NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles

PHILADELPHIA -- Last week, the Philadelphia Eagles faced the possibility that center Jason Kelce might not be able to play against Detroit because of a knee injury.

Their options would have been limited if Kelce had been unable to play. Josh Andrews and Julian Vandervelde were the only available backups who could play center.

Kelce played the entire game against the Lions. That near-miss, though, likely explains the Eagles’ decision to sign center/guard Barrett Jones from the Chicago Bears' practice squad Monday.

To clear a roster spot, the Eagles released Vandervelde for the fourth time this year.

JonesAP Photo/Seth PerlmanBarrett Jones was originally drafted by the Rams in the fourth round in 2013.

Jones was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Jones played his college football at Alabama. He was with the Rams for two seasons but never started a game.

Jones was released by the Rams this year and spent times on the Steelers and Bears practice squads.

The Eagles signed two players to their own practice squad. Cornerback Mike Lee and linebacker Brandon Hepburn filled the vacancies opened when wide receiver Jonathan Krause and defensive back Ed Reynolds were added to the 53-man roster.

“We had a spot and he's a kid that each week, when we're out here in training, has stuck out to us,” Kelly said of Krause. “If he has a good week in practice, we'll see where that puts him.”

Lee, an undrafted rookie from Fort Valley State, was in training camp with the Falcons this summer.

Hepburn went to camp with the Eagles. He was on their practice squad last season.

Calvin JohnsonGregory Shamus/Getty ImagesCalvin Johnson pulls in one of his three touchdown receptions against the Eagles on Thursday.

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles' loss in Carolina raised the question. The Eagles' losses since then have answered it.

The question: Did the loss to Panthers mean the Eagles defense was on the verge of a collapse like the one it experienced in 2014?

We all remember the sight of cornerback Bradley Fletcher chasing helplessly after Dez Bryant last December. An Eagles defense that shut out the New York Giants in October and dominated the Panthers in a 45-21 win in November had crumbled. It was ineffective in three consecutive losses to Seattle, Dallas and Washington. Those games cost the Eagles a chance to go to the playoffs.

Against Carolina this year, the Eagles allowed 204 rushing yards in a 27-16 loss. They allowed 27 points in Dallas a week later, but managed to win that game, 33-27, in overtime.

“Too many points,” Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said after the win in Dallas.

The Eagles followed that with a 20-19 loss to Miami. The defense held Miami to 20 points, 99 rushing yards and 289 total yards. It looked at that point like the Eagles were good enough on defense to keep their season on track.

Then came their last two games: 90 points, 10 touchdown passes, 951 total yards. All against Tampa Bay and Detroit, teams with a combined record of 9-13.

The thorough defensive collapse would be bad enough. As the second season in a row it has happened, you have to think it’s now a characteristic of Chip Kelly’s tenure. The discussion about time of possession is not new. Kelly would argue that it is settled. He doesn’t believe it means anything.

But here are the Eagles: They were last in the NFL in time of possession last year and their defense collapse in the second half of the season. They are last in the NFL in time of possession this year, and their defense is in the first stages of an even more thorough collapse.

The Eagles average 26 minutes, 24 seconds of time of possession per game. Of the seven teams at the bottom of the time of possession list, all seven have losing records.

The last couple weeks, the Eagles defense hasn’t done anything well. It isn’t pressuring quarterbacks. It isn’t creating turnovers. It isn’t stopping the run. It isn’t covering wide receivers or tight ends.

“All of us got ourselves into this and all of us will get ourselves out of it,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said after Thursday’s game in Detroit. “We have the right group of men. There's no excuses. We have to get it fixed.”

A year ago, Davis and his players could not get it fixed. The consequence was a round of personnel changes in the offseason. To avoid similar changes, possibly even in Davis’ office, the defense needs to get it fixed this time.

Considering their next game is at New England, that won’t be easy.

videoPHILADELPHIA -- The comical ineptitude of the NFC teams has served to defend the Philadelphia Eagles during this lackluster season. It should have been just the opposite.

The poor play of the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and the New York Giants has allowed the Eagles to argue that they were still in the division race. The worse their record became, the more desperate that argument sounded.

