McMullen’s Quick Hits: Dolphins Rally to Edge Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - What looked like an easy one early turned into anything but as the Eagles lost their starting quarterback and the game to an undisciplined Miami Dolphins bunch, 20-19.
The Dolphins scored 17 straight points to take the lead in the game, the last coming off an improbably Connor Barwin deflection that landed into the arms of Jarvis Landry for a 4-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, a potential game-winning Philadelphia drive was usurped by Dolphins' safety Reshad Jones, who intercepted a Mark Sanchez pass in the end zone with 4 1/2 minutes remaining.
"It was big," left tackle Lane Johnson said of the loss. "I felt like we had this game won. We let it slip out of our fingers. That was the toughest part about it."
Sam Bradford injured his left shoulder and sustained a concussion on a devastating hit by linebacker Chris McCain in the third quarter and never returned, although X-rays were negative ruling out a broken clavicle and likely pointing to a AC-joint sprain..
The tempo actually picked up with Sanchez in the game despite the fact he and the receivers weren't always on the same page and the veteran backup has the Eagles at the Dolphins 8-yard line late in the fourth quarter when Jones undercut a poorly run Miles Austin route to save the day and halt a two-game skid for Miami.
The Eagles were leading 16-3 early when former Dolphin Caleb Sturgis misfired on a 32-yard field goal which shifted momentum toward the Dolphins.
Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill found Rishard Matthews for 43 yards down to Philadelphia's 8 before Barwin nearly created a turnover which instead turned into the Landry game-winner.
"It was a crazy play," Matthews said of Landry's catch. "All I saw was the ball in the air. Then I looked down really quick and I saw him and I knew he was going to make a play on the ball. I am just glad he came down with it."
Bradford was very effective before leaving, finishing 19-of-25 for 236 yards and a TD with a 118.1 passer rating. Sanchez was 14-of-23 for 156 yards and the interception.
The running game wasn't there for Philadelphia again, amassing just 83 yards on 36 tries. DeMarco Murray ran it on 22 occasions for 61 yards while Ryan Mathews had just 18 yards on eight carries before leaving with a concussion.
"You expect to win the game," Murray said. "You expect the hard work you put in to carry over. They outplayed us today. We have to give credit to those guys. We have to look ourselves in the mirror and go from there."
Brent Celek was the star of the passing game with four receptions for 134 yards while Josh Huff caught a TD pass from Bradford.
Bradford was playing another solid game when he took the devastating hit late in the third quarter in what is almost sure to be a multi-week injury.
The QB controversy would have surely been ignited if Sanchez led the Eagles to victory but the fact that he threw the now trademarked red zone pick late will certainly be the narrative this week.
"It was a play action and I was coming over to the left side," Austin said. "You are supposed to expect the ball to always come your way. Their guy made a play."
That it was a lazy route by Austin will be lost in translation and the reality is, despite the loss, the Eagles offense looked more like an Eagles offense with Sanchez at the helm both with the tempo and the zone-read looks.
"You know how I feel about Mark," receiver Jordan Matthews said. "He is going to come in and give guys opportunities. He made a couple of plays out there. Now with a full week of preparation with the first team, he can come out and give us a great game against the Bucs."
That said Bradford was playing his third straight solid outing and was especially good in the first half, finishing 16-of-20 for 196 yards with a touchdown (124.2 rating) with the only black mark being missing a wide open Zach Ertz in the first quarter.
Jason Peters was scratched again at left tackle with a back injury and Johnson more than held his own on the left side for the second straight game which is certainly a positive development.
Others took a step back, however, as Jason Kelce continued his subpar year with two holding penalties -- although one was mitigated by offsetting calls -- and a bad shotgun snap.
Dennis Kelly, meanwhile, will get exposed at right tackle as he gets more snaps and that happened a bit today. Overall the offensive line got little push in the run game and allowed four sacks.
The Eagles defense continued to play well enough to win and Fletcher Cox set the tone up front with another performance worthy of his new "Mandog" nickname. The big man finished with five tackles, one-half sack, and three hurries as the Philadelphia defense just 289 yards, 99 on the ground and 190 through the air.
On a day two zebras got loose at the Philadelphia Zoo, the NFL's also had quite the conundrum when Bradford fumbled the football in the second quarter. On the field, the loose ball was ruled recovered by the Dolphins Olivier Vernon, who promptly fumbled it right back to the Eagles.
Normally, because of the double change of possession, the result of the play would be a first down Eagles at the dead-ball spot but Philadelphia also committed a holding foul before the fumble, so the Miami accepted the penalty to revert it back to third down.
However, the Dolphins also challenged whether they actually recovered the ball in the first place before the second fumble and referee Terry McAulay reversed the ruling, saying Miami never had possession during the play which made it 4th-and-27 at the Eagles 3 after the Fish then declined that holding penalty.
Got all that?
The one thing that wasn't clear is why Miami had to challenge because all turnovers are supposed to be reviewable. However, the accepted penalty negated the turnovers so no review was in order.
Forgotten tight end Brent Celek went for a 60-yard gain on Eagles' first play from scrimmage with the first of consistent crossing patterns off the bootleg or waggle.
The veteran tight end more than doubled his season total receiving yardage coming in and again proved why Philadelphia is a better team with 12 personnel (two tight ends) than 11 (three wide receivers).
Tannehill failed to recognize a Walter Thurmond blitz off the edge in the first quarter, resulting in a safety. It was the third straight game the opposition recorded a safety against the Dolphins, the first time since 1980 a team has allowed a safety in three straight contests.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen