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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Eagles and Arizona Cardinals played a game on Sunday. It was just a little hard to fathom exactly what it was — because it certainly didn’t look like pro football, maybe some antiquated semblance of the game.
The “Punt Bowl” threw the NFL back a few years, buried by a barrage of errant throws, missed field goals, missed tackles, missed blocks, costly penalties and dropped passes. Think leather helmets and jump passes on grainy celluloid. The offenses of both teams played a game of chicken, heading toward each other at break-neck speed to see what team would blink first.
It was that bad. Then it got worse for the Eagles, who suffered yet another fourth-quarter collapse.
For the fifth time this season the Eagles fell apart in the last quarter—this time to the lowly Arizona Cardinals, 21-17, before a dormant crowd at Lincoln Financial Field. The loss dropped the Eagles to 3-6, and likely ended any hopes for the playoffs in what appeared to be a promising season for the Eagles, who declared they were “All in” before a game was played.
“Hey, we’ve heard these things before. how we’re done,” Eagles’ receiver Jason Avant said. “The way you get through this is respect your opponent, and you don’t look at your record. We know what’s out there, we know what’s going to be said. The way you get through it is not listen to it, not listen to all the outside forces that want to drag you down. We need to regroup and keep the outside forces away.”
It may also mean the death knell for Eagles’ head coach Andy Reid.
Michael Vick was a horrible 16-for-34 for 128 yards and two interceptions. Vick, who hasn’t won a big game since the Eagles’ miraculous comeback against the New York Giants last December, was outdueled by Cardinals’ backup quarterback John Skelton, who stepped in for injured ex-Eagle Kevin Kolb to complete 21-of-40 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns.
The four blown fourth-quarter leads at home is a new NFL record (and the five squandered fourth-quarter leads overall ties an NFL record, getting outscored 74-27 in the last quarter). The Eagles are 1-4 at home this season. Since the historic December 19, 2010 Eagles’ victory over the Giants, Philadelphia is 1-7 at home, including the defeats to Minnesota’s Joe Webb, another backup and the playoff loss to Green Bay.
Against Arizona, the Eagles looked like they had the game in hand when Alex Henery hit a 36-yard field goal with 5:11 left in the game. But Arizona came charging back, thanks in large part to the amazing Larry Fitzgerald, whose stunning over-the-shoulder 37-yard reception made the winning score possible. A.J. Jefferson’s interception on a Vick desperation heave sealed it.
Before the game, the Eagles caught everyone by surprise by announcing that deep-threat wide receiver DeSean Jackson was deactivated for missing a team meeting on Saturday.
As a result, what you saw was an Eagles offense that relied on a lot of underneath routes, with no one other than Jeremy Maclin that could stretch the field. Vick, who ran for his life much of the game, had to rely on short and intermediate routes that the Cardinals snuffed out.
What Jackson’s deactivation could do is anyone’s guess when it comes to resigning him. He’s wanted a contract extension and up until now has been a good, silent soldier when it’s come to airing his grievance over that. It’s led to no locker room dissension. Not yet. Though, it’s no secret that Jackson has been displeased with his current rookie $600,000 pact.
Could what occurred on Sunday affect what’s been going on there?
As for on the field, the Eagles’ faint life support signs have flatlined.
Two interceptions, a season-high 11 penalties for 97 yards, 3-for-15 in third-down conversions plus 1-for-3 in the red zone all spelled possibly the worst loss in Reid’s 12-year tenure.
“Obviously, you can’t turn over the football as many times as we did, have 11 penalties on top of that and be a disaster in the red zone like we were, that’s my responsibility and the way this team plays is my responsibility and we have to make sure we correct them,” said Reid, whose team has an NFL-leading seven red zone turnovers this season.
When asked about Jackson, Reid said, “I thought it was the right thing to do. Now that it’s out there, he missed a meeting and he has to step back and make sure that doesn’t happen again. I’m not happy about it. You do what the rules are, and that’s what you do.”
Jackson is believed to have missed a meeting last week, too, but Reid replied, “I’m not going to get into all of that, the thing is already done.”
LeSean McCoy finished with 81 yards on 14 carries, including a 29-yard run and a one-yard touchdown, scoring in the ninth-straight game this year, a new team record. But everything around this game tainted anything positive. And McCoy only touched the ball twice in the fourth quarter.
“They kept brining guys into the box,” McCoy said. “That’s probably why we threw the ball as much as we did. I am never going to judge the calls though.”
McCoy does, however, feel there is something obviously missing this season, “It’s the attitude,” he said. “We get into the red zone and we have to put points on the board. There are missed blocks, interceptions, and turnovers in general. We have to get better as a team. Late in the game, we are not going for the jugular and the finishing the game the right way. I know we’re not playing Eagles’ football. We are not playing as a unit. We are shooting ourselves sin the foot with turnovers, missed assignments, dropped balls and holding penalties. It just goes on and on. Until we fix it, we are going to keep on losing.”
Asante Samuel’s 20-yard interception TD return in the second quarter got the Eagles going with a 7-0 lead. That seemed to perk up the Cardinals, who drove right down the field to tie the score at 7-7 when Skelton found Fitzgerald on a 10-yard touchdown, concluding a 10-play, 84-yard drive.
The Eagles answered with a sustained drive of their own, marching 70 yards on 10 plays. The reward was McCoy’s one-yard touchdown run and an Eagles’ 14-7 lead with :17 left in the first half.
But other than that, it was a difficult brand of football to watch. The teams were a combined 4-for-14 on third-down efficiency in the first half (and 9-of-31 for the game). Skelton and Vick both missed a number of open receivers. Vick, for example, misfired badly when he had a breaking Brent Celek down the right side of the field with a 4:01 left in the first quarter. And Vick knew it, stomping the ground and clutching his helmet with both hands in disgust.
It seemed to be a familiar pose by Eagles’ fans as they flocked out of Lincoln Financial Field after Vick’s second interception in the last minute, along with another more ominous pressing question that had to be coursing through a few of the departing: Has Reid lost this team?
Reported by Joseph Santoliquito