But it’s the wrong argument. That never seemed clearer than it did as the Giants took a beating from Washington Sunday. It didn’t help that Fox previewed the game as a battle for control of the NFC East.

For the past two seasons (the entire Chip Kelly era), the division race has been between the Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys. Washington and New York were minor players as the Eagles beat the Cowboys on the final day of the 2013 season to win the division. Last season, Dallas beat the Eagles in December to take the NFC East.

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip KellyAP Photo/Paul SancyaPhiladelphia's losses to Tampa Bay and Detroit, by a combined score of 90-31, have called Chip Kelly's entire program into question.

The division race appeared to be about the same coming into this season. The Cowboys and the Eagles would compete for the title while Washington and New York played out their schedules in oblivion.

And that’s just what Washington and New York are, two oblivious teams with no business being in the conversation about NFC contenders. That was clear Sunday, as the Giants stumbled around the FedEx Stadium Field and blew their tenuous grip on first place in the division.

It may come down to Washington and New York for the division title, but that’s not because either team has been particularly good. It is because the Eagles and Cowboys have been epic disappointments.

One of those teams has an excuse. Injuries have cost Dallas the services of quarterback Tony Romo for most of the season. Wide receiver Dez Bryant was also out for a long stretch. While that lets Dallas off the hook a bit, it does nothing but make the Eagles’ failure this season look even worse.

Their three-game losing streak -- against Miami, Tampa Bay and Detroit -- was only the most dramatic (and most recent) chapter in the Eagles’ story. The reality is, this Eagles team has been inexcusably out of sync since the beginning of the regular season.

They lost their season opener in Atlanta to a team that has lost five of its last six games.

They lost to Dallas at home thanks to one of the most pathetic offensive performances you’ll ever see.

They let Washington drive 90 yards for the game-winning touchdown at FedEx Field.

They were thoroughly outclassed by the Carolina Panthers.

An overtime victory against the Romo-less Cowboys got the Eagles to 4-4 and lent credence to the idea that they were still very much alive in the NFC East. And they were, but only because the NFC East was that pathetic.

If the Eagles were anything close to a legitimate contender, they would have beaten Atlanta, Washington, Miami, Tampa Bay and Detroit. OK, let’s allow for a poor game here and there. That happens.

The Eagles should have no worse than a 7-4 record. That would have them in first place in the NFC East. Even with tough remaining games against New England (Dec. 6) and Arizona (Dec. 20), the Eagles would be in control of the division race and their own playoff destiny.

Now they are 4-7. Worse, they are coming off two of the worst performances in franchise history. Their losses to Tampa Bay and Detroit, by a combined score of 90-31, have called Kelly’s entire program into question. They were losses of a kind you only saw in franchise-shaking seasons: 1994, when Rich Kotite lost his last seven games; 1998, when Ray Rhodes’ final team went 3-13; 2012, when Andy Reid’s mistakes caught up to him all at once.

They were losses that you would see only when coaches were on their way out the door, losses that forced that door open.

It may be too late for the Eagles to bounce back and win this wretched NFC East title. But there is still time for them to win three or four of their remaining games and remove some of the stench from this horrendous season. There is time for Kelly and his players to leave a more positive impression than they have through their first 11 games.

That shouldn’t be that hard, really. It has been a pretty lousy impression.

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles placed Nolan Carroll on injured reserve Friday, a day after the cornerback broke his ankle during the team’s 45-14 loss to the Detroit Lions.

To take Carroll’s roster spot, the Eagles signed defensive back Jaylen Watkins from the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad. Watkins was the Eagles’ fourth-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

In Buffalo, Watkins was united with his younger brother, wide receiver Sammy Watkins. He signed with the Bills after being released by the Eagles on the final roster cut. Watkins turned 23 years old Friday.

The loss of Carroll is going to be challenging for the Eagles, as evidenced by the game in Detroit. Rookie Eric Rowe replaced Carroll. Rowe gave up two touchdown passes to Detroit’s Calvin Johnson.

Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said he mixed up coverages on Johnson and Rowe often had help.

