DETROIT— Well, now that all those cupcakes are out of the way, the Eagles can focus on the more difficult part of their schedule …
You know, New England, Buffalo, Arizona.
We'll get a better feel for how good the Eagles can be after those games.
Or, as it turns out, how bad they can be.
It can't get worse than this. Can it? A 45-14 loss to a 3-win Lions team four days after a 45-17 loss to a 4-win Tampa Bay team that followed a 1-point loss to a 3-win Miami team. Over the last three weeks, the Eagles have managed to lose to a franchise that fired its coach in midseason and another, the Lions, that fired its GM, team president, offensive coordinator and two line coaches a month ago.
Chip Kelly was right about one thing:
That Dallas game was no turning point.
In fact, needing overtime to beat a team that was missing Tony Romo and a few key players should have been a harbinger of what has taken place since. This is a team so in freefall that it is virtually impossible for one side of the ball to point fingers at the other. It's a well-oiled cliché for players to speak of ``all having a part in this,'' but it's 100 percent accurate when it comes to the Eagles.
If blame was a turkey, that carcass would be all bone by now.
(Gratuitous Thanksgiving Pun #1)
Thursday, the Eagles' thinned and hobbled linebacking corps made a Thanksgiving Day star of Lions backup running back Theo Riddick. The offensive line and DeMarco Murray were pathetically out of sync even before Jason Peters rolled over on his injured ankle and left the game midway through the first quarter.
Nolan Carroll suffered a broken ankle, and Calvin Johnson showed us quickly why Kelly and his staff have been so reluctant to play their second-round pick, Eric Rowe. Then again, Byron Maxwell wasn't doing any better on the other side, and it was Malcolm Jenkins who was victimized by Johnson's third end-zone catch, which gave the Lions a 38-7 lead with more than 20 minutes remaining in the game.
All this and more obscured the little details that plagued the Eagles in their early close losses and continue to crop up, like the 15-yard facemask penalty that stalled a promising first-quarter drive, another missed field goal by Caleb Sturgis, poor run blocking combined with DeMarco Murray's continued struggles to stay on his feet in open space.
Everything is hard for the Eagles these days. After consecutive big plays put them on Detroit's 5-yard line as the first quarter expired, they took three cracks at the end zone – two using the incredibly unimpressive Murray.
Hired to get these kind of yards, Murray used a lead block by his quarterback to stumble the ball to the 1, then was stuffed for a 1-yard loss. Continuing the theme of employing the underutilized, Sanchez hit Brent Celek in stride as he crossed in front of the goal line with Isa Abdul Quddus draped all over him. Celek wriggled just enough to reach the ball over the goal line, and, for a brief time, the Eagles were tied with the Lions, at 7.
But the theme that has accompanied Mark Sanchez's most recent ascent to the starter's role has been the sudden abandonment of his defense. Once ranked among the league leaders in several categories including rush defense and turnovers, the Eagles have struggled over this 3-game stretch to turn the ball over – or even make two consecutive plays.
And the consequences have been dire. Detroit took the ensuing kickoff and sliced through them like, well, turkey.
(Gratuitous Pun #2. I'll stop now.)
The 80-yard touchdown drive used 12 plays and took 6:27 off the clock and the Lions needed to convert a third down just once – and even then, for just two yards.
In comparison, the Eagles faced seven third downs over the same stretch, five for nine yards or more.
By the end, it got so bad that Detroit fans, who haven't had much to cheer for, either, this season, began the wave – while they had the ball. It was sabotaged quickly, though, by another mad dash through the Eagles defense, this one by Joique Bell, who punched it in a play later for a 45-7 lead.
They cheered one last time. Then many of them left. By the time Sanchez connected with Jordan Matthews on a 24-yard touchdown pass for the game's final score, the stands in Ford Field looked a whole lot like the Linc did in the fourth quarter four days ago.
Say this about Chip Kelly these days:
He sure knows how to chase away fans.