The Eagles' offense seemed to be in rhythm on Sunday after a 17-play, 94-yard drive that lasted 9:22 dominated the third quarter and ended with a touchdown to take a 17-0 lead.
But the Eagles hit a wall in the final 15 minutes on both sides of the ball. The offense ran just 10 plays in three fourth-quarter drives, only gaining 22 yards without help from a penalty. The first two drives ended in punts while the third resulted in a game-sealing fumble in the red zone.
It was a frustrating end for the offense as the Panthers were efficient with their opportunities and won the game 21-17. On Tuesday, center Jason Kelce didn't hold back his frustration with how the game unfolded and how the offense should go forward.
"Obviously, there's a sense of urgency," Kelce said. "Everyone's really upset at the last game, we had one of the worst closing quarters that I've ever been a part of for sure. Obviously, everybody's very embarrassed with the outcome. The reality is, offensively, we had numerous times to put that team out of their misery and numerous examples in the red zone to get touchdowns."
Two first-half drives for the Eagles ended with field goal attempts deep into Carolina territory. The first was a missed 35-yard kick by Jake Elliott and the second was a 45-yarder that made the score 10-0 in the second quarter. The Eagles' third red zone trip was their final drive.
Last season, the Eagles were among the NFL's best in turning red zone opportunities into touchdowns. This year, they are 17th in league with a touchdown efficiency of 55.2 percent.
"If you really look at the four losses we've had this year, outside of maybe Tampa Bay, if we get one more touchdown per game, we're winning all of these games," Kelce said. "Our failure to execute in the red zone, our failure to put the ball in the end zone, our failure to come away with points, turnovers, penalties, all of these things have culminated into making these games closer and when games are close, you can lose games and that's what happened to us this year."
In the Eagles' 34-13 win over the New York Giants in Week 6, red zone efficiency was a strength. In six opportunities, the Eagles scored four touchdowns and two field goals. They came away with points each time.
"We were hoping that obviously after New York when we had a really good day in the red zone that that would translate over and obviously it didn't," Kelce said. "And we moved the ball well, we had good yards, but at the end of the day, none of that matter unless you put the ball in the end zone and score points. Time of possession and that stuff is meaningless unless you're putting the ball in the end zone, getting points, and really helping our defense out."
Offensive coordinator Mike Groh said that penalties and mistakes were the main culprits for the offense not getting in the end zone more efficiently.
In the red zone with less than a minute to go on Sunday, Wentz survived a near-interception on first down and then forced a ball into the end zone to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery on third down that was broken up. On that play, it appeared that running back Wendell Smallwood was open in the flat. Wentz was sacked on fourth-and-2 to end the game.
"On the third down, Carson said something like he wished he could have that one back," Groh said. "He has a lot of confidence in Alshon. He thought he saw something (where) he could make a play. … He knows, he admitted, he said he would like to have it back. We've got a guy there that I think that if he could do it over again, he would throw it to Wendell."
The Eagles rank 22nd in the league in points per game with 22.0 and are 21st in scoring efficiency with 35.4 percent of their drives turning into points. Last season, they averaged 28.6 points per game.
Groh said scoring is a central focus going forward. The Eagles are last in the league in touchdowns of 20 or more yards and have not been very productive in the red zone. While the defense has allowed an average of just 19.7 points per game this season, Groh knows the offense's point total is not a sustainable, winning formula.
"We'd like to be in that 30 range is where we'd like to be," Groh said. "We know that if we get 25, then we've got a really good chance to win. We are continuing to work on that. We know that's an area that we need to improve on. Nobody is satisfied with the production and the results that we've gotten by any means. Trust me, working hard to try to get it fixed."
"We've just got to get that corrected. That's the bottom line," Kelce said. "That's the most obvious, glaring weakness to me. People can talk about the pass defense and all that stuff all they want but the reality is 17 points in this league isn't good enough to win a game and we've got to do better than that, we've got to do better for our defense, and we've got to do better for this team."