You can’t hand away wins against inferior teams in the NFL without paying consequences down the road. That’s what the Eagles did Sunday. We’ll learn in December how that impacts their playoff chances.
It’s time to point fingers, and I’ve got a handful of them. Notice I aim none at the rookie QB. His game-ended interception was a mistake of Brett Favre-style bravado, but, overall, Kid Carson played his fourth excellent game in a row.
No, a winnable contest was lost because:
Ryan Mathews forgot football fundamentals. This is the most obvious gaffe, but also the most damaging. Every RB from high school up knows that you hold the ball in your outside hand so that if you fumble, it’s apt to tumble out of bounds.
Mathews didn’t. And he didn’t tuck the ball in and up to secure it. And he didn’t protect it with both arms. And he chose to fight for extra yardage when the wiser move was to go down and let Donnie Jones end the thing with a deep punt.
Mathews felt terrible about his error, saying afterward, “I f***ed up. I cost us.”
Jim Schwartz benched his best cover linebacker. Nigel Bradham mostly sat for the first half, as Detroit scored three TDs, including two on passes to a running back that Bradham should have been covering.
Why? There was a sense Bradham was being disciplined for his off-the-field shenanigans. But Coach Doug Pederson said afterward the only goal was to keep Bradham fresh for the second half. Curious strategy.
When Bradham finally played, the field tilted. The Lions offense averaged 6.2 yards per play in the first half, just 1.8 in the second. The Eagles had all four of their sacks and only turnover in the second half.
Mychal Kendricks stayed on the field. This is the flipside to Bradham sitting. Kendricks was a disaster in the nickel defense – and has been a disaster for a while now. He whiffed on tackles Sunday, failed to cover Eagle-killer Theo Riddick and disappeared from your TV screen on big plays that rumbled through his territory.
Back in 2014 it appeared Kendricks might become a nucleus player for the Birds. Now he just seems like a failed 2nd-round pick.
Nelson Agholor screwed up the final play. The game-ending interception was an underthrown pass, but it’s on the receiver to break it up if he can’t catch it. Agholor didn’t fight for the ball, or try to knock it down, or shove cornerback Darius Slay. He showed no awareness of the moment.
He also whiffed on a fade pattern earlier in the game. After four games, Agholor is on pace for 588 yards, not exactly the breakout season Eagles fans hoped for.
The refs were . . . pathetic. You were waiting for this one, right? Only losers blame the officiating, so I’ll preface this by asking you to re-read the first four factors. The Eagles created their own problems Sunday.
But Pete Morelli’s crew made it worse. They ignored holds by Detroit’s offensive line, assessed Darren Sproles with an impossible chop block and nailed Brandon Brooks with an invisible hold only because a Detroit LB begged for it. They whistled penalties against Eagles who weren’t even on the field.
The Eagles were hit for 111 yards on 14 penalties, the Lions for 18 yards on two. No objective observer would see that as just.
One more time: The refs were terrible. But the Eagles created most of their own problems. Now they must rebound against Washington.