LATE TURNOVERS, FIELD GOAL DOOM EA­GLES IN DETROIT

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - Bob Grotz Columnist

DETROIT >> The Ea­gles kept telling them­selves they were a good team al­most all the way to the bus af­ter their 2423 loss here Sun­day to the Detroit Lions.

Head coach Doug Ped­er­son said that com­ing back from a 14-point deficit makes them “a great team, in that re­spect.”

When you have to tell your­self that you’re a good team, or even a great team in some re­spect, you’re not.

That isn’t a crit­i­cism of Coach Doug, who had to find some­thing pos­i­tive to say af­ter the Ea­gles blew an op­por­tu­nity to go 4-0, which, in re­cent years has be­come the gold stan­dard for play­off teams. Only two of the last 16 teams that won their first four missed the postseason, and two of the 14 with great starts won Su­per Bowls.

But back to the Ea­gles, who were as­sessed 14 penal­ties for 111 yards. Good team? Uh-uh.

Don’t blame all the penal­ties on ref­eree Peter Morelli, who seemed so hung up about spew­ing ob­scen­i­ties over the open mi­cro­phone, it ap­peared he was talk­ing to him­self like some guy in the sub­way who isn’t tak­ing the sub­way, but just wants to crash there.

The re­al­ity is the Ea­gles are a de­cent team with a great quar­ter­back. They would have had no chance

of get­ting back in the game had it not been for Wentz, the NFL rookie of the month for Septem­ber, who was all but im­mune to the pres­sure of ral­ly­ing his team.

Wentz alone kept the Ea­gles in the game with throws, runs and third­down con­ver­sions de­spite un­nerv­ing mis­takes by team­mates. It was a mi­nor miracle he guided the Ea­gles to a field goal, cut­ting the deficit to 21-10 at in­ter­mis­sion as the Ea­gles were flagged three times for 45 penalty yards on the ex­cur­sion.

Wentz’s team­mates just aren’t as good as he is.

Take wide re­ceiver Nelson Agholor, who has im­proved

dra­mat­i­cally from last sea­son.

Down by one point, Wentz had no busi­ness throw­ing that deep ball late in the game to Agholor, who was cov­ered by Dar­ius Slay. None.

Agholor was NFL-open. Safety Rafael Bush was late get­ting over, leav­ing Agholor and Slay al­most stride for stride. Agholor was sim­ply over­matched.

Slay nudged Agholor and reached over the Ea­gle with a leap­ing gra­band-snatch in­ter­cep­tion with 1:17 left that pre­vented the Ea­gles from mov­ing the ball down the field and kick­ing what would have been the win­ning field goal. Wentz shouldn’t have thrown it to Agholor, who’s still not a deep threat who can go get the ball against sea­soned vet­er­ans. He’s just

not there.

“It wasn’t a per­fect throw,” Wentz said. “Ob­vi­ously I tried to give Nelson a chance to make a play. I left it too far out­side and the cor­ner­back, he made a great play.

“My hat’s off to (Slay), he made a great play.”

Wentz should have dinked-and-dunked his way down the field in much the same way he ral­lied the Ea­gles from those 14-point deficits to a 23-21 ad­van­tage with 6:40 left in the game.

The Ea­gles have skill players who get yards af­ter the catch when they’re in space, not guys with elite speed who cre­ate space down the field. Wentz seemed to re­al­ize that with his com­ments about the in­ter­cep­tion, and it should serve him and the Ea­gles well, as

he’s a quick study.

Agholor made some in­ter­est­ing com­ments af­ter the game. When you watch re­plays of the Slay in­ter­cep­tion you won­der why Agholor didn’t try to break the pass up. Agholor thought he could catch it.

“I should have lo­cated it bet­ter,” Agholor said. “Where it was po­si­tioned I was try­ing my best to lo­cate it and it put me in a poor po­si­tion where … I couldn’t come down with it. I need to lo­cate it.”

Wentz and Agholor don’t de­serve all the blame for this loss. No, give a lot of that re­spon­si­bil­ity to Jim Schwartz. We’re go­ing to have to watch the en­tire game to try to un­der­stand what in the world the de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor was try­ing to do with his line­backer ro­ta­tion.

For what­ever rea­son Schwartz lim­ited the snaps of his best line­backer, Nigel Brad­ham, who you may re­call left a loaded hand­gun in his back­pack a week ago when he rolled through se­cu­rity at Mi­ami In­ter­na­tional Airport. Brad­ham has a li­cense to carry a con­cealed weapon, but was charged with a mis­de­meanor be­cause he was out on bail for an as­sault, a dis­agree­ment with a ca­bana worker re­sult­ing in the ho­tel guy re­port­edly get­ting a punch in the nose.

Schwartz in­ti­mated Brad­ham was a dumb some­thing or other be­cause he keeps do­ing dumb some­thing or other things. If Schwartz was try­ing to teach Brad­ham a les­son — and Ped­er­son said that was not the case

and the Birds were try­ing a ro­ta­tion with Stephen Tul­loch and My­chal Ken­dricks in tan­dem — it was not a good move.

While Brad­ham and Jor­dan Hicks were out of the early por­tion of the game in nickel sit­u­a­tions, Lions quar­ter­back Matthew Stafford picked them apart, throw­ing three touch­down passes in the first half.

The Ea­gles are 3-1 with a big road game ahead next week in Wash­ing­ton.

What they have to re­al­ize is they’re a de­cent team that needs to get bet­ter, not a good team or even a great team in some re­spects, with the ex­cep­tion of their quar­ter­back.

PAUL SANCYA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ref­er­ees sig­nal pos­ses­sion for Detroit as the Ea­gles and Lions fight for the ball af­ter a crit­i­cal Ryan Mathews fum­ble.

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