Eagles-Lions, Day After: A Disappointing Defeat

Why the Eagles allowed 21 points in the first half.

Rodney McLeod and Brandon Graham. (USA Today Sports)

Rodney McLeod and Brandon Graham. (USA Today Sports)

DETROIT — When Golden Tate found daylight around the edge of the Eagles’ defense near the end of the second quarter, he gave viewers a glimpse of why the Lions scored a touchdown on each of their three first-half possessions.

Tate took Matthew Stafford’s shovel pass, picked up eight yards and set up a score on the next play. But to reach the 1-yard-line, Tate managed to get outside by outmaneuvering Mychal Kendricks. The Eagles allowed more points in the first half against the Lions than they did in the first two quarters against their three previous opponents combined, much of which can be explained by the defense losing control of the edge and Kendricks’ poor play.

“They had a couple wrinkles that we hadn’t seen,” Malcolm Jenkins said after the Eagles’ 24-23 loss, “but other than that we missed contain, got penalties, we misfit runs and they’ve got enough players to make plays.”

Several Eagles noted after the game that the Lions seemed to focus their offensive game plan on getting to the edge, while also showing some new looks by putting Tate in the backfield. To get outside of the defensive ends lined up in the wide-9 technique, Detroit called a few crack-back sweeps that featured wide receivers or tight ends blindsiding an unsuspecting lineman. After those play calls produced big gains on the ground and a screen turned into a 17-yard touchdown pass, the Eagles stopped flying around as quickly as they typically do when they torment opponents.

Offensive tackle Corey Robinson also entered the game several times as an extra lineman for Detroit, with three such snaps leading to the Lions’ longest rushes of the game. According to Brandon Graham, the Birds did a better job of diagnosing Detroit’s wrinkles in the second half so they could play faster, but it was too little too late. The Eagles held the Lions to just three points, 45 yards and four first downs in the second half after allowing 21 points, 199 yards and 17 first downs in the first half.

“Obviously, we weren’t playing anywhere to our standard in the first half giving up [long] drives, giving up [big] plays, extending drives on penalties [and] just playing sloppy. It’s not our standard, and we dug ourselves in a hole,” Jordan Hicks said. “We all feel like we lost the game. Plain and simple: If we don’t make the mistakes that we made and don’t play as sloppy as we played, we don’t lose this game.”

While Graham gave Jim Schwartz considerable credit for the turnaround, he also acknowledged Nigel Bradham’s role. Bradham was once again superb, but Kendricks played instead of him in some situations in the first half.

When asked why he played more in the second half, Bradham suggested it may have been due to the score, but he noted that he had “no clue.” Doug Pederson added that they wanted to keep Bradham “fresh and healthy as the game went on,” but in Bradham’s brief absence, the Birds gave up what turned out to be too many points to win the game.

When Bradham did play more snaps in the second half, he helped the Eagles contain the Lions’ offense, giving the Birds a chance to win before the offense’s two late turnovers squandered the game away.

“They really settled into their assignments, into their roles, the game plan. (Schwartz) didn’t change up anything, guys were just making plays,” Pederson said. “Felt like Detroit in the first half was maybe a half step ahead of us a little bit and then in the second half we got together and they did an outstanding job. They gave us an opportunity to win the game.”

Ryan Mathews. (USA Today Sports)

Ryan Mathews. (USA Today Sports)


As Ryan Mathews walked through the tunnel at Ford Field after the Eagles’ first loss of the season, Doug Pederson grabbed the running back and gave him a message.

“Keep your head up. A lot of football left, a lot of season left,” Pederson told Mathews. “[You’re] still a good player. Don’t let one play define your season.”

Mathews was still reeling from fumbling on Philadelphia’s 45-yard-line with less than three minutes left in the game, which set up the Lions’ game-winning field goal. The running back appeared to be nears tears when he addressed reporters after the game.

“I just f—ed up,” Mathews said. “I gotta get better in a situation like that. I can’t let my teammates down. I’ve got to get better. I just messed up.”

Still, the Eagles are 3-1 with a dominant win over one of the NFL’s best teams. They have the league’s best point differential (+64), and they rank second in the league in points allowed per game (12.8). In short: The Eagles lost a tough one in Detroit, but a quarter of the way through the season, they still appear to be in good shape for the long haul.

“It’s a great football team because (when we were down 14-0) we could’ve folded the tents and gave up, but the sideline was very energetic. The guys understood that we were really beating ourselves at that time and they rallied and got ourselves back into this football game,” Pederson said. “Obviously, got the lead in the second half and guys did a great job that way. It’s something to credit the veteran players on the team. The sign of a good football team is people could start pointing fingers at different (people), but they didn’t. They rallied together and had an opportunity.”

Most importantly, despite a late interception that sealed the Eagles’ loss, Carson Wentz still appears set to turn in a terrific rookie season. He’s on pace to throw for 4,028 yards, 28 passing touchdowns and four interceptions, and he currently ranks sixth in the NFL in passer rating. He’s also third all-time in passes thrown before his first career interception, ranking behind Tom Brady and Dak Prescott and ahead of Warren Moon.

“It seems like when the pressure gets a little tighter, he shines a little brighter,” Pederson said of Wentz. “It’s special to have a kid like that, especially as a rookie and somebody that we can continue to just keep grooming and teaching. Rep after rep after rep he just continues to get better and better. The beauty of the thing is it elevates everybody around him. I’ve been around some great quarterbacks that have been able to do that over my career, and he’s beginning to bring that out of other people.”




(This last one isn’t Eagles-related, but it’s still funny nonetheless.)


Lane Johnson on his appeal hearing and when he expects to hear whether his suspension will be upheld, reduced or overturned:

“[Tuesday’s appeal hearing] was eight hours of bickering back and forth, just discussing new policy, how to interpret and that’s pretty much all it was. Just felt good to go in there and take it on head on and confront them about it.”

Carson Wentz on his thought process during the play he threw the interception:

“It was something that we had seen from them out of the first half at the end from their two-minute drive, one of the coverages, so it was kind of an alert I had breaking the huddle. You always want to get the drive started on the right foot, especially in those situations, but the coverage kind of dictated that and we didn’t make the play. They made a great play and that’s how it worked.”

—Lions cornerback Darius Slay on his interception of Wentz’s final pass:

“I was surprised he even threw that. 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.”

Nelson Agholor on Wentz’s interception:

“I could have had better sight on it. That was one I was trying to locate. If I would’ve located it a little earlier, I think I would’ve given myself a better chance to pluck it.”

Zach Ertz on Wentz’s message before the final drive:

“He said, ‘Let’s go have some fun.’ Obviously, we tried to have some fun and it didn’t work out, obviously. But, we’ll learn from it. We’ll have a great 10-minute session on Wednesday when we go out there and practice, and we’ll go from there.”

—Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead on his impression of Wentz:

“Exactly what I anticipated coming into the game. He’s a poised guy, he moves really well, he makes good decisions, he has a good grasp for their offense. He’s a great player and I expect nothing but great games from him.”

— Lions head coach Jim Caldwell on the bizarre play when officials called an ineligible player down field on the Eagles, negating a 27-yard gain. However, the penalty was called on Connor Barwin, who wasn’t on the field, and it was taken back:

“The ineligible receiver that they called downfield was [Lions defensive end/No. 98] Devin Taylor. Then he realized that he called it on Devin and said that’s why they picked the flag up. So, that was part of that scenario.”



Player# of snaps% of snaps
Allen Barbre61100%
Brandon Brooks61100%
Lane Johnson61100%
Jason Kelce61100%
Jason Peters61100%
Carson Wentz61100%
Jordan Matthews5793%
Zach Ertz5285%
Nelson Agholor4879%
Darren Sproles3456%
Dorial Green-Beckham3252%
Ryan Mathews2541%
Brent Celek2338%
Josh Huff1830%
Trey Burton1118%
Matt Tobin35%
Wendell Smallwood12%
Kenjon Barner12%
  • More consistency up front for the Eagles as every starting offensive lineman has played all 275 snaps this season, except for Allen Barbre, who missed just one play against the Bears. Carson Wentz is the only other offensive player to not miss a snap yet.
  • Zach Ertz had no constraints on his playing time as he was on the field for 85 percent of the snaps in his first game back since the regular-season opener a month ago. Ertz finished third in receiving for the Eagles with 37 yards on three catches.
  • For the first time this season, Dorial Green-Beckham (52 percent) played in the majority of the offense’s snaps. Doug Pederson said he wanted to get the young receiver more involved each week, and it showed as the 24-year-old turned in his best game as an Eagle with three catches for 43 yards. Expect Green-Beckham to steadily play a larger role in the offense as the season continues.
  • Darren Sproles (56 percent) once again played the majority of snaps, but Ryan Mathews (41 percent) got more touches than Sproles did. However, both Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood played just one snap each.
  • I understand Pederson relying on Mathews, as he’s played much better than his yards per carry indicates. (For example, in Week 2, Mathews broke four tackles on just nine carries and gained 40 yards after contact even though he only had 32 rushing yards from scrimmage, according to Pro Football Focus.) Still, as the season progresses, I’d try to get Barner and Smallwood a little more work between what they’ve shown in a limited sample size and Mathews’ ball security issues. Here’s how the Eagles’ running backs rank in yards per carry:
  1. Barner, 6.1 (14 carries)
  2. Smallwood, 4.8 (20 carries)
  3. Sproles, 4.0 (24 carries)
  4. Mathews, 3.3 (44 carries)


Player# of snaps% of snaps
Nolan Carroll61100%
Malcolm Jenkins61100%
Rodney McLeod61100%
Brandon Graham5387%
Fletcher Cox5387%
Connor Barwin5285%
Jordan Hicks4879%
Nigel Bradham4879%
Bennie Logan4675%
Ron Brooks3862%
Leodis McKelvin3456%
Mychal Kendricks2643%
Jalen Mills2439%
Vinny Curry1626%
Stephen Tulloch1525%
Jaylen Watkins1118%
Marcus Smith813%
Beau Allen813%
Destiny Vaeao813%
  • I already touched on Mychal Kendricks’ (43 percent) playing time up top, so I won’t spend too much more space on it here, but I will say this: It doesn’t make much sense for Kendricks to be on the Eagles’ roster next season if he continues to play like this. Perhaps Howie Roseman can get a late-round pick for him, but given Kendricks’ contract, they may have to cut him. According to Over the Cap, Kendricks has the fourth-highest contract among 66 NFL 4-3 outside linebackers.
  • Despite relatively low usage in the first half, Nigel Bradham still played 79 percent of the total snaps after a busy second half.
  • Malcolm JenkinsNolan Carroll and Rodney McLeod are far and away the defense’s leaders in snaps this season as the three have combined to miss just seven plays through four games.
  • It’s tough to draw too many conclusions from the cornerbacks’ snaps as both Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) and Ron Brooks (cramps) battled injuries during the game.
  • Vinny Curry’s low snap count continues, as he played just 26 percent of the defense’s plays. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the five-year deal for $47.25 million (including $23 million guaranteed) Roseman gave Curry this offseason isn’t looking too good.
  • Despite being questionable for the game, Bennie Logan played 75 percent of the snaps, so it doesn’t seem like his calf problem is much to worry about going forward.