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By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — Just when they thought the antidote had arrived in the woeful Carolina Panthers, the same old bromides resurfaced, ad nauseam.
Before numerous empty seats that dotted Lincoln Financial Field Monday night, the Eagles were looking to snap out of their six-game funk. It was during a crucial moment in the fourth quarter when they reverted back to their fumbling, penalty-plagued ways.
It all led to another utterly forgettable performance in what has already been an abysmal season in a 30-22 loss to Carolina.
The Eagles have now fallen to 3-8 and lost for the seventh-straight time, the longest losing skid in Andy Reid’s coaching career. It matches the Eagles’ biggest tumble since Richie Kotite’s 1994 Eagles lost their last seven games.
It wasted a great effort by Bryce Brown, who rushed for a game-high, and Eagles’ rookie record 178 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
But that couldn’t erase three-straight offside penalties in the fourth quarter, and four defensive penalties in an eight-play span, that gave Carolina renewed opportunities. Nor could it prevent two Eagle defenders from running into each other later in the quarter on a Panthers crossing route, or Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton shrugging off three Eagle defensive linemen to scramble free in the second quarter.
The Eagles have not won a game since they beat the New York Giants, 19-17, back on September 30.
If there was any slim hope that Reid would return next season, that faint chance was probably erased with this loss. The Panthers scored two early touchdowns with no Eagle defenders nearby. Brown did lose two fumbles, and Brandon Boykin lost a third with 4:30 left to play.
“You can say it was miscommunications, blown plays, it’s the little things, one step this way or that way, that’s what’s hurt us,” Eagles’ rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks said. “We have to play a whole game. We can’t have turnovers that put us in bad positions as a defense, we just have to keep positive and keep working.”
The turnovers were compounded by three-straight Eagles’ penalties that prolonged a Carolina fourth-quarter possession, which resulted in Newton’s two-yard touchdown plunge that gave the Panthers a 30-22 edge. On the ensuing kickoff, Boykin had the ball stripped from behind and Carolina recovered at the Panthers’ 49.
That spelled the end of any comeback.
Eagles’ rookie quarterback Nick Foles made his second NFL start, completing 16 of 21 for 119 yards. But it was Brown that did the bulwark, rushing for 129 yards in the first half alone.
“Obviously the three turnovers, two by Bryce and one by Boykin there in the end, they were a part of the problem down the stretch; we also had the penalties in that last drive when we had an opportunity to get off the field and weren’t disciplined to get ourselves lined up properly or stay on side,” Reid said. “With that, I thought Bryce did some good things. He’s a young guy who will learn from this, but at that moment it cost us. Listen, we have to learn and we have a lot of young guys that are playing here. We completely understand we have eight losses here. What we’re going to do is continue to fight and eliminate some of these mistakes we’re making.”
Reid bristled when Carolina’s first two touchdowns were broached.
“Two broken coverages; they shouldn’t happen, they shouldn’t happen at all,” Reid said. “That’s my responsibility from a coaching standpoint to make sure we get the guys coached up right and to do their jobs. That clearly falls on my shoulders. It’s the big plays that have been getting us. It’s really what’s gotten us the last few weeks. Unfortunately, they’ve been blown coverages.”
Reid didn’t want to address his tenuous future with the Eagles. He continues to stick with his “I have to do a better job” spiel, though he did admit this is one of the most unusual seasons he’s ever endured.
The only two teams with worse records in the NFL than the Eagles are the 2-9 Jacksonville Jaguars and the 1-10 Kansas City Chiefs.
“With the mistakes comes an energy, so I don’t see this team tanking or anything,” Reid said. “I’m sure I haven’t been through something like this, as far as this many losses go. Listen, when you’re in it, you have to fix it. I want to get it right right now.”
The time for fixing, however, may have passed a month ago.