“We had doubles,” Davis said. “We had brackets. We moved in and out of coverages. We had to scramble a little bit when Nolan got hurt.”

Davis didn’t have many options active during the game. Veteran defensive back E.J. Biggers could have replaced Carroll, but Davis likes to use Biggers inside in different defensive packages. Chris Maragos or Ed Reynolds could have played safety while Walter Thurmond or Malcolm Jenkins moved to cornerback.

But Rowe is a player the Eagles moved up in the second round to draft. He was pressed into action against the New York Jets early this season and intercepted his first NFL pass. In that game, third-round pick Jordan Hicks also got some playing time and created two turnovers.

Hicks remained in the rotation because of injuries to inside linebackers. He was having a major impact until he tore a pectoral muscle in Dallas three weeks ago.

Rowe played a lot against Washington, saw some action against New Orleans and then didn’t play a single down for the next four games.

Perhaps if he’d stayed in the mix, Rowe would have been better prepared to play as much as he did in Detroit. As it was, Rowe went from the sideline to running with one of the league’s premier wide receivers. It was a tough assignment.

In Watkins, the Eagles have a player who is familiar with their defensive scheme. He can play some safety, if needed.

Rookie cornerback Denzel Rice, who hasn’t played on defense yet this season, is also on the roster.

DETROIT -- Ten wins wasn’t a good enough result for Chip Kelly last season. It will be impossible this season.

Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles are 4-7. Even if they win the rest of their games, which seems unlikely, given their remaining games against New England and Arizona, the best the Eagles could do is 9-7. They are guaranteed their worst record in Kelly’s three seasons.

"I'm not saying we're doing a better job," Kelly said after the Eagles' season-defining 45-14 loss to the Detroit Lions. "We're not. But I don't look at 10 wins as a good job, either. I've never looked at it like that."

Last season, a three-game losing streak dropped the Eagles from 9-3 to 9-6 and out of first place in the NFC East. Kelly responded with major changes to his roster. He traded quarterback Nick Foles and running back LeSean McCoy. He acquired Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell and other players.

Chip KellyAP Photo/Jose JuarezChip Kelly's Eagles fell to 4-7 after Thursday's blowout loss at Detroit.

The Eagles started the season with five new starters on offense and five new starters on defense. They released veteran players Evan Mathis, Trent Cole, Cary Williams and Todd Herremans.

"Ten wins wasn't enough," Kelly said. "If you don't finish as the No. 1 team in the league, then it's a step back. That's what our mentality is, and that's what my mentality has always been. I was never happy when we were 10-6, I can tell you that."

Kelly won't be any happier finishing 7-9 or 8-8. Neither will his players. The mood in the Eagles' locker room Thursday was somber. Twice in four days, this team had taken the field against a lesser opponent and been dominated.

That's not supposed to happen to a good team, and Kelly believed he had put together a good team. Actually, the idea behind all of the offseason changes was to go from being a good team to a great team.

That was how Kelly's boss, Eagles owner Jeff Lurie, explained the busy offseason. Lurie has not talked to the media since the season began, which is typical for him. He likes to evaluate the entire season as one body of work rather than react to each win or loss as it occurs.

It was hard, standing in the visitors' locker room at Ford Field, not to remember the visitors' locker room at AT&T Stadium last Thanksgiving. With Mark Sanchez at quarterback, the Eagles had beaten the Cowboys, 33-10, to get to 9-3.

It was arguably the high point of Kelly's tenure as Eagles head coach. His team seemed on its way to something special.

This Thanksgiving, with Sanchez at quarterback, the Eagles reached the low point of Kelly's tenure so far. They were beaten so soundly and looked so lifeless that players were being asked if the team had quit on Kelly and his staff.

"I don't believe anybody quit," linebacker Connor Barwin said.

"Effort has nothing to do with execution or how the game goes," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "Effort is, do you think everybody played hard with intentions to win? I think the [answer to that] question is yes."

"I believe our players played today," Kelly said. "I believe our players competed. Yes, I do."

It is a major problem when a team quits on a coach. It is the kind of thing that costs a coach his job.

