Fletcher Cox sat at his locker long after the game had ended in disappointing fashion for the Eagles, a 27-24 downer to the visiting Detroit Lions on a day when the Eagles stumbled (seven dropped passes), fumbled (three total, two lost, leading to six Detroit points), bumbled at times (allowing a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, three penalties for offensive pass interference), and wondered how in the world this football team, one everybody thought had a chance to come roaring out of the gates to start the 2019 regular season, was 1-2 after three games.
“Any loss is difficult,” Cox said, “especially the way we lost today.”
The Eagles aren’t going to wallow in the loss because, simply, they don’t have time with a Thursday night game at Green Bay ahead. The Eagles lost on Sunday because they did a poor job taking care of the football – losing the turnover battle 2-0 – because they dropped all of those passes, including what would have been an easy touchdown for tight end Dallas Goedert and later one that would have given the Eagles a first down inside the Detroit 10-yard line that wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside couldn’t bring in, and because they didn’t sustain the moments in the game where they had momentum, like when they allowed a Jamal Agnew 100-yard kickoff return after taking a 3-0 lead, then in the second quarter when Detroit used 13 plays to drive 75 yards for a touchdown after the Eagles took a 10-7 advantage, and then on the first play of the fourth quarter when a Matthew Stafford 12-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones put the finishing touches a nine-play, 75-yard drive immediately after the Eagles scored a touchdown to reduce Detroit’s lead to 20-17.
Until the Eagles reduce, significantly, the self-inflicted wounds and gain a killer instinct, it’s going to be a struggle to win games and get on a hot streak.
“Every game is going to be close in this league and you have to find ways to win these kinds of games,” said safety Malcolm Jenkins, who blocked a 46-yard field goal attempt with 1:53 remaining in the game and Rasul Douglas returned it to the Detroit 40-yard line (Jenkins was penalized for a block in the back, moving the ball to the 50-yard line). The Eagles had two timeouts remaining and plenty of time left on the clock. All they needed was a first down or two to get into Jake Elliott field goal territory. Instead, they got nothing. Carson Wentz threw incomplete for tight end Zach Ertz on the first snap. Then he couldn’t get the ball to wide receiver Mack Hollins over the middle on second down. A completion to Nelson Agholor gained five yards on third down, and a 25-yard pass to Darren Sproles was negated by an offensive pass interference penalty.
On fourth-and-15, Wentz threw deep to Arcega-Whiteside, but the rookie failed to make the grab and the Eagles, as they had a week earlier in Atlanta, couldn’t retake the lead.
“It just comes down to execution,” said tight end Zach Ertz, who had four catches for 74 yards as Detroit spent most of the day covering him with two defenders. “We have spurts of really good football and then spurts of terrible football. A lot of the time, it’s self-inflicted. The turnovers and penalties today were obviously killers. We just have to play 60 minutes as a team in all three phases.
“We could be a really good football team. We just have to show it.”
Rookie running back Miles Sanders fumbled twice in the second quarter, losing one, and Agholor turned the ball over on a fumble as Detroit took a 10-point lead into halftime after winning the second quarter, 13-0. The Eagles came out and scored early, a Jake Elliott field goal marked the team’s first opening-possession points of the season, and then Jordan Howard capped a 75-yard drive in the first quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Ten points in the first quarter!!! Finally, the first-quarter draught was over!!
But each time the Eagles scored on this day until late in the fourth quarter, Detroit put points on the board on the very next drive. The Eagles once again couldn’t get to the quarterback – Stafford was a modest, but efficient, 18-of-32 passing for 201 yards and a touchdown – and the Lions converted 6 of 14 third downs. It didn’t help that the Eagles coughed up the two fumbles, leading to six Detroit points.
At the end of the rough day, those points were gold for the 2-0-1 Lions.
“Untimely penalties, fumbles, drive killers on offense that kept us from scoring,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Kickoff return for a touchdown, defense not getting off the field on third down, some key third downs – there is enough to go around. Can’t just point your finger to one thing.
“It’s going to be a challenge. It’s a challenge but we’re excited for it and looking forward to the opportunity. We just have to go to work tomorrow.”
There is no rest for the Eagles, who play at Green Bay on Thursday night. Still uncertain is the playing status of wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery given their injuries, and tight end Dallas Goedert saw limited action – second half only – on Sunday as he returns from a calf injury.
The Eagle have put themselves in a tough spot and they have no option other than to get ready for the 3-0 Packers.
“It’s only as tough as we make it,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “We’re 1-2 and it’s only as tough as we make it at this point. “We have a quick turnaround, so we can’t walk around all week feeling sorry for ourselves, because Green Bay is not going to feel sorry for us. We have to go out there and we’ve got to win on the road. That’s something we haven’t done this year.”