Mercury Morris is happy.
As one of the remaining members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, Morris has become the face of the National Football League’s only undefeated Super Bowl champions. Some years ago, Morris and his teammates began cracking open a bottle of champagne after the last unbeaten NFL team loses its first game each year.
Thanks to a meltdown earlier in the day by the San Francisco 49ers, the Eagles had the honor of hearing the corks popping in South Florida. The Eagles lost in the final minutes to the New York Jets, 20-14. To make matters worse, the Eagles had never lost to the Jets in league history.
For all intents and purposes, the season starts now. With the folly of chasing an unbeaten season over, the Eagles need to bear down on finding a way back to the Super Bowl. That task resumes Sunday night against the Dolphins, oddly enough.
The Eagles didn’t just lose to the Jets, they earned it. The fact that the Eagles still nearly won despite four turnovers only makes it worse.
Dallas Goedert saw a pass slapped out of his hands and into the arms of Jets lineman Quinnen Williams. D’Andre Swift had the football punched away from him on one of the few positive runs the Eagles managed. Another interception materialized when Jalen Hurts was hit on a throw. Finally, with the Eagles attempting to close out a win in the final two minutes, Hurts threw his third interception.
The Eagles were less than two minutes away from their sixth win of the season and everything fell apart. It was bound to happen.
The reality, though, is more concerning.
Every issue that didn’t quite cost the team a loss earlier in the season showed up in force in the Meadowlands.
The offense couldn’t get its act together. Even a game-opening 19-play touchdown drive needed a second and third look on replay before Hurts was ruled in the end zone for a score.
The Eagles took a 14-3 lead and never scored again. Heck, even Jake Elliott missed a field goal.
The Eagles were badly unbalanced offensively with 45 passes and 22 runs, which includes eight by Hurts. As good as Hurts is and has been, that’s too much reliance on the Eagles QB making plays. The Eagles have way too much talent to have to ask Hurts to do so much.
After three turnovers that weren’t Hurts’ fault, the quarterback finally overstepped things trying to make a play at the end, to disastrous results. The final interception was his fault.
The fact that he had to make a play that late in the game falls on coach Nick Sirianni and his game plan.
The defense got to Jets quarterback Zach Wilson five times but never forced a turnover. The Jets scored on five of their 11 possessions. That’s despite the fact that New York was playing without its top three defensive backs.
That’s just what happened on the field. Off the field, the Eagles entered the game with their own injury issues. Jalen Carter, Darius Slay and Sidney Brown were inactive. Throughout the game, that list grew and grew.
Lane Johnson left with an ankle injury. Reed Blankenship left with a rib injury. Bradley Roby didn’t finish the game. Milton Williams missed time. The Eagles’ amazing injury luck from last season has officially flipped.
That the team had a chance to win with as many makeshift lineups as they put on the field is almost a miracle.
The Eagles were never going to win all 17 games. More than four cases of empty champagne bottles in Miami are proof enough of that. Now that the first loss is out of the way, the season starts now.
“That’s just the mentality,” Hurts said, in his post-game news conference. “I’m not going to sit here and say we’ve been here before or anything like that, but we have. I think it’s just a matter of how we respond. It starts with me and how I lead that charge.”