But when a team competed and gave effort and got manhandled like the Eagles did twice in one week, that raises other questions. If this was their best, how good can they be?

"I can't continue to take an embarrassment like that," defensive tackle Bennie Logan said. "Me personally, that was disgusting. Thanksgiving Day, and you get embarrassed like this."

DETROIT -- A look at Philadelphia Eagles players who were "up" and who were "down" in Thursday's 45-14 loss to the Detroit Lions:


QB Mark Sanchez: No one’s suggesting Sanchez played a great game. But he got hit a lot and took five sacks. He lost a fumble. But there were no interceptions and, on a day devoid of hope for the Eagles, Sanchez just kept running out there.

TE Trey Burton: Pressed into action because Zach Ertz was out with a concussion, Burton took one Sanchez pass 43 yards. It was the biggest play of his career. Meanwhile, Burton was doing his usual work on special teams, including making tackles on kickoff coverage.

WR Jordan Matthews: He was slow to get up after taking a big hit from Detroit safety Isa Abdul-Quddus. But Matthews stayed in the game, continued plugging and scored a fourth-quarter touchdown.


OT Lane Johnson: It wasn’t all his fault, but Lions DE Ziggy Ansah had a career-best 3.5 sacks. Johnson and the rest of the Eagles’ offensive line did not protect Sanchez well and did not pave the way for the running game. A bad day.

DB Eric Rowe: The Eagles traded up in the second round to take Rowe. He has mostly been a non-factor this season. When he was forced to play because of an injury, Rowe gave up two touchdown passes to Calvin Johnson. Welcome to the league, kid.

LB Mychal Kendricks: He was closest to Lions running back Theo Riddick on an 8-yard touchdown pass that started the scoring. So Kendricks gets a down arrow on behalf of the linebacker corps, which has been lost in a haze for two weeks now.

DETROIT -- November was going to be a big month for the Philadelphia Eagles. It turned out to be a big mess.

After their Nov. 8 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles were 4-4. Their next three opponents all had losing records. With a sweep, the Eagles could have been 7-4 -- in first place in the NFC East -- when they faced the New England Patriots on Dec. 6.

Instead of sweeping, the Eagles got swept. Their embarrassing 45-14 loss to the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving represented a new low for coach Chip Kelly’s team. By scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown, the Eagles avoided the biggest margin of defeat of the Kelly era.

Mark SanchezAP Photo/Jose JuarezMark Sanchez was sacked six times in Thursday's loss to the Lions.

The Eagles began their collapse on Nov. 15 with a 20-19 loss to the Miami Dolphins at home.

That was followed by a 45-17 humiliation last week courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Now this.

In four days, the Eagles allowed 90 points, 951 yards and 10 touchdown passes.

They are 4-7 with that date with Tom Brady and the Patriots next on their schedule. The state of the NFC East -- no team took a winning record into Week 12 -- gave the Eagles an opportunity to overcome a poor start and get into the division race.

They squandered that opportunity, one embarrassing loss at a time.

What were they thinking? With rookie cornerback Eric Rowe playing in place of an injured Nolan Carroll, the Eagles thought it would be a good idea to let the inexperienced Rowe handle Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Safety Walter Thurmond was late giving Rowe deep help on Johnson’s 25-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Rowe was on his own for Johnson’s 5-yard score in the third quarter.

Just to show they’re fair, the Lions lined Johnson up on the right side from the 3-yard line. Rowe wasn’t involved. Veteran Malcolm Jenkins was the victim, as Johnson caught his third touchdown of the game.

One reason to get excited: There wasn’t much. One positive note: If the Eagles are somehow able to come back in 10 days and beat the Patriots, it will be that much more unexpected. After losing three consecutive games to some of the NFL’s worst teams, the Eagles will be prohibitive underdogs against the best team in football. As we said, there wasn’t much.

One reason to panic: There are two reasons -- the offense and the defense. Both were wretched for the second consecutive week.

The Eagles couldn’t run the ball or throw the ball effectively. Their defense couldn’t stop the Lions on the ground or through the air. It was as complete of a breakdown as you’ll see from an NFL team.

Coming on the heels of the team’s similarly wretched outing against Tampa Bay, expect more questions about whether players are responding to Kelly and his staff. There will no doubt be more speculation about Kelly’s future. Will he be the Eagles’ head coach beyond this season or will he find a way to return to the college game?

A strong effort here would have signified that Kelly had a firm grip on this team and could get it turned around. An effort this weak and ineffective is the sort of thing that gets coaches fired.

Fantasy watch: DeMarco Murray gained 19 yards on one of his first-half carries. On his other 13 carries, Murray gained a total of 11 yards. With Ryan Mathews out due to a concussion, Murray had an opportunity to get more work.

Ouch: The Eagles lost two starters to ankle injuries in the first half. Left tackle Jason Peters, who has been hampered by a back injury for a month, left the game during the Eagles’ first offensive possession. Carroll went down with a broken ankle in the second quarter.

Lane Johnson moved from right tackle to replace Peters. Detroit defensive end Ziggy Ansah took advantage with a career-high 3.5 sacks.

Rowe replaced Carroll and was beaten for two touchdown passes from Matthew Stafford to Johnson.

In the second half, wide receiver Josh Huff was evaluated for a concussion and did not return.

DETROIT -- Mark Sanchez made his second start of the season for the Philadelphia Eagles. Through one half of play, it was not much of an improvement over his first. The Eagles trailed the Detroit Lions 24-7.

Mark SanchezLeon Halip/Getty ImagesMark Sanchez completed 8 of 14 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown in a first half in which the Eagles could only move the ball sporadically.

Sanchez completed 8 of 14 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. He did not throw any interceptions, but he was only sporadically able to move the ball on the Lions. Sanchez did throw a 2-yard touchdown pass to veteran tight end Brent Celek early in the second quarter.

Sanchez wasn't helped by the shuffling of the Eagles' offensive line. Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters left the game with an ankle injury on the Eagles' first possession. Lane Johnson moved from right tackle to left tackle, while Dennis Kelly replaced Johnson on the right side.

With center Jason Kelce playing with a knee injury, the Eagles' line was not effective. DeMarco Murray gained 22 yards on 11 carries. Sanchez was frequently under pressure and was sacked twice by defensive tackle Ziggy Ansah. Both sacks came on third down and forced the Eagles to punt.

The Eagles' next game is Dec. 6 at the New England Patriots. Sam Bradford, who made progress during the short week of preparation for Thursday's game, is likely to be ready for that game.

Philadelphia's Mark SanchezRich Schultz/Getty ImagesMark Sanchez has two touchdowns and four interceptions in 64 pass attempts this season. For his career he has 84 touchdowns and 84 interceptions in 2,240 attempts.

PHILADELPHIA -- The easy conclusion is that it's a Mark Sanchez thing. After all, the former "Sanchize" for the New York Jets had thrown 69 interceptions along with 68 touchdowns in his first four seasons as a starting quarterback.

Maybe it's really a Chip Kelly thing. Sure, the coach got a laugh the other day when he was asked what Sanchez should have done with a pass that was intercepted Sunday by Tampa Bay.

"Not thrown it to Tampa Bay," Kelly said.

Sanchez, who may start for the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday, has thrown four interceptions in less than six quarters of play this season. His career ratio is exactly 1:1. Sanchez has thrown 84 interceptions and 84 touchdown passes. That is remarkable consistency.

But look at Kelly's offense over the past two seasons. Three different quarterbacks -- Sanchez, Nick Foles and Sam Bradford -- have combined to throw 40 touchdown passes and 35 interceptions.

Is it possible that Kelly's offense has something to do with it? Or is it just that those three quarterbacks are all just good enough to throw some touchdown passes while not being elite enough to avoid interceptions.

Sanchez has thrown as many interceptions this season as Tom Brady. Of course, Brady has thrown four interceptions in 409 pass attempts. Sanchez has thrown a total of 64 passes. Brady has mixed in 25 touchdowns, while Sanchez has thrown two.

The outlier here is Nick Foles' 2013 performance in Kelly's offense. Foles threw 27 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. That was Kelly's first season in the NFL, when his offense was new. Foles also had LeSean McCoy running the ball and DeSean Jackson running deep routes.

In 2014, Foles threw 13 touchdowns passes and 10 interceptions. Sanchez threw 14 TDs and 11 interceptions.

This season, Bradford has thrown 11 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. Sanchez's four picks and two touchdowns are not exactly out of line.

The constant is Kelly's offense. It utilizes a lot of crossing routes, which means receivers are running across the defense. With the release of Jackson, the role of deep threat fell to Jeremy Maclin. With his departure, no one seems to have stepped up.

Meanwhile, Kelly's playbook is considerably thinner than many coaches' offensive plans. That's a function of Kelly's no-huddle offense. Players have to learn fewer plays and formations so they are better able to line up quickly and go.

But that relative simplicity works both ways. On Sunday, Sanchez threw a screen pass to Darren Sproles in the second quarter that went for a 35-yard touchdown. In the fourth quarter, Sanchez threw a screen pass to Sproles that went for a touchdown -- for Tampa Bay. Linebacker Lavonte David intercepted the pass and took it to the house.

"It was just play recognition," David said, according to NJ Advance Media. "I knew exactly what they wanted to do. It's the same thing they were doing all game. I knew that on the drive before they were hitting us a lot with screen passes. So, knowing that, all I needed to do was read and react."

That may also explain why many of the Eagles' interceptions seem to come later in games. Defenders are more apt to recognize a play after they've seen it a few times. Sanchez has thrown four interceptions in the first half of games. He has thrown 11 after halftime. Bradford is even: five first-half picks, five in the second half.

Of course, the quarterback still has the ability to move through his progressions and find open receivers. It isn't that Kelly's offense is doomed to fail, as Foles' performance in 2013 showed. But when a limited quarterback is running the offense without the threat of downfield speed to preoccupy defenders, the result seems to be plenty of interceptions.

Lane JohnsonEric Hartline/USA Today SportsLane Johnson apologized after saying the Eagles don't really have a home-field advantage and that fans in Philadelphia "really don't care."

PHILADELPHIA -- Lane Johnson has quickly become one of the more thoughtful and approachable players on the Philadelphia Eagles. With that, of course, comes the risk of saying something he regrets.

Johnson did just that Tuesday. In the wake of an ugly loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Johnson was asked by Eagles 24/7 about the way the fans reacted.

“If we get down by any significant amount of points or we don’t make any first downs, we’re going to get booed,” Johnson told Birds 24/7. “That’s just kind of how it is. It’s not really home-field advantage playing here anymore. Really, that’s the truth. Cats here, they really don’t care.”

Reaction was immediate. The fans who pack Lincoln Financial Field don’t like being criticized by players or coaches. While Johnson was simply giving an honest answer to a reasonable question, Eagles fans were known as “boobirds” long before Johnson was born.

With fans reacting on talk radio and Twitter, Johnson posted a statement on his Twitter account:

“My comment about the fans was out of line and I apologize. I’m just frustrated like they are about our performance on the field. The bottom line is that we need to give them a reason to cheer by scoring and winning games. We need to EARN that home field advantage and I know that. Our fans deserve better. The Linc can rock and that’s on us to make it happen.”

Johnson also appeared on 97.5 The Fanatic, the ESPN station in Philadelphia.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ll own up to it. I’ve got nothing but love for the city.”

Johnson was the No. 4 pick in the 2013 NFL draft out of Oklahoma. He has started 38 games, missing only four games last season due to a PED-related suspension.

The Eagles play their next two games on the road, so Johnson won’t hear directly from the fans until the Dec. 13 game against the Buffalo Bills.

videoPHILADELPHIA -- It seems ridiculous now, as the dust settles on the Philadelphia Eagles' 45-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But two weeks ago, the Eagles had just beaten the Dallas Cowboys, 33-27, in overtime. Their record was 4-4 after a 1-3 start. If they could just win their next three games -- against Miami, Tampa Bay and Detroit -- they would be in pretty good shape going into a very tough game at New England on Dec. 6.

After losing to Miami and the Buccaneers, the Eagles’ are officially the most disappointing team in the disappointing NFC East race.

The Giants are in first place with a 5-5 record. Washington and the Eagles failed to win Sunday and tie the Giants. Both teams are now 4-6, with Washington ahead of the Eagles by virtue of having beaten them head-to-head.

Doug MartinAP Photo/Julio CortezDoug Martin punched through the Eagles defense for 177 rushing yards in the first half, including runs of 84 and 58 yards. Martin finished the day with 235 yards.

Dallas is 3-7, just one game behind Washington and Philadelphia. Tony Romo returned to the field Sunday and led his team to its first victory in two months. The Eagles’ one-game lead on the Cowboys doesn’t seem particularly wide, considering their recent losses and the lift Romo will continue to give his team.

Let’s put it this way: Getting Sam Bradford back, whether it’s Thursday in Detroit or the next week in New England, isn’t likely to have the same impact on the Eagles as Romo’s return had on the Cowboys.

After these two losses, it’s impossible to look at any game as a likely Eagles victory.

Detroit? The Lions have suddenly won two in a row. They have Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. They will be playing at home on Thanksgiving. The Eagles could win, certainly, but you might not want to bet the mortgage money on it.

New England? The Patriots are undefeated. That game was looming as the Eagles’ annual loss by 50-20 (Denver in 2013, Green Bay in 2014). That is, it was looming until the Buccaneers beat the Eagles by 28 on Sunday.

Buffalo? The Eagles will be home for this one. It’s a winnable matchup. But after Doug Martin’s 235-yard game Sunday, it’s scary to think about what LeSean McCoy might do to his old team.

Arizona? The Cardinals are in first place in the NFC West. Coming East is always tough, but this one does not look promising for Eagles fans.

Washington and New York? The Eagles close out the regular season against the two NFC East rivals. If they are 6-8, they would likely need to sweep those two games in order to have a chance in the division race. If they are 5-9, it probably won’t matter what they do in the final two games.

That is where the Eagles find themselves after losing two eminently winnable games at Lincoln Financial Field. The bottom line: They just played two-thirds of the easiest part of their entire schedule.

They went 0-2. Even in the NFC East, that’s not good.

PHILADELPHIA -- A look at some Philadelphia Eagles players who were "up" and a few who were "down" in Sunday's 45-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:


Darren Sproles: Sproles took a screen pass from Mark Sanchez 35 yards for a touchdown, one of the few moments on offense worth savoring for Eagles fans. Sproles and Sanchez got into an on-field shouting match after Lavonte David’s interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Hey, at least Sproles showed he still cares.

Brent Celek: He had a better game last week, but Celek caught 7 passes for 79 yards and gave Sanchez a reliable target. On a day when the Eagles offense was erratic, Celek was steady, as always.

Walter Thurmond: On a rough day for the secondary in general, Thurmond looked pretty good. He made five tackles and got the only sack of Jameis Winston. He managed to avoid getting beaten for a touchdown, too, which was rare enough in this game.


Sanchez: If nothing else, he reminded everyone why Sam Bradford has been Chip Kelly’s starting quarterback through good and bad this season. Sanchez threw two touchdown passes and three interceptions, one of which was returned for a TD. After a touchdown on the Eagles’ first drive, Sanchez wasn’t able to get the offense going for the rest of the game.

Nolan Carroll: Winston was having one of those days when it appeared he could do no wrong, but he certainly seemed to be targeting Carroll. There wasn’t much Carroll could do about 6-foot-5 Mike Evans catching a jump ball in the end zone, but he also got beat by Vincent Jackson on a slant for another touchdown.

Kiko Alonso: Alonso accepts this honor on behalf of the entire linebacker corps. The Eagles got taken apart on the ground and through the air. Alonso chased Doug Martin on Martin’s 58-yard run to set up the Bucs’ first touchdown, and he got beat by tight end Cameron Brate for a touchdown. None of the linebackers played well, but Alonso had an especially rough day.

Mark SanchezAP Photo/Julio CortezMark Sanchez threw for 144 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the first half Sunday as the Eagles trailed the Buccaneers 28-14 at halftime.

PHILADELPHIA -- Mark Sanchez got off to a strong start for the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday. But by the end of the first half, Sanchez and the Eagles were getting booed as they ran off the field, trailing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28-14.

After throwing a 39-yard touchdown pass to Josh Huff on the Eagles’ first extended possession, Sanchez and the Eagles' offense bogged down for most of the first half. Their next three drives ended with punts. And on his final pass of the first half, Sanchez threw an interception to Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte Davis. The knock on Sanchez has been his tendency to throw as many interceptions as touchdowns (82 career interceptions, 84 career touchdown passes).

On one drive, Sanchez threw a pass that tight end Brent Celek couldn’t pull in on second-and-6. On third down, Sanchez had a wide-open Zach Ertz running down the seam and overthrew him. The Eagles punted.

That offensive ineffectiveness allowed Jameis Winston to lead the Buccaneers to a 14-point halftime lead.

Sanchez made his first start Sunday since the end of the 2014 season. Sam Bradford, who started the Eagles’ first nine games this season, was knocked out of last week’s game with a concussion and a separated left shoulder.

As the starter last season, Sanchez went 4-4.

On his first drive Sunday, Sanchez hit Huff on a shallow route. Huff ran right to left across the field, found an opening and sprinted into the end zone.

After the series of punts, Sanchez found Darren Sproles on a screen pass. Sproles got blocking from guard Matt Tobin and ran 35 yards for a touchdown.

PHILADELPHIA -- Jason Peters, the Philadelphia Eagles' Pro Bowl left tackle, is active for Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford and running back Ryan Mathews are inactive. Both players suffered concussions during last week’s game against the Miami Dolphins and were unable to practice during the week.

Peters’ status was unknown until the list of inactive players came out Sunday. He was limited in Thursday’s practice and was listed as questionable on the Friday injury report.

Peters left the Eagles' game against the Carolina Panthers last month after injuring his back. A pinched nerve was causing pain and weakness in Peters’ leg.

With Peters dressed, Lane Johnson is expected to start at right tackle, his usual position. Peters would be at left tackle. Dennis Kelly, who started the last two games at right tackle, returns to the bench.

PHILADELPHIA -- The tempo giveth and the tempo taketh away. For the Philadelphia Eagles, that will be worth keeping an eye on if Mark Sanchez is the starting quarterback Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It was easy to see that the Eagles’ offense operated a little faster when Sanchez took over for the injured Sam Bradford last week. In the two-plus quarters Bradford played quarterback, the Eagles ran a play every 21.2 seconds. In the quarter-plus with Sanchez at quarterback, the Eagles ran a play every 16.1 seconds.

“I just feel comfortable with the system,” Sanchez said. “I have fun running it.”

Coach Chip Kelly wants the offense to operate at a high tempo. But the change from Bradford’s pace to Sanchez’s pace may account for some of the Eagles’ problems against the Dolphins. If the no-huddle, uptempo approach is designed to wear down the opponents and cause problems with their communication and alignments, logic dictates that a change in tempo could create similar issues for the Eagles.

Example: On the 13th play of Sanchez’s first full drive Sunday, wide receiver Riley Cooper was called for an illegal shift penalty. He wasn’t set for a full second before the ball was snapped. The Dolphins were flagged at the same time for having 12 men on the field.

The penalties offset, but they also negated a play. The play happened to be a 22-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to tight end Zach Ertz. Instead of a 23-20 lead, the Eagles wound up kicking a field goal and cutting Miami’s lead to 20-19.

Sanchez also had several miscommunication issues with his teammates. He threw passes to Miles Austin and DeMarco Murray that neither player appeared to expect. And there’s no telling what factors led to Sanchez’s ill-advised pass to Austin that was intercepted in the end zone.

“We’re just trying to go as fast as we can,” Sanchez said. “We want to play smart, with great attention to detail.”

It wouldn’t be surprising if it took a little more time to achieve that attention to detail than it took to speed up the tempo. After a week of practicing with Sanchez, the offense should be better acclimated to his pace.