Maybe both were playing the media-relations game, trying to say the right thing at this time of despair. The Eagles lost to the Arizona Cardinals, an absolutely lowly team that entered the game 2-6, by a 21-17 score on Sunday that should not have been as close as the final score.
The Eagles were outplayed by backup quarterback John Skelton, who threw 3 touchdowns. They were outcoached by Arizona's staff, which created favorable matchups at critical times. They were out-passioned by a Cardinals team that had nothing to play for, yet still played harder and tougher than an Eagles team with a season on the line.
It was one of the most disappointing performances of the year, and every player and every coach was a goat. They know it. The very lovely fall day at Lincoln Financial Field began with the news that wide receiver DeSean Jackson would be inactive for the game after missing a meeting on Saturday and that, as the news leaked more, that Jackson wouldn't even be in the stadium for the game.
Jackson, in his contract year, would have been a key part of the offense in this game as the Eagles tried to exploit an Arizona defense that was just not very good at all though the first half of the season. There was the thought that the Eagles could go deep on Arizona and beat the defense vertically with Jackson busting out against the Cardinals pass defense.
Without Jackson, the Eagles came out sluggish. They were terrible throughout the game offensively, but they led 7-0 thanks to a Samuel interception and return for a touchdown. There was no way this "good" team would lose a lead to Arizona, right?
Wrong. The Eagles did, in so many ways. They couldn't hold a lead at 7-0, at 14-7, at 17-14. They couldn't hold a lead because they haven't held a lead all season, because the offense was 1 of 3 in the red zone, because quarterback Michael Vick was inaccurate throughout the game, because the receivers dropped six passes, because the defense couldn't contain Larry Fitzgerald, who had 7 catches, 146 yards and 2 touchdowns, and because this team is not, as it stands at 3-6, a "good" team.
Want to experience some misery? Look at all of the errors the Eagles made. Let's discuss a few now from a loss that threatens to blow this whole thing up. The playoffs are a near-impossible thought at this point. The Eagles are 3-6 heading into a nationally-televised game at the Giants on Sunday night.
Anyway, the low moments were many in the worst loss of the season. Here are some of the reasons the Eagles lost ...
- They committed a staggering 11 penalties for 97 yards. That's remarkable. The worst may have been a neutral-zone infraction against cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on a third down in the fourth quarter. It was third and 10 and the Eagles led, 14-7. Asomugha moved up to line up over Fitzgerald, but was so far past the safety point it was ridiculous. Skelton had his pass knocked down, but the Cardinals stayed alive with the penalty, and then converted on third and 5. A couple of minutes later, Skelton threw his second touchdown pass of the game to Fitzgerald.
- Vick was just dreadful, completing just 16 of 34 passes for 128 yards and 2 interceptions. He missed tight end Brent Celek on a wide-open play down the right sideline in the first quarter that may have scored, and he threw an interception into the chest of defensive end Calais Campbell in the third quarter in another red-zone turnover. Vick missed open receivers, threw late and too, once again, too many hits. He never got into a rhythm and continued his season of too many turnovers and too many missed opportunities.
- The receivers didn't help, either. There were six (unofficially) dropped passes. Without Jackson, the Eagles didn't attack vertically. Jeremy Maclin had 2 catches for 6 yards when he wasn't battling a shoulder injury and a hamstring injury. Jason Avant had 1 catch. Steve Smith, whom we all cheered when the Eagles signed him in the off-season, dropped a few passes and then committed the mistake of catching a pass on a third-and-20 play and then diving to the ground 2 yards short of the first down, rather than inviting punishment and doing everything possible to gain the first down. Smith made the catch, ran laterally, danced for a moment and then hit the turf. Remarkable. Why not dive for the sticks? Why not take the hit and do everything possible to make the first down?
- The Eagles weren't able to contain Fitzgerald because they again refused to match up Asomugha against the best receiver on the field. The Cardinals moved Fitzgerald all around the formation and got him into good matchups. On a critical third and 10 from the Philadelphia 38-yard line with 2 minutes, 55 seconds to go in the game, Fitzgerald ran a deep route against rookie safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and layed out to catch Skelton's pass. He made the grab and came down at the 1-yard line. Great play by the Cardinals, who caught the Eagles in zone coverage and went to their best player. Samuel was in coverage underneath and then passed Fitzgerald off to Jarrett, who was a step behind Fitzgerald.
- After a couple of good stops by the defense after Fitzgerald's catch, the Cardinals scored the winning points on Skelton's pass to early Doucet, who caught the ball at the 4-yard line. Safety Kurt Coleman had a shot at Doucet, a clean shot, and whiffed on the tackle and Doucet scored the touchdown. Painful.
- Of course, earlier in the drive the Eagles could have been off the field. Jamar Chaney had just registered a sack to put Arizona in a third-and-19 hole. But then Skelton moved away from pressure and flipped a pass to Chester Taylor in the open field and Taylor gained 17 yards. Instead of punting, Arizona went for it on fourth and 2. And the Cardinals got a great matchup, using quick running back LaRod Stephens-Howling on a circle route against Chaney. It was an easy throw for Skelton, and the pitch and catch gained 30 yards.
- The Eagles were just awful on third downs, converting 3 of 15 opportunities.
- Why didn't McCoy get more than 14 carries (he had 81 yards and a touchdown)? Easy. The Cardinals played eight men in the box with a single safety high. You have to pass when you see eight men in the box. What it meant, of course, is that the Cardinals had absolutely no fear of Vick or of the Eagles' passing attack. Vick played poorly. The receivers were terrible. The offense gained a paltry 289 total net yards and scored 10 points. Ten lousy points.
As a result, the Eagles lost for the seventh time in their last eight games at Lincoln Financial Field and any playoff hopes faded to near invisible. This team is in deep, deep trouble. There are no answers at this point, and no real conclusions other than this: The Eagles are not a good team. They are a 3-6 team after losing in embarrassing fashion to a lousy Arizona team.