Sunday night's heartbreaking 27-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers felt all too familiar. The defense came up with a handful of huge plays to give the offense opportunities to strike with a short field in front of them. Unfortunately, penalties and dropped balls thwarted the efforts of the offense and what could have been a solid performance by quarterback Sam Bradford.
After the game, head coach Chip Kelly expressed disappointment about several aspects of his team's performance, but also praised a couple others.
The Good: Sam Bradford ... The Bad: Dropped Passes
Against Carolina, Sam Bradford was able to orchestrate a few really nice sequences and toss some well-placed balls, but drops from his receivers held the offense back all night. Throughout the course of the game, roughly a half a dozen catchable balls were dropped, including one by Jordan Matthews that was tipped and intercepted by the Panthers in the first quarter and a few more that came during key third-down situations.
"I thought Sam threw it well and threw it with authority tonight, but the drops, you know, hurt big time. We've got to get an answer to that," Kelly said after the game. "I thought he put the ball on people. We just got to catch it and help him out."
The job of the former first overall pick was made even harder after starting left tackle Jason Peters was knocked out of the game due to lower back spasms in the first quarter. The Eagles were forced to move Matt Tobin, who has started each of the team's last four games at right guard, to left tackle and insert Dennis Kelly into the interior of the line.
The group held up decently after that point, but down the stretch the absence of the perennial All-Pro, Peters, became evident.
"I thought they were okay," Kelly said of the offensive line's performance. "Obviously at the end, we gave up critical (sacks) ... I think some of the things that have hurt us on the O-line is just procedural penalties that we have to get fixed."
The Good: The Takeaways ... The Bad: The Penalties
In every game since their season-opening loss to the Falcons, the Eagles have committed fewer penalties and been docked fewer resulting yards than their opponents. But on Sunday night, that streak was broken. Philadelphia was flagged seven times for 46 yards, compared to five times for 43 yards for the Panthers, but that modest differential doesn't tell the full story.
Carolina was not called for a single penalty on either side of the ball until after the two-minute warning of the first half, and during that time they were able to take advantage of a handful of miscues by the Eagles in that regard. After the game, Chip Kelly pointed to that issue as one of two that doomed his team's comeback effort.
"I go back to the drops and the penalties, (those) are the things we need to clean up if we want to be a successful football team," he said. "We had a drive going and then we get a hold. We had a real good punt and have them pinned down inside the 20, and then we get an unnecessary (roughness) penalty on the punt. And you can't do that against a good team like Carolina and expect to win."
The defense intercepted Cam Newton three times, with Nolan Carroll, Byron Maxwell, and Malcolm Jenkins each picking off a pass. But the Eagles failed to take advantage of those takeaways, scoring just six combined points off of them.
"We talk about response after turnovers, and we ended up kicking two field goals instead of (scoring touchdowns)," Kelly said. "Our defense did a good job of creating turnovers for us, but we need to turn those into seven not three."