Before I get into this, I just want to say that I am nowhere near hitting the panic button on the Eagles season yet, and you shouldn’t be either. With that being said, the Eagles blew a 17-3 lead with a quarter and a half to play in the game, and the events (spoiler alert: there’s a lot) that led to the blown lead were very concerning. Today, I’ll be breaking down the key moments that led to the Titans’ comeback victory. Reliving this is, admittedly, not fun. After the game on Sunday, I quote tweeted the Corey Graham blown coverage on 4th and 15 in overtime, and a few people told me I should not have done that because they were trying to forget it (sorry, sorry, trying to delete). Examining why we lost this game, though, can be revealing into what the team’s biggest weaknesses currently are and what areas we should watch with a critical eye moving forward.
Titans Answer Back
With 7:35 left in the third quarter, the Eagles had scored on an Alshon Jeffrey touchdown and were ahead 17-3. At that point, it seemed as if the offense was heating up and the defense had played fine limiting Tennessee to just a field goal. This is where the mistakes started to pile up though. With 4:23 left in the third quarter, the Eagles forced the Titans into a 3rd and 5 with a chance to get them off the field and give Wentz the opportunity to extend the lead before they could build any momentum. On this snap (5:56 in the video), Sidney Jones and Corey Graham run into each other right after some confusion on who each should pick up just as the receivers get off the line of scrimmage. This leads to an easy completion to the wide open Tajae Sharpe for a first down, extending the drive. Later in the drive (6:12 in the video), Mariota goes downfield and Jalen Mills is called for defensive pass interference on the two-yard line. From there, Mariota was able to easily scramble into the end zone on 2nd and Goal to make it a one score game. Between the confusion of the Tajae Sharpe first down and Mills DPI penalty, this was the first defensive drive of many where mistakes killed the Eagles.
Eagles Offensive Line Struggles
The offensive line failed to protect Carson Wentz all game. He took multiple hits and was sacked four times for 33 yards. On the following drive after Mariota scored, the Eagles were facing a 3rd and 20 situation (7:25 in the video). Harold Landry of the Titans rushed the left side and hits Wentz with a clothesline that knocks the ball out, giving the Titans the ball back in their territory. Now, I’m not for sure saying this should have been a penalty, and it’s first and foremost on the o-line to protect Carson, but as far as I know you aren’t allowed to hit the quarterback in the helmet. Here’s a shot of the moment Landry makes contact with Wentz below. Regardless, the Titans scored a field goal and made it 17-13 since they were gifted the field position by the turnover. If they didn’t have the momentum before the fumble, they certainly did after.
Up four points, the Eagles had a chance to make it a two possession game on the following drive. Instead, they couldn’t make it out of their own territory because of drop by Agholor on 3rd and 6 (8:22 in the video).
51-Yard Reception By Corey Davis Sets Up Titans TD
This next possession by Tennessee was where they took the lead. It started with a 51-yard bomb to Corey Davis (8:32 in the video). On this play, there was a single high safety and Mills was in coverage. Davis blows right by Mills and the safety, and although Darby (the opposite side corner) came in pursuit, it was not soon enough. Because the receiver on Darby’s side of the field cut across the middle, he probably should have ran back much earlier once it was apparent that Davis was getting behind the defense. On the following play (8:48), Tajae Sharp beats Sidney Jones for enough space in the end zone to score and take the lead. If you were counting, that’s three possessions in a row that the Titans scored on since the Eagles had the 17-3 lead.
Again the Eagles had the chance to put points on the board for the first time since seven minutes were left in the third quarter, and again they failed to convert on 3rd down (9:12). Wentz had Ertz over the middle, but he was simply unable to complete the contested catch.
Eagles Only Get a FG Out of Carter’s Impressive Punt Return
Newly recalled Deandre Carter shook a Titan out (9:33) before trucking their punter and taking the return to the Eagles own 40-yard line. Carson Wentz took a shot to the end zone that would have likely won the game, but it was just over the outstretched arms of Alshon Jeffrey (10:30). The Eagles tied it up here and forced OT.
