optimism or some rah-rah speeches.

"Obviously, we are not playing the type of football or coaching the type of football we want to be right now at this time. Again, we have to go back to the drawing board and think through everything, what we're doing," Sirianni said.

"So, concerned? No, I don't think we think that way. All I think we think is how do we get these things fixed. How do we get these things fixed? How do we put the players in positions to succeed? How do we execute as a team? And so that's what's going to be on our minds is how do we get these things fixed.

"Worry and concern don't get any problems fixed. It doesn't fix anything. Getting in there, grinding, figuring out what the answers are, that's what gets things fixed. Worry and concern does not." – Written by Chris McPherson

Eagles veterans look ahead as rough stretch continues

"We dropped the ball on this one, there's no other way to put it," Haason Reddick said. "But we still have playoffs coming up. We have one more (game); we got to get that one."

It was a bleak mood in the locker room after the Eagles missed the opportunity to take sole possession of the No. 2 seed in the NFC, failing to secure their grip on first place in the NFC East.

The Eagles' defense allowed 29 points in the second half including the game-winning touchdown with 32 seconds left in the game. The Cardinals gained 449 total yards of offense, running 72 plays compared to the Eagles' 47.

"It was just not good enough," said Reddick on the defense's performance.

"It is tough when you don't get off the field as a defense," Brandon Graham said. "No excuses, we just didn't get it done."

Instead of making excuses, leaders in the locker room pinpointed what the team did not do well and what can be done to break out of this slump.

The two themes were playing team football and not being consistent.

"We are not playing complementary football," Jordan Mailata said. "I think the offense and defense are hurting each other right now by putting each other in uncomfortable positions."

"At times we did well offensively, it just wasn't consistent enough," Jason Kelce said.

With one game left in the regular season and a playoff spot secured, it is now or never if the Eagles are going to start playing consistent, complementary football.

The Eagles are now 11-5 and are no longer in control of the NFC East race. If the Eagles and the Cowboys, who are also 11-5, finish in a tie following the Week 18 games, Dallas wins the division title based on the common opponents tiebreaker.

"Whenever you lose consecutive games, everybody's trying to figure things out and get it turned in the right direction," Kelce said. "We are trying to figure out how to play at a high level as a unit and as individuals."

"It's disappointing, but not disheartening," Mailata said. "We know we are a better football team and moments like this, we're going to learn from them. We will come back next week and bounce back."

The Eagles will look to clean up their mistakes and bounce back in the final regular-season game against the New York Giants.

As of now, final playoff seeding will be determined by the results in Week 18, but the Eagles are guaranteed at least one game beyond the regular season.

"I know that we are going to tighten it up," Graham said. "I believe in us; we believe in us."

"We have to take it one game at a time and continue to try to push toward our goal," Reddick said. – Written by Owen Boyle

Three TDs not enough for Jalen Hurts

Entering the final drive of Sunday's game, quarterback Jalen Hurts had thrown as many touchdown passes (3) and incompletions (3) on the afternoon.

Yet, the Eagles needed Hurts' magic to overcome a 35-31 deficit after Arizona running back James Conner plowed in from 2 yards out to give the Cardinals the lead with just 32 seconds left.

Hurts has delivered time after time again with four game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime this season. But the Eagles came up just short as his Hail Mary pass into the end zone as time expired was intercepted by safety Joey Blount.

"He played an unbelievable game," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said. "The ball didn't touch the ground very often. I don't know what all his stats were, but I know the ball didn't touch the ground."

Hurts was 18-of-23 for 167 yards with three touchdowns and the end-of-game interception for a 118.4 passer rating, his third-highest of the season and best since the Week 9 home win over the Cowboys. He also set the franchise record for most total touchdowns in a season with 38, surpassing the mark that was originally set by Randall Cunningham and tied by Hurts last year of 35.

"Just thinking about ways we could have been better. Thinking about ways we could have been better, been more efficient," Hurts said. "Just really taking advantage of our opportunities, you know, that's the goal. That's what we strive for. Strive to take advantage of every one. You know, credit to them and the way they played and hung in there. Great credit to them."

The Cardinals nearly doubled the Eagles in time of possession (39 minutes, 39 seconds to 20 minutes, 21 seconds), but the Eagles scored on four out of five possessions from late in the first quarter into the fourth quarter. Following an onside kick attempt by the Cardinals, the Eagles scored to go ahead 31-28, but could not put the ball into the end zone. A Jordan Mailata penalty pushed the Eagles from a first-and-10 at the Arizona 20 to first-and-20 at the 30. Hurts ran twice then threw a screen pass to Kenneth Gainwell, accumulating 5 total yards before Jake Elliott connected on the 43-yard attempt.

"It is just a lack of execution," Hurts said. "You can credit that to whatever you want. But I think regardless, you know, the motive is just to execute. You do that at a high level. When you're supposed to win, you should win. You know, if you don't do that, if you're not winning, then maybe you're not executing at a high enough level. It's just a moment of reflection, you know, a moment of reflection.

