Fitzmagic Stuns Eagles
(973espn.com) - The unthinkable happened in Miami.
A defense that had been carrying the Eagles imploded against Ryan Fitzpatrick and the talent-challenged Miami Dolphins, who scored 23 consecutive points after falling behind by two touchdowns en route to a stunning 37-31 win in South Florida.
Fitzpatrick, one of the streakiest quarterbacks in the NFL, got hot and gouged the Philadelphia secondary for a season-high 365 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to DeVante Parker, who tortured Eagles cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills with his size and ability to high point the football.
"He had a day," Mills admitted when discussing Parker. "... I pride myself on playing a lot better. I didn't play my best game."
Parker finished seven receptions for a career-high 159 yards while former Penn State star Mike Gesicki also has one of his best games as a pro, snaring five catches for 79 yards and a TD.
"He's a good player," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said of Parker. "Our guys were in position. They'll take a look at the tape and see what they could have done better but credit to their quarterback and their receiver for making those plays."
Miami (3-9) also caught the Eagles on a trick play for the third consecutive week. This one a fourth-down circus from the 1-yard line where punter Matt Haack shoveled a no-look pass to kicker Jason Sanders from a completely spread formation in the second quarter.
The embattled Eagles offense looked much better while getting back receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor form injury but Carson Wentz still missed far too many throws and Zach Ertz, fighting through a hamstring injury, had two drops in the game.
Jeffery, returning from missing two games with an ankle injury, had his best game of the season with nine receptions for 137 yards and a score while Miles Sanders, the lead back with Jordan Howard missing another game with a shoulder injury, had 105 all-purpose yards -- a career-high 83 rushing and 22 more through the air, including a 15-yard TD in the first quarter.
Wentz was 28-of-46 for 310 yards with three TDs and an interception.
"It's a frustrating loss," Wentz admitted. "... at the end of the day, we're not making enough plays in critical situations to win ballgames."
The Eagles fell to 5-7 with the disappointing loss but still control their own destiny when it comes to winning the moribund NFC East. If Philadelphia wins out with four division games remaining -- a home and home against the New York Giants, at Washington and Week 16 against 6-6 Dallas at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles will win what is the NFL's worst division.
"That's the thing, as crazy as it is, I would say it's a long shot but we are not out of it," Pederson said. "We do have four of our division opponents coming up, and the guys have to understand that we are still fighting and coming to work this week and ready to go and try to figure this thing out."
Fitzpatrick also stunned the Eagles last season while with Tampa Bay and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz foreshadowed this possibility earlier in the week.
"‘Man, that's Fitzpatrick. He's 36 years old.’ He still has good mobility. He has a rifle for an arm. He has one of the best fastballs in the NFL and he can fit the ball into some tight windows," Schwartz insisted.
As for moving forward, Pederson acknowledged the emotional effect this setback could have on his team.
"I have got to make sure the team understands we've got to guard against that and [understand] we're still a good football team," Pederson assessed.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen