Eagles Wake-Up Call: Two Big Reasons Why Philadelphia Lost Their First Game

The Eagles made mistakes at the worst times on Sunday.

Nelson Agholor. (USA Today Sports)

Nelson Agholor. (USA Today Sports)

There are plenty of reasons why the Philadelphia Eagles were defeated by the Detroit Lions by a final score of 24 to 23 on Sunday afternoon. In such a close game, it’s hard not to think about the many factors that could have made the difference between a win and a loss. Ultimately, it was two big mistakes by the Eagles near the end of the game that stick out the most. 

Prior to Philadelphia’s Week 5 game, the Eagles hadn’t committed a single turnover. Unfortunately for the Birds, their first one came on a Ryan Mathews fumble with less than three minutes remaining. The Eagles called a toss play on 3rd-and-2. Had the Birds gotten a first down, they likely would have won the game. The Lions had no timeouts remaining. Only the two-minute warning would have stopped the clock.

Instead, Mathews got hit in the backfield and lost control of the ball. The Lions recovered and took over with great field position at Philadelphia’s 45-yard line. Detroit moved into field goal range to take the lead.

One can question the Eagles’ decision to go with Mathews on third down. The 29-year-old veteran rusher only had 3.8 yards per attempt on the day. He’s only averaging 3.3 yards per carry on the season, which ranks 34th out of 39 NFL rushers with at least 6.25 attempts per game. In other words, he’s struggled to run the ball efficiently.

Darren Sproles might not be thought of as a traditional short-yardage back due to his size, but there’s no question he was much more effective against the Lions. Sproles gained 45 yards on five runs for nine yards per attempt. One could argue Doug Pederson and the Eagles should have stuck with Sproles, but obviously the head coach felt differently.

“Well, in that situation it felt like the bigger back in that running situation and the way [Mathews] kind of ran on those first couple of plays, just keep feeding him,” said Pederson. “He was doing a nice job.”

Of course, Mathews’ fumble wasn’t the only turnover that doomed the Eagles. The Birds still had a chance to make a comeback with 1:28 remaining. All Philadelphia needed to do was to get into field goal range. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, Carson Wentz got picked off on his first attempt of the Eagles’ final drive. The rookie took a deep shot down the field to Nelson Agholor but the ball got plucked out of the air by Lions corner Darius Slay. After the game, Wentz admitted it was his mistake.

“It wasn’t a perfect throw, obviously I tried to give Nelson a chance to make a play,” Wentz said. “I left it too far outside. The cornerback made a great play, hats off to him. He made a great play and sealed the win for them.”

Wentz’s first career interception fittingly sealed the first loss of his NFL career. It’s a shame for the rookie, too, because he played very well up until that point.

It goes without saying that the Eagles need to do a better job of taking care of the ball moving forward. Philadelphia got off to a slow start against Detroit, which left very little room for error. Unfortunately for the Eagles, those mistakes were made. As a result, the Birds lost a game they didn’t have much business losing.

If there’s a silver-lining to be found for the Eagles, it’s that they’re only a one-point road loss away from being 4-0. The Birds still have the best point differential in the NFL. The season is far from over. How the team responds to this loss will be critical. If they can clean up the mistakes, there’s still plenty of optimism for this team’s long-term potential.


Nine thing we learned from the Eagles’ 24-23 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Lane Johnson should hear about the result of his appeal by Thursday.

Instant Observations from the game in Detroit.

Check our Open Thread in case you missed anything from yesterday’s game.

Steven Means was a surprise addition to the inactive list with Leodis McKelvin and Zach Ertz returning to the lineup.

Take a look at our picks for beating the odds.

“It’s just that, for the Eagles right now, [Doug] Pederson’s personality was the one they needed.” Weekend Reading.

Which college football players were we keeping an eye on this weekend?

The Eagles signed two offensive linemen to the practice squad, including a familiar face.

Take a look at our game predictions for the Eagles-Lions game.

We talked with Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press to talk about what to expect from the Lions.


Jim Schwartz‘s decision to bench Nigel Bradham in the first half proved to be a bad one, opines Jeff McLane of the Inquirer.

What did [Mychal] Kendricks do in the first three games to earn more playing time? [Stephen] Tulloch? Not much. The same could be said of their first-half performance against the Lions. Kendricks was beaten by Theo Riddick on Detroit’s first touchdown and he missed two tackles on crucial downs. Tulloch didn’t even show up on the stat sheet.

To Schwartz’s credit, he saw the error of his ways and stayed with Bradham and [Jordan] Hicks in the nickel after the half. It was as if there were two Eagles defenses on Sunday. In the first half, it allowed 21 points and 199 yards on 32 plays (6.2 average), and in the second, it held the Lions to three points and surrendered only 45 yards on 25 plays (1.8 average).

The Eagles had all four of their sacks and their lone turnover after the break.

“It wasn’t personnel,” Hicks said. “It was buckling down.”

Hicks is a leader and he’s not about to throw Kendricks and Tulloch and, of course, Schwartz under the bus, but there was only one explanation for the turnaround. Bradham played like a man possessed in the second half. He had five tackles – three for losses – and recovered a fumble.

The team’s first turnover of the season came at the wrong time, and Ryan Mathews admit he screwed up, pens Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com.

“I just f—– 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.”

Mathews was disconsolate and appeared near tears as he stood in his locker in the visiting locker room at Ford Field after the Eagles’ first loss this year.

His fumble on a 3rd-and-2 with 2 ½ minutes left in the game and the Eagles leading by two led directly to the Lions’ game-winning field goal.

Seven plays after Lions defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker recovered Mathews’ fumble at the Eagles’ 45-yard-line, kicker Matt Prater made a 29-yard field goal to give the Lions the lead.

“I can’t let my teammates down, especially in a situation like that,” Mathews said, his voice barely audible. “Just got to get better. Move on and watch the film and get ready for the next opponent.”


Doug Pederson will address reporters at noon.

Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.