"We still have everything in front of us to learn from everything that's going on as a team and put the right energy towards it and towards the things that we can control and being the best team we can be. It is something we have to grow from."

The Eagles return to MetLife Stadium for the second time this season next weekend (date to be announced shortly) to conclude the regular season against the Giants, just two weeks after beating them on Christmas. Philadelphia can still win the division and finish as high as the No. 2 seed, but a win by Dallas ensures that the playoff journey for the Eagles will begin on the road against whoever wins the NFC South.

Hurts and the Eagles, however, can only worry about handling their own business next weekend.

"Focusing on the things you can control, focusing on the things you can control. Purely that," Hurts said. "Putting the focus on you doing your job, challenging yourself, committing yourself to bring the best out of yourself. And leaving it at that, you know, trusting in that process." – Written by Chris McPherson

The Eagles host the Arizona Cardinals in the final regular-season home contest of the 2023 season. The Eagles need to win to remain atop the NFC East and keep their hopes alive for the No. 1 seed, while the Cardinals with former Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon look to play spoiler.

Sydney Brown relives the best moment of his young career

Rookie safety Sydney Brown is quickly becoming a fan favorite in Philadelphia thanks to his hard-hitting, energetic play style.

On Sunday, he was rewarded for his strong play this season with a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown.

"Definitely the first of many," Brown said.

Brown's smart read and miscommunication by Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver Michael Wilson led to the interception at the Philadelphia 1-yard line.

The safety noticed a motion by Murray that he recalled seeing Seahawks quarterback Drew Lock do in Week 15, helping Brown read the play perfectly.

"I faked the post and just went because I knew the ball was going to be thrown quickly," Brown said. "I just read my keys, reacted, and came on my way."

Plucking the ball out of the air with no receiver in the vicinity was just a start for the rookie.

Brown used his rapid speed to fly up the near side of the field, getting from the 1-yard line to the 50-yard line in just under six seconds.

Once at the 50, Brown cut it back inside, getting key blocks from Haason Reddick and Nicholas Morrow, among others.

"Kudos to my guys for blocking for me down the field," Brown said.

At the Arizona 30-yard line, Brown found himself one-on-one with Cardinals receiver Rondale Moore. Brown faked continuing his run inside before cutting it back outside, leaving Moore in the dust.

The most crucial block came at the Arizona 20-yard line when Kevin Byard chased down Wilson, the intended receiver on the interception. Byard used his left hand to shove Wilson off his tracks, just doing enough as the receiver was closing in on Brown.

The last 15 yards were smooth sailing for the rookie safety, who notched his first career interception and touchdown.

Brown's interception returned for a touchdown tied the fourth-longest interception return (99 yards) in Eagles history. Malcolm Jenkins (2015 at Patriots) and Jerry Norton (1957 vs. Giants) are the other Eagles with 99-yard interceptions, both resulting in touchdowns.

Even after his big play, Brown only cared about getting the win, something his team was unable to do at home.

"It just wasn't enough to help the team win, and that was the frustrating part," Brown said. – Written by Owen Boyle

News and notes from the game

• With D'Andre Swift reaching 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career (1,049), the Eagles have two 1,000-yard receivers (A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith) and a 1,000-yard rusher in the same season for the second year in a row.

The Eagles have featured 1,000-yard rushers in back-to-back seasons (Miles Sanders in 2022) for the first time since 2013-14 (LeSean McCoy).

Swift, a Philadelphia native who was acquired in a draft-day trade from the Lions, is not focused on the individual accolades following Sunday's defeat.

"For sure, got to find ways to get better," Swift said. "Get back to work."

• With a 16-yard reception during Philadelphia's second drive, A.J. Brown moved into second place on the franchise's single-season receiving yards list, trailing only himself in 2022 (1,496).

Brown reached 1,410 receiving yards in his 16th game of the season, breaking the previous 16-game record that was established by Mike Quick in 1983 (1,409). Last year, Brown moved past Quick during the 17th and final regular-season game.

• Julio Jones hauled in a pair of receiving TDs during the first half, marking his 14th career game with multiple TDs (first such performance since 2020 at Minnesota with Atlanta).

At 34 years old, Jones became the oldest Eagle with 2+ receiving TDs in a game since Irving Fryar at Jacksonville in 1997 (35 years old). Jones also became just the fourth Eagle aged 34-or-older since 1950 to register multiple receiving TDs in a game, joining Fryar, Pete Retzlaff, and Jack Ferrante in that category.

• Jalen Carter sacked Cardinals QB Kyler Murray for a 4-yard loss on second-and-3 during the second quarter on the play that preceded Sydney Brown's 99-yard INT-TD.

Carter is tied with Derrick Burgess in 2001 (6.0) for the second-most sacks by an Eagles rookie since 1982, trailing only Corey Simon in 2000 (9.5).

• Fletcher Cox tied David Akers (188, 1999-2010) for the 3rd-most regular-season games played in Eagles history, behind Brandon Graham (194) and Jason Kelce (192) in that category.

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