The Eagles had a chance to get back to .500 on Sunday. They were playing the Redskins and this just felt like a game the Eagles should win. They overcame a tough start and erased a 13-0 deficit, eventually taking a 20-16 lead. All seemed right with the world.
Just go win the game and 0-2 would be a distant memory. It was all there for the taking. Unfortunately, the Eagles reverted to their 2015 form and started making mistakes. There were two crucial dropped passes. Then the defense let Washington drive 90 yards for the winning touchdown.
Football season rarely goes as expected. The Eagles, who built up a lot of hype in the summer, haven't quite figured things out this season. Chip Kelly says the team just isn't executing right now. He's right. Sunday was another mistake-filled day. It wasn't just one unit. It wasn't just one player. This was a group effort, with various players taking turns.
What made the outcome so frustrating is that the Eagles looked so good for parts of the game. People have waited all year to see Sam Bradford take the offense vertical. He did that on Sunday, hitting Riley Cooper for a 62-yard touchdown and Miles Austin for a 39-yard score. There was a 45-yard pass to Nelson Agholor and a 30-yard gain to Jordan Matthews. The touchdowns were simple catches. Matthews and Agholor made impressive grabs for their big gainers.
It was great to see the wide receivers becoming a bigger part of the offense. Those guys can be playmakers, but Bradford has to get them the ball. Receivers accounted for 10 catches and delivered some big plays. The running backs were too quiet, though, accounting for only 85 total yards. One of these days the Eagles need to get a good game from everyone at the same time.
Bradford looked different in this game than any time the rest of the year. He was aggressive with his passes. You want a quarterback to take what the defense gives him, but he does have to take some chances. The throw to Matthews down the seam was a great example. Matthews was kind of open, but it was a very tight window. Bradford put the ball up over the defender and give his receiver a chance to make a play. Matthews did just that, going up for the ball and then taking a big hit as he came down. Bradford had a 14-yard scramble. That was good to see. He also played with emotion. This is the Sam Bradford we've wanted to see all year.
The offensive line was up and down. There were times when they just got pushed around, but there was also a long stretch in the game when they played well, despite the fact Jason Peters got hurt. That forced Matt Tobin to left tackle and Dennis Kelly to right guard. When Washington knew the Eagles had to throw on the final series, the line could not hold up and that sealed the game.
The Eagles defense also had some real bad luck with injuries. The line was missing Taylor Hart and Cedric Thornton to start with and then Brandon Bair got hurt in the first half. That left Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Beau Allen and Vinny Curry to play up front. On the final drive, they knew Washington was mostly going to throw, but not being able to put in fresh legs really hurt the Eagles. Normally you rotate guys every three or four plays. That final drive was 15 plays and there just weren't fresh bodies to put in the game.
Washington had no run game. The defense did a great job of clogging the running lanes. Alfred Morris and Matt Jones, red-hot runners, combined to have 24 carries for just 73 yards. Unfortunately the Eagles pass defense wasn't as good. Cornerback Byron Maxwell got hurt and that forced Eric Rowe into action. The Redskins threw at him more than a few times. It wasn't big plays that hurt the Eagles. Kirk Cousins threw the ball short to medium all game long and kept the chains moving.
No defender could come up with a big play on that final drive. The rush wasn't there. The coverage was a bit too loose. Cousins just kept finding the open guy and moving them down the field. Jim Johnson used to believe that the offense is going to make some key mistake on a long drive that will help the defense out. That didn't happen. Cousins thought he was Joe Montana. The winning touchdown pass was a great throw and catch. The Eagles weren't terrible. They just weren't good enough.
Special teams is normally a strength for the Eagles, but this was everyone's first chance to see kicker Caleb Sturgis in action. He missed a 33-yard kick late in the half that would have been huge. He also missed an extra point. Obviously, you don't know how things would have played out, but those points were the difference in the game.
You don't put this loss all on Sturgis. Bradford didn't play well in the first half. Darren Sproles had a huge drop in the fourth quarter. So did Matthews. The line missed plenty of blocks. The defense couldn't come up with third down stops in a number of key situations. This was a team loss.
If Bradford can build on how he played in the second half, then some good can come from this game. He needs to bring that aggressiveness and emotion to the next game. The defense will get healthier this week and that will help quite a bit. Sturgis was fine after the first two misses. Let's hope that was just him shaking off the rust. If the Eagles are going to turn their season around, it will be the guys already in the locker room. They have to find a way to get the job done.