One of the most perplexing parts of Sunday’s 31-15 playoff loss was the mysterious absence of top receiver DeVonta Smith. He was benched – figuratively, not literally – by Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni until late in the first half.
Smith didn’t see his first target until 1:15 was left in the second quarter, then that play was wiped out by a holding call. Two seconds later, he recorded his first reception on a six-yard completion from Jalen Hurts. He was the intended target on the next play, but Hurts’ pass was intercepted.
The Heisman Trophy winner finished with six grabs for 60 yards (11 targets, 66 snaps). All of them in garbage time, including an insane circus catch for a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter.
Why wasn’t he a bigger part of the gameplan? Sirianni took the blame while crediting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense for locking him up. The Eagles trailed 17-0 at halftime.
“You always want to get your playmakers going as early as you can but, again, the defense dictates some of that,” Sirianni said. “And the amount of plays we had dictated some of that. We really didn’t have a good drive until our third or fourth drive, maybe our fourth drive where it was a sustained drive.”
The Eagles had a 12-play, 46-yard drive on their fourth possession and notched three first downs. Smith wasn’t targeted once. The team turned the ball over on downs after Hurts missed Jalen Reagor on 4th-and-10.
“No doubt, that’s my job to get DeVonta going earlier because he’s a heck of a football player,” Sirianni said. “And, of course, we want to get him going and there’s different things that went into that. But I’ll accept that, that starts with me.”
The latest Eagles news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Eagles newsletter here!
Jalen Hurts Details Lingering Ankle Injury
Hurts wasn’t going to use a high ankle sprain as an excuse for underperforming on the biggest stage. That’s not in his nature. However, it was clearly bothering him as evidenced by the huge walking boot wrapped on his left leg after the game.
“I think we all know it’s something I’ve been battling with through these last stretch of games since I’ve been back,” Hurts said.
Hurts had his left ankle accidentally stepped on by teammate Boston Scott back on November 28 and only missed one game. He wasn’t 100% heading into the playoffs despite sitting out the regular-season finale. Again, not an excuse.
“Regardless of how I feel we didn’t play good enough today,” Hurts said. “I didn’t play good enough today.”
‘Nobody Likes This Feeling’
A mournful stench permeated the air in the Eagles’ locker room following the first postseason appearance of the Sirianni era.
Nobody liked anything about the lop-sided loss, prompting a mix of tears and regret during the post-game press conferences. Hurts promised to learn from it and never repeat that feeling.
“You never waste a mistake,” Hurts said. “Just learn from it. Nobody likes this feeling. And we’ll do the things we need to do to make sure we don’t have this feeling again.”