ATLANTA – Andy Reid, a man of few words after a tough 35-31 loss Sunday night to the Falcons, summed up the defeat perfectly.
"Too many mistakes and too many turnovers," he said.
True enough. The Eagles killed themselves in the first half and into the second half with turnovers and then made too many mistakes in every phase of the game in the fourth quarter to blow a 10-point lead.
In a wild, back-and-forth game, the Eagles did too much damage to themselves to overcome, and there was no moment more important than the sequence of events late in the first half.
Leading by three points late in the second quarter, with a first-and-goal situation from the 4-yard line, the Eagles appeared poised to open some breathing room and make the Falcons play from behind.
But then the entire game changed. Just like that. Quarterback Michael Vick turned to fake a pitch to running back Ronnie Brown and instead hand off to LeSean McCoy, but quick Falcons pressure over right guard Kyle DeVan allowed defensive tackle Peria Jerry to reach Vick quickly. Too quickly, as it turned out, for Vick to make anything of the play's design.
Instead, Jerry hit Vick from behind and knocked the ball loose at the 9-yard line. Defensive end Ray Edwards scooped up the fumble and ran 64 yards with it to the Eagles 24-yard line, where he was tackled from behind by a hustling DeSean Jackson.
Four plays later, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan completed a pass in the back of the end zone to tight end Tony Gonzalez, who made a spectacular grab to give the Falcons a 14-10 advantage at the half.
For a moment it appeared the Eagles were on the verge of taking a 17-7 lead over Atlanta. Jerry's jarring hit and the Vick turnover put Philadelphia in a hole. An interception on the first offensive play from scrimmage in the third quarter gave Atlanta a 21-10 advantage.
"It was a game of momentum swings," said safety Kurt Coleman. "We had it and then lost it too many times."
Somehow, the Eagles climbed up the bank. The defense suffocated Atlanta, picking off two passes and stopping Atlanta cold in the third quarter after the early Falcons touchdown in that stanza. Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin keyed the relentless pursuit of the Atlanta running game and of quarterback Matt Ryan.
But after building a 31-21 advantage, the Eagles lost their mojo and, ultimately, the game.
"Turnovers and mistakes hurt us too much," said wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who had a quiet 2-catch, 21-yard game. "We shot ourselves In the foot the entire game."
Even a high-octane team like the Eagles needs to have better ball security. Those lost the turnover battle to Atlanta, 3-2, just enough to lose a game that was right there for them to win.