On its surface, the referees’ holding call in the second quarter of Sunday’s Eagles-Cardinals game seemed pretty routine.
Darryl Tapp sacked quarterback Kevin Kolb, and the Cardinals were flagged. Anyone who’s watched football has seen this scenario play out plenty of times. The coach declines the penalty, the sack stands, and you move on to the next down.
So then why did the call cause a 4-minute, 59-second delay that left Eagles head coach Andy Reid confused afterwards?
I went back to see what was at the root of the issue, and it can at least be traced partially to the previous play. The Cardinals had a 1st-and-10 at the Eagles’ 46, and running back Ryan Williams picked up 9 yards to the 37. After the play, Cardinals fullback Anthony Sherman and Trent Cole exchanged shoves. The officials called a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Sherman. They moved the ball from the Eagles’ 37 to the Cardinals’ 48. That part, they got right.
But when the official announced the penalty, he (incorrectly) said it would remain first down. Since it was a dead-ball foul, it should have been second down.
After Tapp sacked Kolb, the ref quickly announced the penalty, apparently opting at first to not even consult with Reid about what he wanted to do. Declining the penalty, of course, was a no-brainer. The sack resulted in a 10-yard loss. Essentially, the Eagles were choosing between 3rd-and-26 and 2nd-and-26.
After checking with Reid, they finally got it right. The Eagles would decline the penalty, take the sack, and it would be third down.
But then the referees met with Ken Whisenhunt and changed their minds once again. At that point, Reid apparently just decided to let it go. After the game, he was asked to explain.
“No, I can’t. The one I can’t explain. I can’t explain that,” he said. “I honestly don’t have an answer for you. I don’t have an answer for you. I just… I can’t go where… I can’t answer that question.”
The defense ended up forcing a punt two plays later. But the confusion provided yet another example of how routine calls have become adventures this season.
WHAT YOU MISSED
The Eagles’ initial plan was to have Nnamdi Asomugha shadow Larry Fitzgerald. But secondary coach Todd Bowles decided on a different strategy. T-Mac has all the details.
Michael Vick took responsibility for the game-changing fumble at the end of the first half, but also said he was hoping LeSean McCoy would pick up the blitzer.
Reid’s take on the loss? The coach said he did a terrible job.
And some instant observations following the game.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano tries to look at the big picture for the Eagles:
Well, the Eagles won’t be going undefeated, is what it means. After winning each of their first two games by the thinnest of possible margins, the Eagles got too far behind Sunday on the road against a very good Arizona defense and could not come back this time. The good news is that their number of turnovers fell by one again. After turning it over five times in the season opener and four times last week, they turned it over just three times Sunday. So if this holds up, they won’t have any turnovers at all in Week 6 against the Detroit Lions.
Will Brinson of CBSSports.com gives the Eagles an F for their Week 3 performance:
Michael Vick completing 45.9 percent of his passes is a recipe for disaster any week, especially if he fumbles twice. Getting greedy down 17-0 at halftime cost them a defensive touchdown. Defense was outclassed by Kevin Kolb. Good thing they were already 2-0 before this debacle.
Reid will hold his day-after press conference at noon, and we’ll have plenty of reaction and analysis. Don’t forget that Birds 24/7 Radio airs from 6 to 7 on 97.5 The Fanatic. Tim and I will be broadcasting live from 360 at Parx Casino in Bensalem.
Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.