Banged-up Birds can’t pull one out in fi­nal min­utes

LIONS 27, EA­GLES 24

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - Morn­ing Call re­porter Nick Fierro can be reached at 610778-2243 or [email protected]

PHILADEL­PHIA – There are two ways to look at what def­i­nitely is a per­son­nel cri­sis for the crit­i­cally wounded Philadel­phia Ea­gles now af­ter three games.

1. If their vaunted (and per­haps over­rated) depth isn’t com­ing through for them now, it can only be worse by the dogs days of Novem­ber and De­cem­ber, when the war of at­tri­tion tra­di­tion­ally peaks in the NFL.

2. Their depth pieces are young and in­ex­pe­ri­enced and will even­tu­ally come around to col­lect­ing re­wards af­ter pay­ing all the nec­es­sary dues.

The only thing we know now is that this team is a full-blown mess that has no an­swers for what op­po­nents are throw­ing at them — or should we say over them.

Sun­day’s 27-24 loss to the Detroit Lions, added to their 24-20 loss at At­lanta the week be­fore, and the 32-27 win over Wash­ing­ton in Week 1 has served to ex­pose so many cracks that it’s rea­son­able to ques­tion whether they’ll be able to re­pair them all in time for the post­sea­son, like they did last year and the year be­fore.

Al­though these Ea­gles have too much vet­eran lead­er­ship to im­plode un­der the weight of such high ex­te­rior and in­te­rior ex­pec­ta­tions, they just may not have the abil­ity any­more to thrive, which is what ev­ery­one

thought they would do and what they still be­lieve they will do, even if no­body else does.

For now and un­til proven otherwise, the play­ers they thought would be ready to help when called upon are not ready to help.

With wide re­ceivers DeSean Jack­son and Al­shon Jef­fery out in­jured, Nel­son Agholor, Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-White­side have not done enough to help.

With start­ing cor­ner­back Jalen Mills and key re­serve Cre’Von LeBlanc not avail­able, Sid­ney Jones, Avonte Mad­dox and the in­jury-prone Ron­ald Darby have not lived up to ex­pec­ta­tions. On top of that, Darby has a ham­string is­sue now, and raise your hand if you think that’s go­ing to be a prob­lem for the rest of the sea­son.

Drafted in the sec­ond round this year to com­ple­ment Jordan Howard and who­ever else might be in the run­ning-back ro­ta­tion on a given week, Miles San­ders fum­bled twice on Sun­day, los­ing one.

De­fen­sive end Vinny Curry, brought back to add depth to their pass rush, looks like he has noth­ing left in the tank. Fel­low de­fen­sive end Josh Sweat is still learn­ing the pro game — and not at a very fast pace.

Even some of their stars aren’t get­ting it done, with de­fen­sive tackle Fletcher Cox at the top of the list and Mal­colm Jenkins, whose il­le­gal block fol­low­ing a blocked field goal late in the fourth quar­ter cost them a chance to start their fi­nal pos­ses­sion al­ready in field-goal range, not far be­hind.

And then there’s quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz, who came off a game that was far from his best and de­liv­ered an­other one that was far from his best (19for-36, 259 yards, two TDs, three sacks, no in­ter­cep­tions) at times when they needed him most.

Still, his fi­nal pass on fourth down with un­der a minute re­main­ing was good enough to win the game for them. He hit the rookie Arcega-White­side in stride at the goal line af­ter scram­bling into po­si­tion to make the throw.

Arcega-White­side fought through a lot of contact from Rashaan Melvin — contact that would have been called pass in­ter­fer­ence for sure if it had been com­mit­ted against a more ac­com­plished re­ceiver — to get his hands free to make the catch, then couldn’t get his hands on the ball.

Game over.

To his credit, Arcega-White­side owned it.

“I haven’t re­ally had a chance to dis­sect it my­self,” he said, “but it’s a con­tested catch, and those are the catches we pride our­selves on mak­ing. So I’ve got to go up there and get it. … These guys trust in me and be­lieve in me and I’ve just got to de­liver.”

Be­cause ev­ery­one’s fin­ger­prints were all over this lat­est crime scene, it makes the fix (es) a heck of a lot more com­pli­cated.

San­ders wasn’t the only player to lose a fum­ble.

Agholor did too. And there wasn’t even any contact in­volved. It came in Detroit ter­ri­tory with the Ea­gles driv­ing for a pos­si­ble game-ty­ing score with just un­der two min­utes re­main­ing in the first half, and it led to a Lions field goal in­stead.

Equally com­plicit was the coach­ing staff.

Trail­ing by just three points, coach Doug Ped­er­son pan­icked and went for it on fourth-an­deight from the Ea­gles’ 22-yard line with 2:25 re­main­ing, de­spite hav­ing all three time­outs and the two-minute warn­ing in his pocket.

Then again, per­haps by then he had lost all con­fi­dence in a de­fense and a co­or­di­na­tor that had only 10 men on the field, ac­cord­ing to the Lions, on a 44-yard re­verse by J.D. McKis­sic that set up a field goal in the first half.

Ped­er­son dou­ble-talked his way through the ex­pla­na­tion for his fourth-down try.

“Yeah, it was sit­u­a­tional right there,” he said. “Just go­ing ahead and go­ing for it. With the three time­outs, I could use them on de­fense, and we knew they were prob­a­bly go­ing to run the ball in that sit­u­a­tion. Got them to [try] the field goal. It worked in our fa­vor [when it was blocked], but we didn’t cap­i­tal­ize on the other end.”

Be­cause on a day when the of­fense broke down, the de­fense and the spe­cial teams did too (al­low­ing a 100-yard kick­off re­turn for a touch­down).

The Ea­gles looked like the fur­thest thing from a cham­pi­onship team on Sun­day.

Just like the week be­fore. And even the week be­fore that.

MITCHELL LEFF/GETTY

Rookie J.J. Arcega-White­side failed to haul in the Ea­gles’ fi­nal pass of the day in Sun­day’s loss to the Lions. He fin­ished with one catch for 10 yards.

Nick Fierro

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