PHILADELPHIA (CBS)—No one expected this. No one. That the Eagles would be muddled at 1-3 after four games was an aberration. Inconceivable. Unthinkable. Welcome to the warm, odorous pool the Philadelphia Eagles now reside after losing a third-straight game in the fourth quarter for the first time in franchise history.
The San Francisco 49ers looked finished a few times, but a ponderous amount of Eagles’ mistakes (red zone offense, red zone defense, turnovers, ect., ect.)—punctuated by former Eagles’ kicker David Akers’ extra point—spelled a miserable 24-23 defeat for the Eagles before a stunned, silent crowd that in the end were spouting Phillies chants as time was winding down at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles have now been outscored 36-0 over their last three games in the fourth quarter, and have failed to respond when the opposing team scores in the second half, getting outscored 50-0 in unanswered points.
It was certainly one of the biggest losses in coach Andy Reid’s tenure with the Eagles, who fell to 1-3 while San Francisco improved to 3-1.
It also wasted an amazing day by Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick, who threw for a career-best 30 completions and 416 yards, though Vick’s last completion, to Jeremy Maclin at the San Francisco 32, resulted in a fumble with 2:16 left that proved to be the Eagles’ undoing.
“This stings, it really does,” said Eagles’ defensive end Jason Babin, who also had a career game with three sacks and a forced fumble. “I put some of the onus on myself. I look back and see that there were more plays that I could have made. A lot of people on our defense feel that way. We’re at 1-3 right now, and 1-3 is serious, especially with a team this talented.”
When asked if the players needed a players-only meeting to address the myriad problems, Babin immediately snapped back, “There’s no issue here. We know what we did wrong. We’re coming off a great week of practice, we came in prepared. But it was all these little things that caught up to us. They made the plays when they had to, big plays. You want to know what did us in? Big plays. We went from the minus-side [defensively] to the plus side [in yards given up]. We can’t let these teams back in when we have them down, and that’s what’s happening here.”
Eagles’ rookie center Jason Kelce sees many of the same problems, especially when it comes inside the red zone, where the Eagles were an inept 2-for-7 (29-percent) against the 49ers. Philadelphia picked up 513 yards of total offense, but the Eagles continue to be plagued by the same issues inside the 20. It’s missed blitzes, it’s a case of exotic plays that don’t work in tight space, it’s penalties and breakdowns. Of 21 red zone possessions this season, the Eagles have scored just eight touchdowns. In the last two games alone, the Eagles are a meager 3-for-12 inside the red zone.
“It wasn’t anything they did,” Kelce said. “Guys weren’t on the same page. We failed to execute in the red zone. What it comes down to is we didn’t control what we should have controlled. We’re 1-3, I know, but we should be 4-0, because we haven’t been outplayed physically by anyone. We haven’t done a good job of executing our jobs—and that’s on us.”
The Eagles’ goal-line adventures continued, but this time, they came with a comical twist. On third-and-goal at the one with 7:13 left in the second quarter, Ronnie Brown attempted to throw the ball in a play that you may see in a pee-wee game (and most probably will be recounted ad nauseam over the next few days, too).
As Brown was being pulled down, he tried a what-were-you-thinking fiasco by trying to throw the ball. The ball was knocked loose and San Francisco linebacker NaVarro Bowman was there to pounce on it at the 49ers’ 4-yard line. Somehow, Reid felt compelled to throw a red flag in asking for a replay. The play stood, costing the Eagles a timeout. The fumble was one of three Eagles’ turnovers (2 fumbles, 1 interception).
“It was a designed play,” Brown admitted. “I just have to make a better decision with the ball. I think I tried to out think myself a little bit. It was a pass play and I was thinking once the guy slipped off, I’d just throw the ball away and give us another chance on fourth down. When the guy had me in the grasp, I should have made a decision and just ate it, then just take the three points.”
The 49ers’ victory came as redemption for Akers, who holds almost every kicking record in Eagles’ history. The former Philadelphia fan favorite missed a pair of field goals. That did not hurt as much as Eagles’ rookie Alex Henery’s two missed fourth-quarter field goals inside the 40 that could have meant an Eagles’ victory.
