Williams Penalty Huge As Eagles Fall To Niners
SANTA CLARA, CA. — The Eagles’ defense had just come up with a big stand.
The Niners started their third-quarter drive at the Eagle’ 23-yard line after the ball squirted away from Zach Ertz and into the arms of cornerback Perrish Cox. Colin Kaepernick was sacked by Connor Barwin and Casey Matthews on first down, then again on third down by Trent Cole to push San Francisco to the outer fringe of field goal range.
Then down came the laundry. Cary Williams was called for defensive holding on receiver Stevie Johnson over the middle, negating the sack and giving the Niners a fresh set of downs.
“I talked to the official. He basically said he was holding, he got him up high. I think Cary agreed. He didn’t fight the penalty. Usually if he’s unhappy with it, you’ll know,” said Malcolm Jenkins. “The hardest part is that I don’t think it really affected the play but holding is an automatic first down. It’s not just a five-yard penalty. For that drive. that was huge. But it’s tough playing DB in the league right now. There is some stuff that is hard to avoid.”
Six plays later, Johnson made a beautiful catch just inside the left pylon for a 12-yard touchdown that pulled San Francisco within one. That was the start of 13 straight for the Niners as the Eagles fell, 26-21.
“They called it, I got to live with it and play the next down,” said Williams.
A pair of field goals from Phil Dawson the rest of the way was enough to topple an Eagles team that struggled on offense for most of the day.
It was the Eagles’ defense and special teams that allowed them to establish a 21-13 halftime lead.
With the 49ers facing a 3rd-and-12 on their opening possession, Barwin shot through the middle and dropped Kaepernick at the San Francisco two-yard line with an assist from his partner Cole. On the ensuing punt from deep inside the Niners’ end zone, Trey Burton burst into the backfield and blocked the Andy Lee kick. Brad Smith recovered to put the Eagles out in front.
Jenkins came up with his third pick in as many games in the second frame and bobbed and weaved his way 53 yards for the TD return. He is the first Eagles safety since Brian Dawkins in 2004 to record interceptions in three straight games. Darren Sproles followed that up with a career-long 82-yard punt return. His 49-yard TD run in the opener was also a career best. Safe to say he is flourishing under Chip Kelly.
The first-half stats weren’t pretty for the Eagles’ offense. They were outgained 232-73. LeSean McCoy had two yards on four carries. Nick Foles was 11-of-21 for 66 yards. And yet they led by eight.
The Eagles were blanked the rest of the way. A makeshift offensive line that was operating without Jason Kelce (sports hernia), Evan Mathis (MCL) and Lane Johnson (suspension) was unable to open up holes in the run game. Foles was out of sync for most of the day, but he found a spark late.
Jeremy Maclin made an incredible diving 22-yard catch down the right sideline on third-and-14 to help extend a 15-play, 90-yard drive that went all the way down to the San Francisco one-yard line. But Foles couldn’t find an open receiver on third and fourth down, and the Eagles were turned away.
The defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, giving the Eagles the ball back with 1:23 remaining in the game, but an illegal block in the back on the punt return pushed them back to their own 30. A hold on first down pushed them back even further and Foles eventually threw a pick to end it, dropping the Eagles to 3-1.
“As an offense, we take the brunt of this loss,” said Ertz, “and we have to play better.”