Philadelphia Eagles Left Heartbroken as Strong 2nd Half Not Enough to Top Lions

Oct 9, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz watches game action during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz watches game action during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

After an extremely sluggish start to the game by the 3-0 Eagles, they were completely dominant in the second half. The second half looked like it was going to lead to another Eagles win to start this surprising season, but the offense faltered late and left the team with a very disappointing loss.

After the most embarrassing performance of the season last season, that horrible 45-14 loss on Thanksgiving afternoon in Detroit, the 3-0 Eagles were looking to make a statement and continue to prove they belong with the league’s elite. With confidence understandably running very high after the drubbing of the Steelers two weeks ago, this game was possibly a bit overlooked with the first divisional matchup of the season in Washington coming up next week.

If this was a matchup the Eagles were overlooking or not properly prepared for, the first quarter was indicative of that. The Lions came right out immediately establishing Theo Riddick and Anquan Boldin in the passing game, and the first drive cumulated with a 1-yard TD catch by Riddick after a 20-yard catch by Boldin set them up within the 5-yard line.

The Eagles first drive was not successful, as they had to punt after only achieving one first down. In the ensuing Lions drive, the Eagles defense really looked rattled. Boldin continued to torch the secondary, and 3 Eagle penalties on the drive allowed Theo Riddick to eventually bag his 2nd TD of the day on a 17-yard receiving TD after excellent blocking downfield by the Lions line and receivers. By the end of the 1st quarter, the Eagles were down 14-0 and not looking anything like the team that showed up the first three weeks of the season.

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What better way to get the Eagles out of a funk than the typical x-factor, Darren Sproles. In their second drive, Sproles was heavily involved, gaining 25 yards on the drive. When you add the fact Zach Ertz had a couple catches, and Wentz had a 10-yard scramble for a first down, the offense was looking back to normal. The impressive drive, which took over 6 minutes off the clock, ended with a Ryan Mathews 2-yard TD catch to make it 14-7 Lions.

Another very frustrating defensive drive followed for the Eagles. After forcing a 4th down via challenge, Matthew Stafford had a QB sneak to extend the drive. After three straight completions to Anquan Boldin and Zach Zenner, the Eagles were backed up to their own 19. The Eagles again looked like they were going to escape with only allowing a field goal, but Fletcher Cox was called for unnecessary roughness on 3rd down after ripping Stafford’s helmet off. The subsequent punishment for that mistake was a Marvin Jones TD catch in the back of the endzone to make it 21-7 Lions. The Eagles defense was reeling at this point after a mistake-ridden first half.

The Eagles were able to tack on a field goal before halftime, after key catches from Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz set Caleb Sturgis up to bang his 50-yard field goal. The Eagles may have considered themselves lucky to only be down 21-10 at halftime after committing 8 penalties in the first half. There was clear improvement needed from both sides of the ball.

The Eagles certainly responded with urgency in the first drive of the second half. Nelson Agholor had an 18-yard catch, and Ryan Mathews followed shortly after with a 17-yard catch after some broken tackles. Dorial Green-Beckham then added a 26-yard catch after a short pass that put the Eagles at 3-yard line. Two plays later, Josh Huff added his first touchdown catch of the season on a 1-yard pass. 21-17 Eagles, and momentum was shifting.

That was further confirmed when Matthew Stafford had an unforced fumble early in the following drive, which was recovered by Nigel Bradham. Bradham, who was arrestedlast Sunday on a misdemeanor concealed weapons charge at an airport, had a very impressive afternoon with 3 tackles for a loss and the fumble recovery. The Eagles only were able to convert a field goal from 33 yards after DGB missed a ball in the endzone he probably would have liked to grab. 21-20 Lions in the middle of the 3rd.

The two teams exchanged punts in the ensuing drives. To begin the 4th quarter, the Lions had a pesky drive that included a Theo Riddick conversion on 4th&1 after an impressive second effort. However, the next set of downs ended with a Vinny Curry sack to bump the Lions out of field goal range and forced another punt.

Philadelphia Eagles
Oct 9, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws the ball as Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Vinny Curry (75) moves in to tackle during the first quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

Jordan Matthews started a key drive with a 20-yard catch on third down. Ryan Mathews followed that up with a long run, that was negated by a disappointing holding penalty downfield by Brandon Brooks. Caleb Sturgis was forced to convert his 3rd field goal of the afternoon, a 49-yard effort after a few incompletions from Wentz. It was now 23-21 Eagles with 6:40 left in the game, and the defense didn’t look interested in surrendering that lead.

The Lions followed up with one of the flattest 3 and outs you’ll ever witness, burning less than a minute off the clock. The Eagles simply needed to work Ryan Mathews, grab a few first downs, and burn the remainder of the game clock to become 4-0. Is it ever that easy, though?

After a few listless plays, the Eagles were lurking around midfield with 2:41 left in the game. Plenty of field left to burn the clock down with running plays. On a 3rd & 2 play, Ryan Mathews took the ball to the outside and Darius Slay jarred it loose, and the Lions recovered the ensuing fumble. After a few conservative play calls from the Lions offensively and the Eagles burning all three of their timeouts, Matt Prater hit a 29-yard field goal to give the Lions a 24-23 lead with 1:28 left in the game. Time to see what Carson Wentz is really made of, in his first legitimate high-pressure drive in his young NFL career. While most Eagles fans would have went into the final drive with confidence in the rookie QB, it turned out to be unjustified.

On the first play of the final drive that only needed a field goal to win, Wentz went deep to Nelson Agholor, and after a jump to win the ball, Darius Slay came down with the ball for the interception at the Lions 23-yard line. It was the first turnover in Wentz’s career, and it couldn’t have been at a more disappointing time. The Lions kneeled it, and the Eagles picked up their first loss of the season.

While the team is still 3-1 and in a great position to do something great this season, this loss hurts. Keeping momentum heading into a road divisional game next week would have been crucial, but that will make next week’s contest in the nation’s capital that much more important.

The main takeaway from this game should be that Carson Wentz still looks awesome. He was under pressure a fair amount, and made some really impressive throws on the run to guys like Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor. Wentz ended the day going 25/33 for 238 yards and 2 TD & 1 INT. Five guys had over 25 receiving yards, continuing to prove Wentz had confidence in his receiving corps, tight ends, and running backs.

Next: Wentz’s Success Softens Philadelphia’s Blow Of Losing Ben Simmons

If the defense can come out firing early next week, unlike today’s game, then you have to like the Eagles chances in Washington. But Eagles fans will know all too well about the misery that comes with trips to FedEx Field, thus making for a guaranteed entertaining game next week. It will be of the utmost importance the Eagles win their first divisional game of the season and avoid starting any kind of losing streak.