Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Hawaiian Punch

Posted by Eric Fisher On September 30

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

As Super Bowl champions, the Eagles seem to have a target on their backs. Every team is motivated to give its best against the champs. Every one of the Eagles’ games has come down to the final possession, although the Eagles had to go 90 yards in 10 seconds at the end of their loss to the Buccaneers.

Sunday’s loss to the Titans was more of the same. The Eagles, who squandered a 14-point second-half lead, needed a field goal with 16 seconds remaining to force overtime. After striking first during overtime with a field goal, the Eagles watched Marcus Mariota lead the Titans on a 75-yard drive that culminated with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Corey Davis with 11 seconds remaining in overtime.

“We’re not quite where we want to be,” quarterback Carson Wentz said of the 2-2 Eagles, “but there’s still a long way to go.”

The Eagles are thrilled to have Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, but they may also have been pleased if, as rumored at the time, they had acquired Mariota, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft.

Mariota completed 30 of 43 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. He also ran for 46 yards and a touchdown. On the game-winning drive in overtime, Mariota converted three times on fourth down to keep the drive alive.

Fourth-down issues

“We get off the field on fourth down, we win the game,” cornerback Jalen Mills said.

On the first fourth down of the overtime drive, the Titans dug themselves a deeper hole with a false start penalty, leaving them with fourth-and-15. But Mariota found Taywan Taylor along the left sideline for a fairly easy 19-yard gain against soft coverage.

“We were just a little out of position,” head coach Doug Pederson said.

On fourth-and-4, cornerback Sidney Jones was flagged for a pass interference penalty, giving the Titans a first down at the Eagles 40-yard line. On fourth-and-2 at the 32, instead of attempting a game-tying field goal, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel decided to go for it. Mariota threw the ball to running back Dion Lewis in the right flat. Lewis made cornerback Ronald Darby miss at tackle, and then raced down to the 15.

A defensive holding penalty on safety Malcolm Jenkins moved the ball to the 10. After an errant throw to an open Tajae Sharpe against rookie cornerback Avonte Maddox in the center of the end zone on first down, the Titans came back to Maddox. Mariota lobbed the ball up to the much taller Davis, who came down with the winning catch after Maddox stumbled.

If it sounds as if many members of the Eagles secondary were victimized, you would be correct. And I haven’t mentioned Mills, who was burned several times, including a 51-yard pass to Davis, and committed a crucial pass interference penalty. Jenkins played a terrific game, but the rest of the secondary seemed to struggle. Perhaps the ripple effect of starter Rodney McLeod’s knee injury were felt right away. Graham didn’t seem to take the correct angle on the fourth-and-15 throw in overtime, and perhaps Maddox doesn’t have to cover receivers one-on-one at the end of the game if McLeod were healthy.

“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us,” Pederson said. “We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We just have to get back to work.”

The Eagles were actually fortunate that Darius Jennings and Davis dropped long passes. There were several other key drops for the Titans, but Mariota repeatedly overcame them.

Happy returns

The Eagles seemed to have the game under control when they started the second half with a touchdown drive that ate up 7 minutes, 24 seconds. The drive ended with Wentz finding Alshon Jeffery for a 16-yard touchdown pass in the right side of the end zone.

In his season debut after undergoing rotator cuff surgery, Jeffery caught eight passes for 105 yards. He made a “back shoulder” catch and made several tough catches.

“It’s great to have Alshon back out there, a guy that can make contested catches” said Wentz, who completed 33 of 50 passes for 348 yards and two touchdowns.

It was a nice day of returns for Eagles receivers. In addition to Jeffery, Jordan Matthews, in his second game since rejoining the Eagles, caught a 56-yard touchdown pass during the second quarter to cap the Eagles’ first scoring drive. DeAndre Carter, activated on Friday when the Eagles put McLeod on injured reserve, returned a punt 41 yards to give the Eagles possession at the Titans 39 with 1:41 remaining.

Missed opportunities and costly mistakes

But the Eagles couldn’t turn the excellent field position into a touchdown, even after Jeffery caught a 15-yard pass to move the ball to the 19. They settled for a field goal, just as they did after an interception by Maddox gave them the ball at the 17 with 26 seconds remaining.

The missed opportunities certainly contributed to the Eagles’ demise. A lost fumble by Wentz early in the fourth quarter enabled the Titans to kick a field goal to pull within 17-13. There were too many dropped passes (several by Nelson Agholor) and penalties – the Eagles committed eight for 77 yards – were once again a problem. During their touchdown drive to start the third quarter, the Eagles overcame three separate holding penalties.

“Something negative happens, and it gets us out of our rhythm,” Pederson said.

Self-inflicted wounds was the theme after the Eagles lost to the Bucs. If it happens again, it would be fair to characterize the mistakes as a trend.

“Those little things can kind of creep up and bit you,” Wentz said, “and I think that’s what happened today.”

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Harper hits 1st home run as Phillie