Instant analysis: Eagles show character in loss to Lions

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The Eagles have fallen to their first defeat under Doug Pederson, losing to the Detroit Lions 24-23 at Ford Field. It came down to the wire in what was simply a rollercoaster from start to finish, but a late Carson Wentz interception sealed the win for the Lions. The Eagles are 3-1 heading into next week, but what have we learned from todays game?

Run Defense wobbled:
The Eagles may have only given up 80 rushing yards, but at the start of the game Theo Riddick was the man moving the chains for the Lions. Averaging 4.6 yards per carry, Riddick was able to do what no back has been able to this season, find a way to break down the Eagles intimidating run Defense.

Things toughened up later in the game as the birds found ways to stop Riddick in his tracks, but some big conversions and missed tackles gave the Lions a surge of energy throughout the early drives..something that simply cannot happen if the Eagles are to sustain their Defensive dominance.

The impressive second half resurgence showed a lot about the players as a group. They didn’t lose sight of what was at stake and their level of play began to improve as momentum built up, something very reminiscent of the entire team’s performance.

 

Discipline:
The Eagles gave up a total of 14 penalties against the Lions, costing them over 100 total yards. From drives cut short to seemingly guiding the Lions down the field, the Eagles gave up way too much yardage and conceded 8 penalties in the first half alone.

Penalties can either make a game or break it in the NFL..and a lack of discipline on both sides of the ball put the Eagles in a very tough spot to try and win..while refs continued to find new ways of making everyone scratch their heads.

 

Cornerbacks out of lifelines:
The cornerback play hasn’t exactly been incredible so far this season..and when the pass rush couldn’t find a footing against the Lions, it was finally exposed. Stafford moved his way down the field efficiently as the likes of Marvin Jones  and Anquan Boldin consistently beat the Eagles cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage and made tough catches deep down the sideline.

The level of play wasn’t worryingly bad on the surface, but of course I will be breaking down their individual performances much closer in an All-22 piece..but it’s worth noting that without the support of a dominant pass rush or run Defense, the cornerbacks struggled..and it showed.

 

Wentz is a leader:
Carson Wentz still shone despite throwing a costly interception, ending the game with 25/33 completions and two touchdowns, throwing for 238 yards..but that’s not the story here. In the very first drive, Wentz seemed tentative and a little anxious. One drive later, it was head down, serious look, confident body language and some great decision making.

Wentz rallied his Offense back into the game and it’s the first time he’s really had to fight from start to finish for a victory as opposed to managing one. The poise, confidence in his receivers, pocket awareness and overall performance showed that Wentz can handle the pressure and anything that’s thrown at him.

The decision to go deep at the end wasn’t the original plan..but until that moment, Wentz didn’t set a foot wrong..and for the Eagles his level of maturity was not only encouraging, but simply a joy to watch as the rookie out of North Dakota State turned into a fearless leader when his team needed him most.

 

Pass protection a positive, but for how long?:
The Eagles Offensive line was extremely impressive for the most part when it came to pass protection. He may have been sacked 3 times, but there’s a difference between sacked a few times and having to escape danger on the majority of plays.

Wentz was given sufficient time to stand tall in the pocket and calmly go through his progressions and it played such a huge factor in the Eagles ability to get back into the game..but just how long will that last if Lane Johnson’s appeal is unsuccessful?

The drop off in talent from Lane Johnson to what could be “Big V” is substantial and there is a risk of leaving Wentz open to a lot of pressure depending on how the team choose to address the situation should it arise.

The O-Line had a stellar game as Peters continues to surprise us with impressive performances..but is there a worry that the winds of change could be starting to build?

 

Character:
The Eagles were down by 14 at the end of the first quarter and struggled to build momentum on either side of the ball. Constant penalties, an invisible run Defense and a lack of consistency on Offense caused room for concern early on, but what transpired was so, so important.

The Eagles came out in the second half and put on a clinic until the very end. Outscoring the Lions 13-3 in the second half, the Offense found a rhythm and the Defense played tenaciously. The team never lost sight of what was right in front of them and battled to the very end, never giving up.

The team may have lost in upsetting fashion as a fumble and interception ripped a fourth consecutive victory away from the Eagles..but until that moment, the team was playing wish such heart that you could feel it. The energy, chemistry and faith that every single player had, believing they could get the job done felt like it was echoing through TV’s across the world. This was a team that truly believed and that still do..which is such a contrast to last year’s team, it’s almost alien. This is the Eagles team fans have been pining for since the McNabb era.

Learning to close out games will come in time, it’s an extremely young team in the early stages of a new era..but character is something a team either has, or it doesn’t..and the Eagles have it in abundance.

 

Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

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