Turnover troubles seal Eagles’ fate against Steelers

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Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles were in a close game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, a familiar scenario this 2012 season, but this time they couldn’t overcome the turnovers. The Birds fell to the Steelers 16-14 at Heinz Field, with Pittsburgh kicker Shaun Suisham sealing the team’s fate with a field goal as the clock struck zero.

It should be a given that almost any game in which the Eagles play can be described as “ugly,” and the Week 5 contest was no exception. The Steelers did all they could to help the Eagles in the first half, with the game at one point being little more than whistles and flags thrown at Pittsburgh’s defense.  But the turnover problem, which was pleasantly absent in Week 4 against the Giants, returned this game and ultimately resulted in Philadelphia’s loss.

Mike Vick had 3 fumbles, 2 resulting in turnovers and one occurring at the goal line in the first quarter. Yes, again. When asked about his difficulty hanging on to the ball post game, Vick was like the rest of us: he couldn’t explain it.

“I wish I could tell you, but I don’t have an explanation.”

Take away the fumbles, and Vick had a strong performance: 20/30 for 175 yards and two touchdowns and a passer rating of 104.2. For the season, Vick now has the same number of touchdowns as he has interceptions: 6 each.

But the problem is, you can’t take away the turnovers.

The Steelers’ offense was aided by the return of running Rashard Mendenhall, who rushed for 81 yards on 14 carries. Isaac Redman also helped Pittsburgh’s running game with a total of 41 yards. The Steelers entered the game at the bottom of the league with a paltry running game but managed to gain 91-yards on the Eagles defense in the second half of the game alone.

In addition to the struggles against the run versus the Steelers, the Eagles defensive line struggled to bring pressure to Ben Roethlisberger and didn’t have a single sack against Big Ben.  Sunday’s game marked the second straight game where the Birds failed to record a sack. Roethlisberger did what we knew he would do: convert third-downs and extend plays—and Philadelphia could not stop Big Ben and the Steelers offense when it mattered most.

The Eagles again made a 4th quarter comeback, with Vick leading the team down the field to gain a 14-13 lead over the Steelers in the 4th quarter. But it left the Steelers with too much time, particularly given Roethlisberger’s annoying ability to convert 3rd downs.  Philadelphia’s defense was unable to stop them and it was clear that the Eagles would lose a game that was very winnable.

The conversation about the Eagles will continue as it had prior to this game—with no one really sure what to make of this team. A 4-1 record with a defeat over the Steelers at home could have provided a clear answer to question, “How good is this Eagles team?” Instead, at 3-2, we’re still left wondering.

There is no question that this team has talent, and they have pulled out some remarkable feats this season in games that seemingly couldn’t be won. And, they’re atop the NFC East.  But with the first quarter of the season behind us, the mistakes and inconsistencies of this Eagles team may well prevent them from being the team that we know they can be. We’re seen the many strengths in all aspects of the game but need them to be present each week, and for the full game.

Next up, the Birds face the Detroit Lions at the Linc. A win in that game and a record of 4-2 will be a nice statement  for the Eagles heading into the bye week. We know that Andy Reid’s teams are remarkable coming out of their week off and they will need to be again this season, as they will face the currently undefeated Falcons.

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