Eagles-Lions Final Score: Nine Things We Learned From Philadelphia’s Loss
The Philadelphia Eagles are 3-1 after dropping a road game to the depleted Detroit Lions on Sunday by a final score of 24 to 23. Here’s a look at 10 things to be learned from this close loss.
1 – The Eagles lost a game they should have won
On paper, there’s really no good reason why the Eagles should have lost this game. I wrote as much on Friday. The Birds were the better team coming into this one. Philadelphia had the supposed benefit of extra rest since they were coming off their bye. The Lions were missing a number of key players due to injury. Detroit’s defense ranks near the bottom of the league. Their offense has the ability to move the ball but it struggled to score against Chicago last week and turnovers have been an issue for Detroit.
But that’s why the NFL is the NFL. Anything can happen on any given Sunday. The Lions won and now the Eagles are 3-1 when they were so close to being 4-0.
2 – Carson Wentz isn’t perfect
Gasp! Wentz threw the first interception of his career on a pass that he would like to have back. The rookie quarterback got aggressive on Philadelphia’s final drive and tried to air out to Nelson Agholor. Instead, Darius Slay made a great play on the ball.
Carson Wentz on his interception: "I left it too far outside. The cornerback made a great play, hats off to him." pic.twitter.com/SuQn9pUqJ5
— Josh Paunil (@JoshPaunil) October 9, 2016
“I was surprised he even threw that,” said Slay after the game. “I was in great position, so I’m like, ‘OK.’ But then I looked in the air and I said, ‘Oh, the ball is coming for real. He’s really throwing this. Oh well, it’s time for his first career pick.’ I was like, ‘Oh, this is me right here, for sure.'”
“He’s a talented guy, man. I was kind of surprised. I didn’t believe all the hype at first, but he’s a very, very great decision (maker). But right then I just made a better play.”
Interception aside, Wentz did have a good game. The rookie quarterback completed 75% of his passes for 238 yards, two touchdowns, one pick, and a 102.8 passer rating. Once again, Wentz had to deal with a few key drops as well. He threw a would-be touchdown to Dorial Green-Beckham in the end zone but his receiver couldn’t hold on.
Here’s a look at Wentz’s stat-line through his first four games: 91-135 (67.4% completion), 1,007 yards (7.5 yards/attempt), 7 TD, 1 INT, 103.5 passer rating.
3 – Ryan Mathews is a flawed player
Mathews picked a killer time to be responsible for the Eagles’ first turnover all season. The 29-year-old running back just can’t put the ball on the ground in that spot.
Fumbles have always been an issue for Mathews, though. He has 19 now in 77 career games. The upside to Mathews running so hard is that he fights through contact and he’s hard to bring down. The downside, well, involves struggling with ball security.
Mathews is not a bad player. He accounted for 75 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown on 16 total offensive touches. Mathews is flawed, though. Constant injury issues and fumbles are always going to be part of the deal with him.
4 – The officiating was highly questionable
Not a great outing for the officials in this game. Bad spots, flags thrown and then later picked up, missed calls … you name it. It’s hard not to feel like the game was at least a little one-sided after one looks at the penalty breakdown. Keep in mind the Lions were the NFL’s second-most penalized team heading into this week.
Eagles – 14 penalties for 111 yards
Lions – 2 penalties for 18 yards
This disparity makes a big difference in a one-point game.
Another interesting note is how Jason Kelce appeared to be out of bounds when Mathews’ fumble touched him (see below).
Looked like Jason Kelce did touch the ball while he was out of bounds on Ryan Mathews' fumble. pic.twitter.com/JQPDLmgzTY
— Josh Paunil (@JoshPaunil) October 9, 2016
If the ball truly touched Kelce while he was out, the play should have been dead. It would have been fourth down and the Eagles would have likely punted. Detroit would have had to work harder to get into scoring position.
Let’s be clear here: the officiating isn’t the only reason the Eagles lost to the Lions on Sunday. And the Birds have to do a better job of being more disciplined. But there’s no question the referees were an additional obstacle for Philadelphia to overcome this week.
5 – Jim Schwartz didn’t have a great return to Detroit
The Eagles defense had only allowed 20 points through their three first games. Then they went out and allowed 21 points in the first half to Detroit’s offense. The Lions exploited the Eagles’ aggressive defense by finding success with screen plays and runs to the outside. Theo Riddick proved to be a tough matchup for Philadelphia’s defense just like he was in Detroit’s win over the Eagles last year.
It wasn’t all bad for the Eagles’ defense. They really settled down in the final two quarters. Just look at following the breakdown.
First half – 21 points, 199 yards, 17 first downs
Second half – 3 points, 45 yards, 4 firsts downs
The three points the Lions scored in the second half obviously came after the Mathews turnover that gave Detroit good field position.
Schwartz did a nice job of turning things around, but the Eagles’ slow start didn’t allow much room for error. His unit has room for improvement.
6 – The Eagles need more Nigel Bradham and less Mychal Kendricks
Bradham didn’t play at all in the first half. One could surmise the Eagles were punishing him due to his recent arrest on a gun charge. Doug Pederson downplayed that notion, however, and said the Eagles were simply using a linebacker rotation that didn’t feature Bradham.
Whatever the truth is, the Eagles need to use Bradham more and Kendricks less. Bradham finished the game with five tackles, including three for losses, and one fumble recovery. Kendricks, meanwhile, missed some tackles and struggled in coverage just like he did in Detroit last year.
7 – Caleb Sturgis is a silver lining no one will care about
This kind of thing will be easily forgotten in an ugly Eagles loss, because who cares about kickers, but Sturgis deserves credit for having a good day. He made all three of his field goal attempts, including kicks from 49 and 50 yards out. Sturgis is now 10-11 on the season from field goal range and 11-12 on extra point attempts.
8 – Lane Johnson may have played his last Eagles game for a long time
Making the Eagles’ loss even more disappointing is the realization the team could be heading into the next 10 games without their starting right tackle. Johnson, who had an appeal hearing last week, said he expects to hear a final decision in a few days on either Wednesday or Thursday.
Losing Johnson would be a significant loss for the Eagles. If his appeal is unsuccessful, the Eagles might turn to rookie fifth round pick Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right tackle. The TCU product known as “Big V” has been a healthy scratch on game day each week so far.
9 – The Eagles are still off to a good start in 2016
Think about it this way: the Eagles are a one-point road loss away from being 4-0. Wentz obviously had a bad interception to lose this week’s game but there’s no question he’s shown the makings of a legitimate franchise quarterback. That’s huge. Philadelphia should have won this game against the Lions, yes, but keep the loss in perspective. 3-1 is still a quality start especially considering how low expectations were coming into this season.
How the Eagles respond to this loss will be key. Next Sunday marks the first NFC East matchup on Philadelphia’s 2016 schedule. The Birds travel to Washington to take on the Redskins. Jay Gruden’s team is 3-2 after winning their last three games in a row.