GLENDALE, Ariz. – As if you haven't heard this before: The Eagles played a football game on Sunday and couldn't avoid giving the football away. Against the Cardinals, unlike in the first two games, the Eagles couldn't overcome their stumbles in a 27-6 loss.
An impotent offensive start and poor first defensive series led to a 3-0 Arizona lead and then Damaris Johnson ruined what had been an electrifying 12-yard punt return by fumbling the ball away to Arizona at the Philadelphia 38-yard line, setting up the Cardinals late in the first quarter.
Arizona used 8 plays to drive the 38 yards, scoring on a Kevin Kolb pass that was deflected and nearly intercepted by linebacker DeMeco Ryans and instead bounced into the hands of wide receiver Michael Floyd for an 8-yard touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
Then, the Eagles had something going after a 34-yard Michael Vick completion to Brent Celek moved the ball into Arizona territory, but two plays later, Vick coughed up the football on a scramble and Arizona had the football, and field position, again.
It mattered because the Eagles had a three-and-out offensive series the next time they had the ball and Chas Henry punted out of his own end zone and Arizona again had great field position. Three plays later, Kolb went over the top to Larry Fitzgerald for a 37-yard touchdown and Arizona led 17-0.
The worst turnover was the one that ended the first half, when on a third-and-goal snap with 6 seconds left on the clock, Vick was sacked on a vicious blindside hit by safety Kerry Rhodes, lost the ball and watched as James Sanders scooped it up and ran 93 yards down the left sideline for the score as Arizona took a 24-0 lead into halftime.
The Eagles now have 12 turnovers, by far a league high. They are minus-6 in the giveaway/takeaway category, one that generally indicates with great accuracy how many games a team wins.
What is the solution moving forward?
Head coach Andy Reid stuck to his "we need to put players in the best position to make plays" stance, but it has to be more than that. Are the players trying to do too much? Is it just bad luck?
"I don't know what it is," said tight end Brent Celek, "but I know that if we want to be a good team, a great team, we can't turn the ball over. We're three games into the season. If you look at it from the standpoint that we have so many turnovers, yeah, it's alarming. We have to get it better right away."
Even with an offense working with a line playing together for the first time – Demetress Bell started at left tackle and Dallas Reynolds started at center – and operating without wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles seemed to change very little about their offensive approach. They took some shots down the field. They used play action. They rolled Vick out one way and tried to throw back the other way.
Nothing worked. The Cardinals effectively blitzed Vick and forced a slew of hurried throws.
"It's a mindset, turning the ball over," said running back LeSean McCoy, who had 13 carries and 2 receptions. "We have to have better ball security and we have to be more aware that teams are going to try to take the ball away from us. We're losing it too many times."
On this Sunday, unlike the previous two, the Eagles couldn't overcome their errors. If there is a bright side, it's that they turned the ball over 5 times in Cleveland, 4 times against Baltimore and then 3 times in Arizona. Maybe the team is trending in the right direction.
"If we do that against the Giants," said Celek, "they're going to take advantage. We have to get it straightened out right now."