Biggest Takeaways from Philadelphia Eagles' Week 15 Loss
Then again, there's been that feeling multiple times this season, and every time without fail, hopes of a turnaround have been dashed.
The Eagles were romped at home by the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night, dropping their record to 6-8 and putting their playoff hopes on the brink. There were not many positives to take away from the result.
However, the situation is not as grim as many feared. There were reasons to believe the result could have been different, to feel that all is not lost for the Eagles just yet. In this week's takeaways, we examine what went wrong on Sunday but also take a closer look at a few things that went right.
Turnovers Are the Equalizer
Because the final score was 40-17, it's easy to forget the Eagles were actually in the game until midway through the third quarter. Things unraveled quickly, however, thanks in large part to a series of turnovers.
The Eagles were trailing 23-10 when they coughed the football up on three straight series. First, outside linebacker Markus Golden went right around left tackle Jason Peters for a strip-sack of quarterback Sam Bradford. The Cardinals didn't score there but would pick up seven after punching the ball free from running back Ryan Mathews. Finally, under intense pressure, Bradford's pass intended for Mathews was complete to linebacker Deone Bucannon, who took it to the house for another touchdown.
And just like that, the Eagles were down 27.
Maybe the Cardinals would've run away with the game regardless of the turnover differential. That being said, the fact that they created four to the Eagles' zero proved to be a fairly obvious indicator of how events were going to unfold.
Defense Still Broken
After surrendering 45 points in succession to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions, it appeared Philadelphia's defense had turned a bit of a corner in the last two weeks. The New England Patriots managed 28, while the Buffalo Bills were held to 20, both wins.
While those games were improvements, Sunday proved they were not nearly enough. The Eagles have now given up at least 27 points in six of their last eight games. They've allowed more than 400 yards of total offense in five of their last six. They've allowed more than 200 yards rushing three times this season. They failed to record a takeaway for the fourth time in six games.
The unit is a complete and utter mess.
Granted, the Cardinals boast one of the best offenses in the NFL and could give any defense problems. Regardless, any way you slice it, the Eagles defense is consistently getting smoked in the second half of the season, and there is no sign of it letting up.
Backup Cornerbacks Hold Strong
To be fair, the Eagles defense was in a tough spot on Sunday night. Byron Maxwell entered the game with an ankle injury and had to exit permanently in the second quarter. Not long after, Eric Rowe was removed due to a concussion. Nolan Carroll was already lost for the season.
Those are the defense's top three cornerbacks, all out for a matchup against one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the NFL.
All things considered, the secondary handled itself well with E.J. Biggers and Jaylen Watkins inserted on the perimeters. It was a surprise given that Biggers was unsuccessful in previous stops, and Watkins wasn't even on a 53-man roster as of a month ago. However, both did about as well as anybody could have expected.
Arizona only wound up throwing for 263 yards and one touchdown on the evening, a testament to Biggers and Watkins filling in. Then again, considering the way the Cardinals were running the football, and that they jumped out to such a huge second-half lead, maybe the totals would've been a lot higher had the game expressed itself different.
In other words, the Eagles probably hope Maxwell and Rowe get well soon.
Sam Bradford Not to Blame
Yes, Bradford threw two interceptions, one as the game was spiraling out of control, the other when it was already over. Yet in many ways, this was one of Bradford's most impressive games of the season.
The fact that Bradford had the two picks and still posted a decent 91.6 rating should serve as an indicator of how well he was performing until late. He wound up completing 28 of 41 passes for 361 yards with an 8.8 average and two touchdowns. As usual, the Eagles also dropped several catchable balls, while the line let the quarterback down on the big sack-fumble.
Bradford made two bad decisions as his team's chances were circling the drain. However, the rest of the night, he was accurate, making the correct reads, going downfield and standing in the pocket against a fierce blitz. The Eagles came up well short against the Cardinals, but that is hardly the fault of their quarterback.
Eagles Still Alive
The fact of the matter is the game against the Cardinals didn't matter. It might've helped in the standings, and it certainly would've given this team and its fans confidence that they could hang with the class of the NFC should they reach the postseason.
But in terms of making the playoffs, this was always a game the Eagles could afford to lose. This season is all about the next two weeks. Should they beat Washington and the New York Giants, the Eagles are in no matter what.
It's hard to say what that means exactly, as the Eagles likely won't strike a lot of fear in many opponents, much less present as a legitimate contender. That being said, there's always something to be said for finishing the season as the NFC East champions and making an appearance in the postseason.
It sure beats the alternative, anyway.