By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Nnamdi Asomugha sat there in front of his stall picking at the black tape on his ankles, still in uniform long after any of his teammates in the gloomy pall that covered the Eagles’ lockerroom Sunday. Asomugha looked down a few times, his glazed eyes groping for answers mesmerized by the tattered strips on the floor.
It’s not exactly time to wrap a black armband around the Eagles, though it was jolting to watch as a 10-point fourth-quarter lead melted away against the Detroit Lions at Lincoln Financial Field while Asomugha and the Eagles tried coping with a 26-23 overtime loss.
A defeat that was highly avoidable, with the Eagles ahead by two scores with 5:18 left to play.
But if the Eagles have been anything through their first six games this season, it’s been maddening. They’re also something else heading into the bye week, 3-3, instead of 4-2 after the Lions’ Jason Hanson booted a 45-yard field goal in OT.
The Eagles now have two weeks to recuperate and recover for the visiting Atlanta Falcons on October 28.
There’s a lot to consider.
“I can’t explain what happened in the last five minutes,” Asomugha said. “It was the moment where we needed to step up and make a play, and they were the ones that just kept doing it. There wasn’t much that needed to be said after the game. It was embarrassing that we lost the way we did, and that the fight wasn’t there at the end of the game like it had been all year pretty much.”
Lions’ quarterback Matt Stafford ripped through the Eagles for 17 fourth-quarter points. He was 13-for-22 in the fourth quarter for 187 yards, scoring once and throwing for another score. The Eagles went to a different defensive scheme in the fourth quarter, going against what they had been doing the first three quarters, and that was relying on the front four to pressure Stafford.
“I don’t know if we changed what was working, I’ll just say that we blitzed a lot more toward the end of the game, and we didn’t do as much blitzing through the first three-and-a-half quarters,” Asomugha said. “We wanted to get after [Stafford], and like I said, he found the spot that he wanted to go to.”
Michael Vick’s turnover woes continued. He threw two interceptions (giving him 13 turnovers this season, five lost fumbles and eight interceptions), but he was very efficient, too, completing 28 of 46 for 311 yards and two touchdowns.
It looked as if Vick’s 70-yard touchdown connection to Jeremy Maclin might be the winning difference with 5:18 left to play. It gave Philadelphia what appeared to be a commanding 23-13 lead, with Detroit’s offense unable to move the ball until then.
But the Lions, a desperate team that had to win this game or they would have fallen to 1-4, whittled that down.
Through the first three quarters, the Eagles stymied Lions’ receiver Calvin Johnson. He was targeted six times, but Asomugha had held him to just one catch, a 28-yard reception midway through the first quarter. In the fourth quarter alone, Johnson hauled in four passes for 90 yards, and his 17-yard reception in overtime set up Hanson’s game-winning kick.
In the last 5:18, Detroit scored 10 unanswered points. Stafford hit Nate Burleson for a 17-yard touchdown with 3:32 left to play, then Stafford drove the Lions back down the field again, setting up Hanson’s 19-yard field with :03 left in regulation to tie it at 23-23.
“They just kept running the same things and some things started opening up,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “I can’t call why we can’t get sacks. We have to take it all in and look at each other in the mirror and figure it out. We know this team is strong. We have good leadership. The way we lost today, we sure can’t lose like this. I felt good going into the last four minutes. All we had to do was make a play. It just didn’t happen that way. Even when we got the ball, I felt on offense, we should have used the clock a little more.”
With the Eagles clinging to a 23-20 lead with 3:32 left after the Burleson touchdown, the Eagles went three-and-out. LeSean McCoy, a nonfactor with 22 yards rushing on 14 carries and 22 touches for 48 total yards, touched the ball three times in the fourth quarter.
The harshest blow may have come with 10:29 left to play, when Vick’s pass to DeSean Jackson was intercepted by Chris Houston. Detroit wasn’t able to do anything with the turnover, but an opportunity to chop off valuable minutes in the fourth quarter was gone.
“It definitely wasn’t any fun,” Eagles’ tackle Todd Herremans said. “We’ve lost games in the fourth quarter before, but I said it last week, if we keep playing these close games, the other team gets paid to make these game-winning drives, too. You just can’t let teams hang around.”
Two Detroit sacks for a combined minus-21 yards forced the Eagles to punt from their end zone. The Lions needed five plays to win from there.
It’s becoming a recurring template for every Eagles’ game this season: Look lousy in the first half, recover in the second half to take a late lead and then brace as the defense perilously tries to hang on to preserve the slim lead.
It hasn’t happened now in the last two Eagles’ games—both losses. It’s a trend the Eagles must examine in the off week. Blown fourth quarter leads are also a familiar pattern the Eagles experienced last year.
“It’s sick and disappointing,” McCoy said. “That’s how I feel. A type of game like that, you expect to win. It didn’t turn out that way. We need to find ways to finish games. This could be a game that might come back and haunt us late in the year. This wasn’t an easy win, but I felt like we had the game in control. To lose like this, it gives you a sick feeling.”
Mac Attack … Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin led the team with 130 receiving yards, including a 70-yard touchdown, the third-longest score of his career … It marks Maclin’s eighth career 100-yard game … Maclin has amassed 2,891 career receiving yards, which is already the fourth-highest total ever by an Eagle in his first four seasons. His 22 touchdowns are sixth.
Mike Check … QB Michael Vick collected his ninth 300-yard passing game as an Eagle, which is already the fifth-highest total in team history … Vick also threw two touchdown passes, and now has 48 as an Eagle, moving past Roman Gabriel and into 10th on the team’s all-time list … With 1,039 passing attempts and 628 completions, Vick also moved into ninth and seventh place, respectively, in franchise annals.
Shady Bounce … RB LeSean McCoy scored his second receiving touchdown in as many games. In doing so, he moved past Gary Anderson and into 18th on the team’s all-time scoring list with 218. McCoy has scored a touchdown in nine of his last 10 home games … McCoy (4,795) also moved past Ben Hawkins and into 15th on the team’s all-time scrimmage yards list.
Defensive Nuggets … The Eagles defense has held opponents to 7-20 in the red zone this season, while limiting passers to a 52.4% completion percentage (118-225) … CB Nnamdi Asomugha made his first interception of the season … The Eagles defense held the Lions to 3-13 (23.1%) on third down. On the season, opponents have converted just 23 of 79 third down opportunities (29.1%).
Offensive Quick Hits … The Eagles have scored five touchdowns and 38 points this season in the final two minutes of the half … The offense has also scored points on their opening drive of the second half in five of six games this season (two touchdowns, three field goals).
Birdseed … P Mat McBriar’s 64-yard punt was the Eagles longest since Sav Rocca’s 65-yarder on 9/28/08 at Chicago … WR DeSean Jackson is now tied with Brian Mitchell and John Sciarra for second on the team’s all-time list with 117 career punt returns … K Alex Henery connected on all three of his field goal attempts, including a 49-yarder, and has now made 10 in a row.