On offense, the Eagles looked great in overtime until they got to their own 15-yard line. There, they stalled out and ended up only settling for a field goal. The Eagles could have won this game numerous times. On the following Titans possession, the defense will (correctly) catch most of the criticism on why they lost, but the offense failed to get into the end zone for almost three quarters of football when just one more touchdown would have won them the game. They did, however, leave the team in a scenario where one stop on defense has the team leaving 3-1, which is perhaps why this loss has been so hard to swallow considering the defense was supposed to be such a major strength heading into the season.
This Titans drive was perhaps the most aggravated I’ve been as an Eagles fan in some time. Not only did they have numerous opportunities to get them off the field on fourth down, but mistakes that shouldn’t happen kept being made in the biggest moments of the game. I’ll ignore the fact that the Eagles were bailed out once by a dropped ball that would’ve left the Titans on their own 15-yard line (11:50) and jump right to the back breaker: 4th and 15.
On this snap (12:00), Corey Graham is in a zone, and when the only Titan within a mile of him enters it, he decides to just let him go. At this juncture of the game, Graham falling asleep here cost the Eagles the victory, and it wasn’t even the last opportunity they had to win it. The Eagles went on to force the Titans into another fourth down situation, this time from 4th and 4 (12:13). The defense was able to stop them, but Sidney Jones was called for DPI that kept the Titans drive alive. You’ll see Jones hooks receiver Nick Williams with his left hand and contest the throw with his right, and the referee doesn’t allow him to get away with it with the game on the line.
At this point, you might think the Eagles have blown it, but AGAIN they force the Titans into a 3rd and 19 that suckered me into what I thought would be a win. Here (12:38), Mariota has all day in the pocket, but the coverage is finally good down field. Unfortunately, Mariota has a tendency to use his legs and is able to scramble for a 17-yard gain. So here we are on fourth down for the third time this drive (12:54). 4th and 2 with less than a minute and a half left, Mariota throws it to Dion Lewis who is able to turn the corner and get more than enough for the first. Watching this play live, I thought Tajae Sharpe hit Jordan Hicks with an illegal block in the back just before Hicks would have made a game winning tackle. Watching the replay though, it’s certainly an understandable no call as it looks like he gets him right on the shoulder. That leaves the Eagles with three times on the drive they failed to stop the Titans on fourth down and win the game. The last play of the game, on 3rd and Goal (13:11), Mariota found Corey Davis in the middle of the end zone over Maddox, thus completing one of the most painful endings of an Eagles game I’ve ever endured.
Judging from fans’ reactions after the game, a lot of people’s immediate takeaways were that we suck, which while I think is a knee-jerk reaction is also somewhat fair considering our defense definitely sucked after we had the 17-3 lead. I’ve had a couple days to let it digest though, and while I’m concerned, I’m not overly worried. The secondary isn’t good right now, and they’re going to miss Rodney McLeod tremendously. I’m not sure it’ll be figured out in time for when they face off against Adam Theilen and Stefon Diggs, but they need to get it together sooner rather than later or else the offense will have to score a lot more points in that game. Speaking of the offense, the offensive line has to play better. They allowed pressure all game, and Wentz taking that many hits on a weekly basis isn’t a recipe for success. Nelson Agholor had a couple of ugly drops, at least one of which was on a huge third down. Does this mean 2016 Nelson is coming back to haunt us? Absolutely not.
It was a bad game on many fronts, and although the Eagles haven’t looked dominant yet this season, it doesn’t mean they’re a bad team. Yes, the offense has stalled out on key drives this season, but Carson Wentz has only been back for two games, Alshon Jeffrey has only played in one, and three of our top four running backs have been battling injuries through the first four weeks. The offense can only improve, and I expect it to become one of the more dangerous offensive units in the entire NFL as they regain (hopefully) their health and the o-line gets back into form. I’d like to remind everyone that at this time last season the secondary, offensive line, and play-calling were all questioned and criticized as well. It worked out alright in 2017, and while that doesn’t mean the same will happen in 2018, it is at least reassuring. The Eagles have a huge game this week against the Vikings as both teams hope to avoid their third loss of the season, and you can be sure Minny wants some revenge from the blowout the Birds gave them in the playoffs. Let’s see how well this Eagles team responds to adversity.