Mistakes Prove Costly as Lions Edge Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The attrition wasn't necessarily the problem for the Eagles on Sunday, the mistakes were.
A pair of fumbles in the second quarter and a number of dropped passes -- including a bomb to rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the waning seconds -- by Philadelphia was the difference as the Detroit Lions edged the Eagles 27-24.
Philadelphia found itself on the wrong side of the scoreboard despite outgaining the Lions 373-288 without their top two receivers in Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson.
Malcolm Jenkins blocked a 46-yard Matt Prater field-goal attempt inside of two minutes remaining in the game, giving the Eagles one last chance to pull off a miracle.
"It's something I know [special teams coach Dave] Fipp does a great job with our special teams and detailing small things and we thought we had a chance on that so we [set] it up the whole day and then once he finally gave the rush call right there at the end, they did exactly what we thought they would do," Jenkins explained. "There was a little bit of space and we were able to get through the gap."
After a 4th-and-5 conversion which would on a deep sideline throw to Darren Sproles was called back for Philadelphia's third offensive pass interference penalty in the game.
The ensuing 4th-and-15 was essentially a 50-50 ball to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside deep down the middle of the field and the rookie failed to come up with the football over the extended arms of Lions cornerback Rashaan Melvin as the Detroit escaped to stay unbeaten at 2-0-1 on the young season.
"We're going to go win it," Lane Johnson said when asked what the team was thinking after Jenkins' block. "That's always been our mantra. Anytime you get in that situation you can feel the momentum was on our side. We go out there and we don't covert. Game's over. It's tough."
Without three of his top weapons -- Jeffery, Jackon and the very limited Dallas Goedert, who dropped an easy touchdown pass in the game -- Carson Wentz finished 19-of-36 for 259 yards with two touchdowns and a 94.6 passer rating.
His top threat, though, was running back Miles Sanders, who amassed two catches for 73 yards, one that went for 40 and another for 33.
Bumped up to the No. 1 receiver spot you got the full Nelson Agholor experience, brilliance at times and ineptness at others with eight catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns, including a brilliant spinning 20-yard masterpiece as well as an egregious drop on third down and a fumble that set up a Lions FG after a long Darius Slay return.
The running game continued to be an issue with Sanders being the lead back and piling up 53 yards on 13 carries but he also fumbled twice, losing one, a problem that also plagued him in college at Penn State. Jordan Howard got more work but slowed after a decent start with 37 yards on 13 totes.
"I just have to put it behind me and keep going," Sanders said. "it's a long season. I'll continue to grow."
Mack Hollins was solid at receiver with four catches for 62 yards but was called for two OPIs and doesn't understand what he can get away with down the field as a young player. Arcega-Whiteside struggled as a whole, amassing just one reception.
The defense struggled to generate a consistent pass rush again and did not sack Matthew Stafford while Ronald Darby left the game at halftime with a hamstring injury after struggling for the third consecutive week.
"I know how the sacks go," Brandon Graham lamented. "Right now we just let people say what they're going to say. We just have to keep working. It's a long season and you never know how stuff ends."
"We're not getting to the quarterback, especially me," Fletcher Cox added. "I'm not getting there quick enough. We have to do a better job as a group."
Marvin Jones gave the Eagles' secondary fits with his pristine route running, getting loose for six catches for 101 yards and a TD.
"That's just what I do," Jones said. "Whenever that thing is up in the air, I don't hear anything. It's just me and the ball. That's what we have to do at the wide receiver position."
The Eagles now face a short week in front of a Thursday night matchup in Green Bay with the 3-0 Packers.
"Being 1-2 right now is not ideal," tight end Zach Ertz admitted who passed Pete Retzlaff for No. 2 of the Eagles' all-time career receptions list. "We just have to find a way to win on Thursday against a really good football team."
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The Philadelphia Run Defense - It's not sexy and often lost in the chicken-and-egg debate between the Eagles pass rush and secondary breakdowns but it's again virtually impossible to run against this front even without defensive tackles Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan. Detroit ran for just 86 yards on 28 carries but 44 of that came on a gimmick reverse to J.D. McKissic, meaning the 27 other attempts mustered only 42 yards and Matt Patricia banging his head against the wall and trying to run Kerryon Johnson up the middle on consecutive occasions late helped give Philadelphia more chances to steal things.
"Yeah, they're pretty stout," Johnson admitted. "We knew that going in. We knew it was going to be some tough yards."
WR Mack Hollins - It's hard to say it's successful when you get called for two OPIs and a third is nullified but Hollins showed some better route-running skills than advertised and with more experience will come the subtleness not to get flagged. The Eagles will be thrilled to death when Jeffery and Jackson but Hollins has certainly moved ahead of Arcega-Whiteside as the fourth WR.
CB Rasul Douglas - While Darby and Sidney Jones were getting turned like tops by Marvin Jones, Douglas quietly played a solid game and held up pretty well at right cornerback.
WR Nelson Agholor - Ill-suited as a WR1 to begin with Agholor just can't seem to get out of his own head, dropping a pass that would have been a third-down conversion and then fumbling after trying to get upfield too quickly, something that resulted in a 38-yard return by Darius Slay and ultimately a Matt Prater field goal. He redeemed himself with two TDs -- one of which was brilliant -- but the consistency is still not there in year 5, a troubling narrative.
LT Jason Peters - It was close to 90 degrees in South Philadelphia on Sunday and Peters tapped out with an illness resulting in rookie Andre Dillard getting an opportunity before he hurt his knee. By the time the shuffling was done, it was jack of all trades Halapoulivaati Vaitai holding down the fort.
CB Ronald Darby - The CB's early-season struggled continued in Week 3 especially against the surgical Marvin Jones, who created too much separation with excellent route running.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen