The Philadelphia Eagles aren’t going undefeated this year. If that comes as a surprise to any fans, then they should form a support group with those Sixers supporters who are squirreling away money for 2016-17 playoff tickets.
By losing to the Lions, the Birds assured that they weren’t going to be pristine this year. Since nobody has completed the entire season without a loss since the ’72 Dolphins, that’s not the issue. What fans—not to mention players and coaches—should focus on is a rotten defensive first half and a couple late turnovers that crushed the team’s chances of earning a victory. Because, even though the first 30 minutes of Jim Schwartz’s return to Detroit looked about as bad the lowest points of his five-year tenure as the Lions’ head coach, the Eagles were in great shape with a 23-21 lead and 2:41 remaining.
That’s when Ryan Mathews gacked up a fumble while running right and keeping the ball in his left hand, a grade school football error. The Lions took a 24-23 lead, and on the first play following the kickoff, Wentz decided to throw deep, rather than matriculate the ball down the field in an attempt to set up a potential game-winning field goal. After fighting back to take their first lead of the game, the Eagles fell apart late and lost to a vulnerable Lions team that could have fallen into the abyss with a loss.
So, what now? Did this loss reveal the Eagles’ true personality: uneven and not able to respond when pressed late? It’s way too early to say that. Had Mathews not fumbled, the Eagles probably would’ve won, even though he didn’t get the two yards necessary to move the chains on his third-down carry. (And what was Doug Pederson doing calling wide run on third-and-two anyway?) The Birds would’ve punted, and the defense that stifled Detroit after intermission—by using Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks in nickel situations, rather than overmatched Mychal Kendricks and Stephen Tulloch—could well have kept the Lions from moving the ball far enough to set up a field goal attempt.
We all know about ifs and buts, so it’s wrong to give the Eagles a half-victory in this case. They should’ve won, and they didn’t. That’s what happens often with young teams. With a brutal eight-game stretch looming against each NFC East opponent, not to mention undefeated Minnesota, and dangerous Atlanta, Green Bay, Cincinnati and Seattle, who are a combined 12-6, the Eagles can’t repeat Sunday’s performance.
Just as no one should’ve believed the Eagles would stay perfect all year had they survived in Detroit, people shouldn’t be expecting a complete collapse after Sunday’s loss. There were plenty of highlights, beginning with Wentz’s 25-of-33 passing performance that produced 238 yards and two TDs. Bradham, whose boneheaded bye-week escapades overshadowed his strong play this year, registered three tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. The Eagles had four sacks, and Caleb Sturgis made all three of his field goal attempts, including a 50-yarder. Take away the Lions’ three first-half drives, and it wasn’t a bad performance. Granted, that’s not completely easy to ignore, but the Birds weren’t awful.
We’ll learn soon whether the loss was the beginning of reason for concern or just a hiccup. A trip to take on Little Danny’s resurgent Washington NFL franchise looms, followed by a visit by MVP candidate Sam Bradford and the Vikings. Had anyone promised fans a 3-1 start to the season and a beatdown of the Stillers, the city would have accepted it gladly. Well, here it is, Philadelphia: a .750 winning percentage and a near miss with perfection.
Sure, it’s frustrating to lose, especially to a shaky Lions. But the world is still bright.
EL HOMBRE SEZ: Last week, El Hombre presented the successful Conestoga boys’ soccer team. Now, it’s time to talk about the Pioneer girls. They are 9-0-3 and top the District 1 power rankings. They’re also rated ninth in the state by the PA Soccer Coaches Association. Stoga has six games left, including an Oct. 21 visit to 11-0 Pennsbury, which could be a preview of the district title game—and perhaps a state tourney showdown.