Well, it didn’t matter much for either team. But for the Philadelphia Eagles in the second half, it apparently mattered even less. After putting up a serviceable fight in the first half with their second-string starters, the Eagles folded to the first-team Dallas Cowboys 51-26 in a washout of a night that had most fans thinking about next week’s playoff matchup.
The highlights: Quarterback hipster Gardner Minshew was sharp early, connecting with a number of mid-range balls and keeping the offense snappy. Rookie running back Kenneth Gainwell, benefiting from his team sitting most of their deep, talented backfield, tore off a handful of great runs, showcasing both his speed and power.
But ultimately, this was a game too difficult to assess. Yes, the Eagles got smoked. But their second-string offense showed some spark. Led by the wiley Minshew, the Eagles put up points early and with ease. One wonders how the Eagles’ offensive receivers would have performed this season under a pure pocket quarterback like Minshew? Maybe better? Maybe worse? It’s a hypothetical question in which we’ll never get a satisfactory answer, but Minshew continues to intrigue. No doubt, the Washington State University alum drew attention from a wider audience this season in which he highlighted his accuracy in the pocket and infused his team with plucky aplomb.
Minshew remains either one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL, or the next likely starter for a rebuilding team looking to make some noise. He’s fun to watch. And if Eagles GM Howie Roseman decides to deal him in the off-season, (hopefully for a healthy price!) Philadelphia will feel a slight emotional sting from his absence.
That being said, the Eagles second-string defense looked bad. Really bad. Thankfully, the Eagles will march out a mostly different defense for their first playoff matchup next week. It’s a good thing, too. Because at times their defense resembled pre-season football, like you’re watching the first exhibition game in August in your Wildwood condo. It was that bad.
But none of this truly matters. Tonight was an exercise in performance. Next week is what really counts.
How will Jalen Hurts and Nick Sirianni handle the pressure of the playoffs? This week Sirianni sent 12 players into Covid protocol. Per the NFL rules, players are ineligible for Covid screenings 90 days after a positive test. Is Sirianni gaming the system, ensuring that Eagles starters remain ineligible for Covid testing during the playoffs?
Maybe so, maybe not. But isn’t that why we hired Sirianni in the first place, who resembles more an affable accountant than a grizzled head football coach? He might be the bridge between current football and post-modern football.
Sirianna has gone from sucker to savior in a classic Philadelphia story.
Next week’s playoff game will determine if we write his story in pencil or ink.