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One Year Later, Eagles' Picture Different

DETROIT -- One year ago, the picture was a bright one for Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles, dramatically different from today's view after the Eagles absorbed a 45-14 loss to Detroit on Thursday. Thanksgiving Day, 2015. A high point in the Kelly Era as his Eagles shot past Dallas 33-10 to move to 9-3 atop the NFC East, setting up a stretch run that would be so meaningful for a team on the rise.

Instead of roaring through the month of December in 2014, the Eagles lost three consecutive games to fall out of the playoff picture. They ended the season with a win at New York, and then all heck broke loose.

You know what happened. You know how the Eagles restructured the front office, giving Kelly full control over personnel. You know how the Extreme Roster Makeover went down.

And now you see the Eagles, 4-7 after the drubbing in Detroit. It was another ugly outing in a season that has gone south in a hurry following the overtime win in Dallas that leveled the team's record at 4-4 and provided some hope that, after the early-season inconsistencies, the Eagles had found their launch point.

The loss was the Eagles' third in a row. Since holding a 16-3 lead against Miami two Sundays ago, a game the Eagles eventually lost 20-19, they have been outscored 107-34.

How has this happened?

What happens next?

"Whenever you are getting beaten this badly, it's always multiple people, it's always multiple things," center Jason Kelce said. "It's never just one guy, it's never just one person. That's just the reality of the fact. It takes a collective effort to get your butt whipped like this. At this point, 4-7, we're going to find out what this locker room is made of. We're going to find out which guys are all in and with each other and we're going to find out the cowards, quite frankly.

"We're going to find out the guys who give the anonymous reports. We're going to find out the guys who talk behind people's backs. We're going to find out the guys who throw people under the bus. Quite frankly, I think that's good because we're going to find out who's all in and who's not. It's very upsetting how this season has gone so far, but obviously it's not over yet."

There are five games remaining in this regular season. There is absolutely no margin for error, starting a week from Sunday as the Eagles travel to New England to play the mighty Patriots. It is a massive turnaround project as the Eagles have played so poorly in losses to some of the NFL's middling teams in Miami, Tampa Bay and Detroit, all of whom had sub-.500 records when they played Philadelphia.

In this moment, though, it's fair to wonder what has happened in these last 15 games, only five of which the Eagles have won. Offensive giveaways – eight in the final four games in 2014 – and missed opportunities doomed the Eagles last season as they suffered losses to Dallas and Seattle at home and Washington on the road.

This year, with a new quarterback in Sam Bradford, new running backs in DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, starting guards along the offensive line and a first-round draft pick in Nelson Agholor at wide receiver, the Eagles offense stumbled out of the gates. After a couple of strong games against New Orleans and New York, the offense has stagnated again. They've scored fewer than 20 points in six games, including four of the last five games. Only three times have the Eagles scored 27 or more points -- New Orleans and New York at home and Dallas on the road -- and all three of those games were victories.

There is no consistency in the running game. The offensive line has been plagued by injury and inconsistency. The passing game ranks among the worst in the NFL.

The defense, which ranked second in the NFL in takeaways through the first half of the season, has zero takeaways in the last three games. That coincides with the season-ending injury to talented rookie Jordan Hicks, but to blame the defensive freefall solely on Hicks' absence is not fair to the rest of the players or coaches. It's been a team effort.

The state of the team and of the franchise is vastly different from one year ago.

"I'm not thinking about it in those terms," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "I'm in the moment and I'm very disappointed."

The first drive of the game served as a microcosm for the Eagles' season to date. Quarterback Mark Sanchez, making his second start in place of Sam Bradford, who was inactive because of the shoulder injury suffered against Miami, ran the offense really well. Tons of tempo. Good action. The Eagles converted three third downs to move the football from their 20-yard line to the Detroit 28-yard line. The Lions' defense was on its heels.

On a third-and-7 play, Sanchez completed a throw to wide receiver Riley Cooper for 6 yards, and while not good enough for a first down, the play would have given the Eagles a fourth-and-1 situation to think about at the Detroit 19-yard line. Instead, the play was nullified as tackle Lane Johnson - by this time at left tackle with starter Jason Peters KO'd from the game after suffering a sprained ankle 10 snaps into the contest - was penalized for a face mask. The 15-yard penalty pushed the ball back to the Detroit 40-yard line. A completion to running back Darren Sproles gained 8 yards, giving placekicker Caleb Sturgis a shot at a 50-yard field goal.

Perfect snap. Perfect hold. And Sturgis' kick clanged off the right upright and bounced back onto the field. Detroit ball. Missed opportunity for the Eagles.

"Those kinds of things, those self-inflicted wounds, have happened to us all year," said Sanchez, who completed 19-of-27 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. He was pressured all day in the passing game and was sacked six times. The running game generated just 68 yards on 25 carries. DeMarco Murray was limited to 30 yards on 14 rushing attempts.

And the defense took a beating, allowing five Matthew Stafford touchdown passes. They've given up five scoring strikes in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history.

Where does it go from here?

"We have to figure it out, keep playing. Nobody is quitting. Nobody feels sorry for us," linebacker Connor Barwin said. "We have jobs to do. It's on each individual. All we can do is fight and correct our mistakes and get better on every single play."

It's been a wild ride in exactly one calendar year. Three hundred and sixty-four days ago the Eagles were 9-3 and anything seemed possible for a team surely headed for the playoffs. Now? The Eagles have a lot of pieces to pick up, a lot of corrections to be made, a lot of questions that have no answers at this very moment.

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