In an Eagles season where field goals and last-minute, game-winning drives have been the deciding factor in almost every game.
With near misses bringing too-close-for-comfort success, eventually, luck starts swinging the other way.
And over the pasts two weeks, luck seems to have swung its favor to the other side.
For three consecutive games, the Eagles have had their fate dictated by whether or not the opposing kicker can make a lengthy field goal to win the game.
And, in two of the three instances (Pittsburgh and Detroit), the opposing team has come out with the victory.
After the Lions sacked Michael Vick twice in a row during the Eagles’ only drive in overtime, setting up a 3rd and 31 situation that squandered a brilliant goal-line stance in the fourth quarter to force the Lions into overtime, the Eagles were forced to punt the ball out of their own end zone, leaving the Lions on the 50-yard line to start their game-winning overtime drive.
Overall, though, the mistakes were a total breakdown of the team, so the blame can be placed in several places, but certain factors contributed to a higher degree.
The Eagles, once again, came out focusing too heavily on the pass in the first half as Vick threw the ball 24 times against seven rushing attempts by LeSean McCoy, a 2-yard run by Bryce Brown, and a run by DeSean Jackson that lost 14 yards.
Sure, the Lions out-gained the Eagles 60 to 21 yards on the ground in the first half, and the Eagles had an extremely difficult time setting up the run, but abandoning the rush is not a prudent option; however, the Eagles have done that far too often this season.
McCoy rushed the ball two times in the the first quarter, and he ran the ball seven times for a total of just 12 yards in the first half. In total, he finished with 14 carries for 22 yards, averaging only 1.6 yards per carry, and questions concerning whether he could have had more yards if the Eagles had used him more were present, once again. To put it simply, the Eagles cannot afford to abandon the run; McCoy is a primary weapon, and, as such, he needs to be a key player setting the tone from the start of the game.
The Eagles need to get a better start to their games. The Eagles did not get past the 50 yard line until their third drive of the game, with a little under four minutes left in the first quarter, and the team used a drastically inopportune method for movement as Vick, in all too familiar fashion, fumbled the ball at the 47-yard line but recovered the ball at the 50.
Although he averted danger, he came into the game with five lost fumbles, and, since he could not even make it through the first quarter without fumbling the ball, the situation looks just as bleak as before.
As reported, he had been walking around the practice facility this week with a ball in his hand to promote better ball security on the field, but that obviously did not work too well. In the heat of the moment of running, he too often holds the ball out and away from his body — as if he is holding a suitcase instead of a football — leaving an easy target for defensive players to prey upon.
If he cannot keep control of the ball, the Eagles will struggle throughout the rest of the season.
The offensive line needs to solidify. Two plays after Vick's fumble, center Dallas Reynolds would eventually cough up the ball after giving a bad snap that sent the ball flying away from Michael Vick, and the Eagles’ turnover woes continued.
As it was not Reynolds only mistake of the day, the Eagles may have to consider picking up another center soon. In addition, the offensive line was egregiously porous yesterday, and, considering the number of times Vick has been hit throughout the first six weeks of the season, he is lucky not to be injured.
The line is attempting to move forward with two first-year players, Demetress Bell and Dallas Reynolds, two second-year players, Evan Mathis and Danny Watkins, and only one veteran, Todd Herremans, who has been with the team for more than two years. As such, the effectiveness of the line is circumspect, and they need something or someone to help.
The time-management issues also have to change. In the second quarter, the Eagles continued to display an inability to properly manage the clock when, with 49 seconds on the clock, the Eagles burned timeouts by making poor decisions.
As their first timeout was taken before a 3rdand 1 play with 8:28 left on the clock, the Eagles were left with two timeouts to start the drive. They moved from the 27-yard line to the 44 after a 17-yard reception by LeSean McCoy and then used their second timeout. Then, with 38 seconds left, Vick decided to throw a short pass to McCoy on 1st and 10 instead of either throwing a longer pass to move the ball down the field or simply throwing the ball out of bounds to stop the clock.
Afterwards, the Eagles were forced to use their final timeout, and the opportunity for a field goal all but diminished completely.
The Eagles currently rank 31st in points per game, averaging 17.2 points, which is better than only the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 13 points per game, and they are not going to improve unless they can take advantage of every opportunity given to them.
Finally, the Eagles need to hold onto leads, and the defense, specifically, needs to hold their end of the bargain. The Eagles coughed up too many late leads in their woeful start to last year’s season, and their tendency to shut down towards the end of games that has been increasing with each game.
Yesterday, for example, the Eagles took a commanding 23-13 lead over the Lions after Jeremy Maclin’s 70-yard reception and run for a touchdown that left the Lions with 5:18 on the clock to get ten points.
Detroit then moved deftly down the field, and, in seven plays that took away only 1:46 of the clock, Matthew Stafford was able to drive down the field for a touchdown. Following the touchdown, with 3:32 left on the clock, Andy Reid & Co. decided to go with two pass plays and one run — by rookie Bryce Brown and not McCoy — in a three-and-out situation, and the Lions were left with 2:27 to tie or win the game. Put simply, the defense needs to play strong for a full 60 minutes.
The Eagles are now 3-3, and they have to turnaround their luck, quickly. They enter the bye this week, so they will have time to regroup and prepare for the 6-0 Atlanta Falcons who, despite being the only undefeated team in the league, have not beaten their last three opponents by a margin of more than 7 points.
In addition, they struggled considerably to defeat the Oakland Raiders, who, like the Eagles next week, were coming off a bye. Andy Reid has a perfect record after the bye, but he is going to have his record tested by one of the elite teams in the league.
If the Eagles cannot fend off the Lions, the Falcons, who are averaging 402 yards and 28.5 points per game, could be a rude awakening for the team. Thus, the Eagles now need to focus on controlling the issues that let them down against Detroit and focus on winning in the future.
The schedule gets easier towards the end of the season, so they can bounce back if they do not dig themselves into too deep of a hole early in the season. A 4-3 start is not optimal.