For the first time in his NFL starting life, quarterback Jalen Hurts had "rookie" moments on Sunday in a 37-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. He committed three turnovers, all of them in the fourth quarter and all of them in Dallas territory, and was unable to get the offense back on track after a hot start that cooled quickly in the second quarter.
The loss ended the Eagles' chances of playing for the NFC East title on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field against the Washington Football Team. Instead, the season ends on January 3.
"I think it's a big-time learning experience, a lot to learn from this game," said Hurts, who completed 21 of 39 passes for 342 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He added 69 rushing yards on nine attempts but lost a fumble in Dallas territory in the fourth quarter. "It's something I've got to step away from it, evaluate everything, and learn from it. You've got to go out there and make the plays when the opportunity presents itself. It's something that I take complete ownership on. Those guys believe in me to go get it done and I take it very personally in getting it done and today I came up short."
Hurts and the offense started out on fire, driving 75 yards in 11 plays and scoring on a Miles Sanders 4-yard run. After Dallas responded with a field goal, Hurts and wide receiver DeSean Jackson hooked up on an 81-yard touchdown play and as Jackson – who was not targeted again in the game – somersaulted into the end zone, the level of excitement was obvious that the offense would continue to dominate.
But that didn't happen. In fact, the opposite happened as Hurts was pressured – he was sacked three times – and drives stalled. The Eagles had six false start penalties and played behind the sticks after the first quarter.
"We kind of got stagnant," Hurts said. "Great opportunities to put points on the board and we always talk about controlling what we can and those opportunities right there are perfect opportunities to go out and score points. We shot ourselves in the foot, kind of stopped ourselves with a lack of execution, so it's a lot to learn from, a lot to learn from on my end, and, as a group, we'll be better from this."
Hurts took some shots and he said he was "nicked up a little bit" in the second quarter, but he didn't use that as an excuse. The Eagles simply didn't sustain what they started. They committed six false start penalties, one delay of game penalty, and one holding penalty on offense – as a team, the Eagles committed a total of 12 penalties, losing 115 yards.
It was sloppy, and by the fourth quarter Hurts was pressing to make a miraculous comeback and he uncharacteristically threw the two interceptions and lost a fumble. Hurts thinks, again, the offense "left money on the table" and couldn't overcome all of the mistakes.
"That failure teaches you a lesson and that pain does nothing but motivate you," Hurts said. "That pain is going to continue to motivate me and I'm going to be better for it."
What happened to the offense after the great start? Hurts said it was more of a matter that the Eagles didn't execute the offense, rather than anything the Cowboys did. But Dallas had three sacks and pressured Hurts a lot, mixed up coverages in the passing game, and made the Eagles play behind the sticks.
Adding everything up, the Eagles just went flat after a great start. They gained seven first downs on the opening drive and then gained only nine in quarters two and three combined, when the momentum swung in the Cowboys' favor. In the fourth quarter, the giveaways destroyed any chances the Eagles had to make a season-saving comeback.