Sunday afternoon started so promisingly. The Philadelphia Eagles offense was humming, and the defense was holding its own. Then the first quarter ended, and everything started to unravel. The offense couldn't get anything going on the ground, the defense started giving up chunks of yardage, and the injuries to key players started.
In the end, the Eagles weren't able to take down a banged-up Dolphins team, losing 20-19. The Eagles are still in the hunt for the NFC East, but a loss to a four-win team at home isn't encouraging. Let's take a look at who performed well, and who still has some work to do:
Brent Celek: Have a day, old man. Celek was the surprise star on offense, catching four passes for 134 yards. It was his best game of the season, and the third-highest yardage output of his career. Sam Bradford found Celek for a 60-yard catch and run on the offense's first play of the game, and the two connected again in the second quarter for a gain of 40 yards.
Seemingly every year Celek has a game in which he demonstrates his wheels. It wasn't enough this week, but maybe this performance inspires the Eagles' quarterbacks to look Celek's way more often.
Josh Huff: His receiving numbers weren't eye-popping, but on Sunday Huff showed glimpses of why the team and fans were excited about him in the summer. He made a tremendous leaping catch for a two-yard touchdown in the first quarter, and had a 31-yard kick return as well. A few more performances like that could really help bolster an Eagles receiving corps that can use all the help it can get.
Walter Thurmond III: While the defense didn't force any turnovers, there were still some fireworks, courtesy of Thurmond. With the Dolphins backed up at the shadow of their own goal line, Thurmond came screaming around the edge and delivered a vicious hit on Tanehill that knocked the ball loose and forced a safety. Beyond that big play, Thurmond finished third on the team in tackles with six.
Caleb Sturgis: Field goal kicking is a tricky thing. Sometimes, a missed field goal is on more than the kicker's leg. The snap could be bad, the hold could be bad, the defense could make a play... things happen. But at this point in the year it's hard to excuse Sturgis' play.
In a one-point loss, the former Dolphin (who was named team captain for this game) missing a 32-yarder looms large. It's the second game this season in which points Sturgis should have made have been the difference between a win and a loss. And it marks the fourth game in the six weeks Sturgis has been in Philadelphia that he's missed either a PAT or a field goal.
Miles Austin: The veteran receiver is not the fleetest of foot, nor is he the most sure-handed. But Austin hasn't hung around the NFL for this long by playing how he has this season. Early in the game, Bradford threw a gorgeous deep pass to Austin that he promptly dropped. And late in the contest, Austin appeared to stop running an end zone route that was instead intercepted by Reshad Jones.
The Eagles aren't getting a ton of production out of their wideouts, but even with that caveat, one could make a convincing argument that Austin has been the least productive.
Donnie Jones: This was a pretty brutal showing from Jones. In addition to his 32.1 yard per punt average (the second lowest of his 12-year career, he also had a punt blocked in the second quarter. Two plays later the Dolphins scored a touchdown. It was the first of the Dolphins' two second half touchdowns, and part of Miami's 17-3 run after halftime.
Eagles offensive line: Among the growing list of disappointing items this season, high up on that list has to be offensive line play. Center Jason Kelce is in the middle of what has become his worst pro season. In Sunday's loss alone, Kelce had three penalties and a high snap.
Unfortunately, he's not alone. The interior of the Eagles' offensive line has been subpar, and it's exacerbated by the absence of Jason Peters. The return of the All-Pro left tackle might help matters down the stretch, but the interior will need to pick it up if they want to help the offense move the ball. Without a strong run game and pass protection, the Eagles offense will continue to sputter and suffer the same bouts of inconsistency.