But Reid wanted to spread the blame around. And in a hunched over, cantankerous manner Reid filled an already-intense postgame press conference with more venom refusing to answer some questions and spouting terse remarks to others. His perfunctory “I-have-to-do-a-better-job” line did come with a hint of sincerity, saying, “Absolutely terrible job by myself and my football team today. When you have the lead in the National Football League, you build on it and you continue to score points when given the opportunity. In all areas, in all areas, we were terrible today. We had a lot of yards, but we didn’t punch it in, and we were 2-for-7 in the red zone. Defensively, we gave up three scoring drives in the second half. Our kicker has got to figure it out, too, just like everybody else on our football team. When you have opportunities to score points, you score points.”
Some placed the blame on the defense and the job new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo is doing, but Reid squelched any thought of that, saying “If it was a defensive game, I would tell you yes, but it’s an offensive game, too. Nobody is pointing fingers at anybody. We’re all going to take a look at each other and look in the mirror a little bit and figure it out.”
Tight end Clay Harbor, who also played well, catching three passes for 55 yards and a touchdown, said Reid and his staff have placed the team in positions to make plays. Harbor did point a finger—at the Eagles, and the constant mistakes they’re making.
“We stayed aggressive, it’s not on the coaches,” Harbor said, “it’s on us. We moved the ball, but turnovers killed us. It came down to little mistakes, because we have the talent to win, and we all still believe that. Coach Reid was pretty angry again, but he emphasized to us that we need to refocus and think harder.”
After Frank Gore’s 12-yard touchdown run provided the winning score for the 49ers with 3:00 left to play, Akers raised both fists into the air as he nailed the ensuing kickoff into the end zone, forcing the Eagles to start at their 20. Akers took more of a high road, saying afterward how it was great to see his former teammates and about King Dunlap coming up to him and apologizing for a blocked 45-yard field goal attempt early in the third quarter.
The blocked field goal, ironically, translated into a Henery 33-yard field goal which put the Eagles up, 23-3, with 9:34 remaining in the third quarter. You have to go all the way back to December 1, 1985 to find the last time the Eagles blew a lead of 20 points or more, when they were up 23-0 against the Minnesota Vikings at Veterans Stadium. The Vikings and quarterback Wade Wilson proceeded to score 28 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for a 28-23 victory.
“There is no way you’re up by that much in the second half and just give it away,” Eagles’ defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. “I mean it was just drive after drive and we gave it away. At some point, players have to own up and say it’s enough. You know maybe having this label of having so many good players is hurting us, because maybe people are standing around waiting for someone else to do it, instead of going out and manning up and making plays themselves.”
Besides the ignominy of squandering a 20-point lead, the Eagles couldn’t escape without 49ers’ wide receiver Michael Crabtree dispensing a parting shot … “Dream team, who called [the Eagles] the ‘Dream Team?’” asked Crabtree, who caught nine passes for 68 yards. “They didn’t look like a dream team to me. It was mano a mano, and we had to worry about what we did. Dream team? Who’s dream team?”
It’s a good question right now.
QB Michael Vick set career highs with 30 completions and 416 passing yards, while also contributing 75 rushing yards and two passing touchdowns. It was his sixth-career 300-yard game, and his fourth as an Eagle … According to Stats Inc., it was the most passing yards ever by a player with 75 or more rushing yards … His 416 yards were the seventh-highest total in team history and the most since Donovan McNabb’s 450 on 11/15/09 at San Diego … Vick (4,858) is now just 70 yards shy of Randall Cunningham (4,928) for the most rushing yards in NFL history by a quarterback … WR DeSean Jackson led the team with 171 receiving yards, marking his 13th career 100-yard game (second this season) and tying Ben Hawkins and Harold Jackson for the seventh-highest total in team history (including postseason) … It was the third-highest yardage output of his career … DE Jason Babin had a career-high three sacks, marking his second multi-sack game of the season and the eighth of his career. It is the first time in his career that he has had a sack in four straight games, and he now has 10.5 sacks in his last eight contests, including three multi-sack efforts … The last Eagle three-or-more sacks in a game was Trent Cole, who notched 3.5 on 9/23/07 vs. Detroit … Babin’s 7.0 sacks this season are the most ever by an Eagle through four games … T King Dunlap blocked a 45-yard David Akers field goal attempt, which was recovered by Colt Anderson and led to an Eagles field goal. It was the first blocked kick by an Eagle since Antonio Dixon’s block of a 48-yard attempt by Robbie Gould on 11/22/09 at Chicago … TE Clay Harbor caught his second-career touchdown … RB LeSean McCoy had six receptions for 34 yards and his second receiving touchdown of the season. McCoy has scored a touchdown in all four games this season … The Eagles offense netted 513 yards of total offense, which is the sixth-highest total ever under Andy Reid.
Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito