Because of a series of miscues, many of which occurred in the final minutes, the Eagles let one get away on Sunday.
It's always easy for the casual NFL observer to play Tuesday Morning Quarterback. And, well, it is Tuesday morning as I type this.
It's especially easy when playing the "what if" game with the Philadelphia Eagles, who, like so many times before (five blown fourth-quarter leads in 2011, five losses by a touchdown or less in 2012), once again found themselves on the losing end of a contest that went down to the wire.
However, there were a handful of moments in the final minutes of the San Diego Chargers game that, if altered ever so slightly, would have led to a previously unthinkable Thursday night, nationally televised matchup between the undefeated Eagles and the undefeated, Andy Reid-led Kansas City Chiefs.
And if the honeymoon isn't already over, it'll come to a screeching halt if Chip Kelly loses this one.
If we are able to "Butterfly Effect" any of the following, the overall perception of the Eagles right now in Philly, regardless of the obvious imperfections—an atrocious secondary, a weak pass rush and continued red zone struggles, to name a few—changes dramatically.
There were more than a few incidents that occurred in the first three quarters that, if altered, may have rendered the fourth quarter miscues moot for the Birds. Such as:
- Three blatant pass interference calls on Cary Williams. The Week 2 Jekyll to his Week 1 Hyde. None of them passed for incidental contact and all of them were inexcusable.
- Vick's incomplete pass to James Casey in the first quarter. It sure looked like a touchdown catch. Casey claims he caught it, but alas, the refs disagreed and the Eagles settled for three. That said, he was open and Vick could have led him better.
- Alex Henery's missed field at the end of the first half. At 46 yards, it certainly wasn't a chip shot, but it had the distance and should have been makeable. It also would have tied the game at the half, a half in which the Chargers thoroughly outplayed the Eagles, perhaps shifting the momentum.
It's hard to lay much fault on two players who had career games, but literally a matter of inches prevented Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson from perhaps having record-breaking ones:
- Vick's incomplete pass to Jackson on the first drive. The ball was placed perfectly and Jackson—who was constantly behind the cornerback all day—could have made more of an effort to keep his feet inbounds. Instead of a first down deep in Chargers' territory, the Eagles punted it away.
- Another deep ball in the second quarter—one which would have resulted in a touchdown—may have been more on Vick then D-Jax, as the latter once again left his defender in the dust, but the ball was a bit overthrown. That said, it did look like he slowed up a little at the end. That series also ended up in a punt.
- Three times a charm in the third quarter, as the dynamic duo connected for 37 yards to pull within—wait, not so fast...it's coming back. Rookie Lane Johnson never set up at the line of scrimmage, a rookie-type move that cost his team another four points as they settled for another field goal.
If you're wondering why you can't find Nate Allen in this photo...exactly.
In all fairness, it was a collective effort of ineptitude for the Eagles' secondary, but Allen continues to stand out. And not in that special, cheery kind of way.
On Jerry Rice—er, Eddie Royal's third touchdown catch of the day (and easiest), Allen looked like a lost kid in a mall, not sure which way to turn until he was screened by an opposing Charger and it was too late.
Although Kelly is not ready to replace him as a starter yet, he explained that it's because rookie Earl Wolff is still getting acclimated and, apparently, there aren't safeties you can just pluck from off the street. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Allen.
It's becoming a disturbing trend in the D-Jax Era that, every time he dazzles us with a spectacular play, he seems to find a way to nullify it. Sunday was no different.
In the midst of celebrating his touchdown catch, the crowd may have missed the slugging match Jackson got into afterward, his second fight of the game, at least third of the season and, generously listed at 5'10'' and 175 pounds soaking wet, has some severe Napoleon Complex issues that he needs to get resolved.
The Unnecessary Roughness penalty led to Henery kicking it off from the Eagles' 20 instead of the 35, which led to a big return, which led to the game-leading drive for the Chargers, which helped lead to this column that you're reading now.
We can blame Jackson for allowing the kick to be returned with his boneheaded penalty, as Alex Henery likely would have either booted the ensuing kickoff for a touchback or his otherwise stingy return team would have held returner Fozzy Whittaker inside the Chargers' 25 as they had all day.
Technically, Henery's missed field goal earlier was the difference in the game, as well.
But you probably could have stuck a fork in this one if Henery simply fell on the ball after it played hot potato for a while after Whittaker's fumble.
The Eagles, down three with just 3:11 to play on their own 29, quickly drove the ball 59 yards to the Chargers' 14 in less than a minute. Simply running the ball—and thus running the clock til it bled out—likely would have ensured, at worst, a trip to overtime.
And then Kelly went all Andy Reid on us.
On first down, an incomplete pass to Brent Celek, which shook Vick up and forced him to sit out a play, which wouldn't have happened if he didn't drop back to pass.
A rusty Foles then came in for the first time all season to seemingly hand the ball off and then go back to the sideline. Instead, he threw an inaccurate fade in the end zone. And once again, the clock stopped.
Third and 10, another throw, another incompletion, another stoppage of the clock, giving the Bolts ample time to do to the Eagles' defense what they had done so easily throughout the game: Score on them.
And this time, it cost them the game.