Biggest Takeaways from Philadelphia Eagles' Week 10 Loss
Eventually, the Philadelphia Eagles are going to run out of silver linings to take away from their losses.
Thanks to the New York Giants falling to the New England Patriots on Sunday, the Eagles remain just a half-game back of first place in the NFC East. Their record may be 4-5, but their season technically isn't over yet.
That being said, the locker room was solemn after falling 20-19 to the Miami Dolphins, and with good reason. The Eagles blew a 13-point first-quarter lead. They failed to capitalize on a chance to go above .500 for the first time all season against a dysfunctional opponent that had to make a midseason head coaching change.
At a certain point, it becomes hard to believe the Eagles could do any real or meaningful damage in the playoffs even if they got in due to a weak division. Losing to teams like the Dolphins in Week 10, in any fashion, doesn't inspire much hope for this team's immediate future.
It's looking more and more true what many have been saying and feeling all along: Maybe the Eagles are simply a mediocre team, too.
Mark Sanchez No Savior
Mark Sanchez entered the game in the third quarter on Sunday to the roar of the crowd's approval. Funny, because Sam Bradford had completed 19 of 25 pass attempts for 236 yards and a touchdown up to that point.
Amusing, because it was Sanchez who was at the helm when the Eagles dropped three of their last four in 2014 and wound up missing the playoffs.
Sanchez once again cost the Eagles against the Dolphins, throwing an interception at Miami's 9-yard line late in the fourth quarter. It was a completely unnecessary risk. He was attempting to force the ball into wide receiver Miles Austin when he had tight end Brent Celek open underneath. It was second down, and a field goal would've given the Eagles the lead, so there was no reason to commit such an error.
To his credit, Sanchez did a lot of things well. The seventh-year veteran completed 14 of 23 passes for 156 yards. He eluded pressure and kept plays alive with his feet. He even threw a touchdown pass to Zach Ertz that was nullified by an illegal shift penalty.
Unfortunately, Sanchez has always had a penchant for turnovers, and this one was a backbreaker. If Bradford is out for an extended period of time, the Eagles might be finished.
No Help from Wide Receivers
Regardless of who's under center, the Eagles have a huge problem at receiver. Even with injuries to starting Dolphins cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Bobby McCain, Philadelphia's wideouts simply did not make any plays.
Austin seemed to be unaware Sanchez was even throwing to him on several occasions, including the interception, and he dropped a ball. The only time Riley Cooper's name was called on Sunday was for an illegal shift on the would-be touchdown to Ertz. Josh Huff scored, but three catches for 23 yards is not exactly a big day.
Huff, Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor made up all of the production at the wide receiver position, which wasn't much. The trio combined for nine receptions for a whopping 76 yards.
To be fair, the quarterbacks were under a lot of pressure, making it hard for routes to develop and to go downfield. Then again, the lack of production from the receivers has been an issue going back to Week 1, so there's probably no use expecting it to change after Week 10.
Ground Attack Stalls
After gaining over 150 yards on the ground in four straight games, the Eagles found little room to run against the Dolphins defense. This is the same Dolphins defense that entered the game ranked 31st versus the run.
It wasn't for lack of trying, either. The Eagles handed the ball off 33 times to DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles, with the trio combining for 79 yards. That's a whopping 2.4 yards per carry, which is simply not enough.
The offensive line didn't win up front. Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh dominated the interior in particular, and many run plays wound up being met in the backfield as a result.
Without help from the ground attack, it was all on the quarterbacks to keep the chains moving and win the game. That generally is not—and hasn't been for the Eagles this season—a recipe for success.
Defense Does Its Job...Again
Don't point the finger at the Eagles defense. As has usually been the case in 2015, the unit held up its end of the bargain on Sunday.
Giving up 20 points to the Dolphins may not sound all that impressive. Then again, seven were essentially the direct result of a blocked punt that gave Miami possession at the Philadelphia 12-yard line. And another touchdown was the result of a fluke play—Connor Barwin batting a pass high in the air, with wide receiver Jarvis Landry winning the jump ball over unaware safety Malcolm Jenkins.
Otherwise, the Eagles forced eight punts and two field goals. They limited quarterback Ryan Tannehill to 6.0 yards per pass attempt and sacked him four times. The defense held the Dolphins ground attack under 4.0 yards per carry, and it got the ball back for the offense for one last drive in the fourth quarter.
Naturally, the offense couldn't even move into field-goal range for a chance to win the game. Don't blame the defense; it got the job done.
Special Teams Falter
Ever since head coach Chip Kelly's arrival in Philadelphia, there's been an emphasis on quality special teams play. Last season, the Eagles were historically good in all phases of special teams.
In 2015, not only has special teams not been great—it's costing the Eagles games.
If Caleb Sturgis makes a 32-yard field goal in the second quarter—his misfire possibly the result of a bad snap and hold—the Eagles beat the Dolphins. If Donnie Jones doesn't have a blocked punt returned to Philadelphia's 12-yard line, setting up a Miami touchdown, the Eagles likely win.
Those miscues occurred, though, and now the Eagles are sitting at 4-5. Funny, because special teams was one of the only reasons they jumped out to a 6-2 record last year. Now it's killing them.