This one stings. The Eagles had the Dolphins right where they wanted them early. A handful of explosive plays on offense and defense put the Eagles up 16-3 at the end of the first quarter. Heck, the Eagles had the lead on the scoreboard and in time of possession (by a whopping 18 seconds). But a series of miscues by the Eagles, coupled with timely plays by the Dolphins, turned the tide by the second quarter.
The Eagles were unable to recover, ultimately falling to the Dolphins in a narrow 20-19 defeat. The loss drops the Eagles to 4-5, and clinging for life in an admittedly wide-open NFC East. Let's take a look at how each unit on the team performed in front of the home crowd at Lincoln Financial Field:
Overall grade: C-
The Eagles jumped out to a 16-3 lead in the first quarter, and signs pointed to a blowout. Instead, the offense sputtered, the defense gave up some timely plays, and the special teams committed some huge mistakes. In the end, the Eagles weren't able to take down a Dolphins team missing both starting corners, their starting right tackle and other complementary pieces.
In what has become the defining theme of the season, the Eagles were unable to get out of their own way. The team committed seven penalties and had a couple key drops and communication errors. What started out as an encouraging performance quickly fell apart, ultimately earning the Eagles their fifth loss.
After nine games, it's fair to wonder if this team will be able to put together a complete game from start to finish. The defense has shown that it can do it, and the offense has done it in spurts, but at no point this season have all three phases looked solid on the same afternoon. Even in a weak division, the Eagles will need to start fixing that if they expect to make it to the postseason.
The first quarter has such promise. Sam Bradford was rolling out of the pocket and finding open receivers downfield. But eventually the Dolphins defense tightened up, and Chip Kelly and company had no answer. Against Miami's 31st-ranked rush defense, the Eagles' running game managed only 83 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries.
To make matters worse, the Eagles also suffered two big losses. Bradford was injured late in the third quarter, suffering a left shoulder injury and a concussion. Running back Ryan Mathews also left the game with a concussion in the second half. But it would be unfair to blame the inconsistency on injuries - the Eagles were having plenty of trouble moving the chains beforehand.
On Sunday the Eagles defense looked less like the intimidating and opportunistic unit from earlier in the year, and more like the "bend but don't break" defense we'd seen a few years ago. And, really, that's okay. After all, the defense did its part on Sunday.
Bill Davis' group was able to limit the Dolphins run game - 99 yards on 26 carries - but didn't force a turnover for the first time all season. Meanwhile, Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill scored two touchdowns, one of which came on a flukey jump ball situation in the end zone. Even Chip Kelly admitted he had never seen anything like it, so it's hard to be mad at the defense for it. But the timely plays were less frequent in this game than they'd been. That, coupled with a run defense that hasn't continued its early season dominance, is starting to become a concern.
Special teams: F
This was easily the worst special teams performance of the Chip Kelly era. Donnie Jones had the second-lowest punt average of his career, and kicker Caleb Sturgis again missed a field goal that could have given the Eagles a win. Josh Huff came close to breaking a return in the first quarter, but that was about the best thing anyone could say about the special teams performance Sunday.