Jeff McLane
philly.com

DETROIT -- The Eagles fell to 3-1 when they lost to the Lions, 24-23, on Sunday. Here are 10 things we learned:

1. The Eagles arenít yet good enough to overcome turnovers, penalties and coaching errors. That being said, they were in position to win a game they might have had no business winning considering all the mistakes. The Eagles had their first two turnovers of the season, they committed 14 penalties, and they had dubious coaching decisions. I think it can be said that the Eagles had more overall talent than the Lions, who were without two of their best players on defense and their starting running back and tight end. But winning on the road is always difficult in the NFL, and the Lions, who had lost three straight coming in, were under the gun. The Eagles also looked a little sluggish coming off the bye. They spotted the Lions 14-0 and 21-7 leads, but to their credit, battled back and took a 23-21 lead with 6:45 left in the game. They had the lead and the ball on third and 2 with 2:45 left and then Ryan Mathews fumbled. Even if Mathews doesnít convert there, a Donnie Jones punt would have likely pinned a Lions offense that had only 10 second-half yards to that point. Doug Pederson has a decent team. Are the Eagles as good as the team that put a whooping on the now-4-1 Steelers two weeks ago? Probably not. But theyíre also not as bad as they looked in the first half and in the final few minutes on Sunday. Itís a long season, though. We still donít know all there is know about this squad.

2. Carson Wentz isnít perfect. It was bound to happen, but Wentzís first interception came at a terrible time. The Eagles trailed, 24-23, with 1:28 left and were starting from their own 25. They had no timeouts, but they needed only to get into field-goal range. The way Caleb Sturgis was kicking at Ford Field, Wentz might have needed to drive the offense only 40 yards to put the Eagles in makeable distance. Thirty-five yards might have sufficed, too. But he went for the whole enchilada on first down. Wentz dropped back, he looked over the middle and then to his right, and as he stepped up in the pocket, he looked downfield to Nelson Agholor, who was covered only by Darius Slay. ďIt was something that we had seen from them out of the first half at the end from their two-minute drives, one of the coverages, so it was kind of an alert I had breaking the huddle,Ē Wentz said. He hurled back and heaved a pass. ďI was surprised he threw that,Ē Slay said. So, apparently, was Agholor. The receiver had sort of given up on his route Ė a deep post Ė but he sped up when he saw the ball in the air. It was outside, though, and he couldnít get over to make a play on the ball. Slay did and made a splendid grab. I understand that some have been pinning more blame on Agholor than on Wentz for the pick, but it wasnít a good decision by the quarterback considering the circumstances, and as he said, it also wasnít a good throw. I wish we had more clarification from Wentz on his decision-making process. Pederson said that Agholor was the third read. I have to look at the coaches film to get a better look, but I probably would have rather seen him run there Ė if every receiver was covered -- or just throw the ball away and live for another down. It was our first real glimpse of the gunslinger that Wentz was known to be in college. If he had thrown a completion, no one would be questioning the throw. But he didnít.

3. Carson Wentz is still pretty darn good. Itís a shame to focus on the interception when he played so well up until that point, but those are the breaks. Has Wentz already raised the bar on expectations after an impressive three-game start? Yes. Should we lose sight of the fact that he is only a rookie? No. Wentz is going to have bad moments like every rookie and, really, like every veteran. It happens. Heíll learn from it and move on. He has the right mental makeup. He did a marvelous job with the comeback. The drive before halftime was almost all of his doing despite the Eagles repeatedly hurting themselves with penalties. Wentz again had a number of big-boy tosses. That 27-yard, back-shoulder pass to Jordan Matthews on second and 25 was awesome. There was a 20-yard toss to Matthews on third and 4 that was thrown on a rope. And his third-and-6 fire from the far hash to Matthews on a 10-yard out was maybe as impressive as any throw he has made this season. Wentz finished 25 for 33 for 238 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 102.8 passer rating and has eclipsed 100 in three of four games. He will continue to get better. Heís the No. 1 reason that the Eagles can confidently look at the Redskins next week and believe they wonít lose two in a row. A good quarterback covers a lot of flaws.

4. Ryan Mathews is a fumble waiting to happen. Donít count me among those second-guessing Pedersonís decision to pitch and run outside with Mathews. Maybe in hindsight, a run up the middle would have picked up a first down, but weíre talking a long two yards, not one. Pedersonís explanation made sense. The Eagles thought the Lions would crash the middle Ė as aggressive defenses tend to do in those circumstances Ė so he called a stretch play to the right. Maybe he erred in going to Mathews after the back had logged the two previous carries. Mathews has been known to fumble late. He did it against the New York Jets last season, although it ultimately didnít cost the Eagles. The Lions said they had noticed that Mathews would sometimes carry the ball out wide. ďSo we knew he was going to fumble once in a while,Ē Slay said. The bigger problem, though, was that he held the ball with his left arm rather than his right, outside arm. Thatís Football 101. Slay came in and popped the ball out with his helmet. There was a mad scramble and maybe a Lions player touched the ball out of bounds before it was recovered, but replays were inconclusive. Mathews had a solid day before that. He ran 10 times for 46 yards and caught five passes for 33 yards and a touchdown. Darren Sproles played more snaps (34 to Mathewsí 25), but had only five carries. He picked up 45 yards on those totes. Pederson said last week that he would stick with his two lead backs, but it was a mild surprise that Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner, who had been so good against the Steelers, got only one snap apiece.

5. Nelson Agholor canít yet be relied on in clutch situations. Iím on record as saying that Agholor was far less at fault for the interception, but great receivers often make up for the moments when their quarterbacks arenít pinpoint. Agholor had a splendid grab on an 18-yard toss earlier in the game. He has improved over last season, although there really was only one place to go after a dismal first year. But he struggles to get off the line vs. press corners, doesnít have elite speed, and plays small even for 6-foot, 198 pounds. Wentz targeted him seven times and he had two catches for 27 yards. Itís semi-remarkable that Wentz has been so effective without the aid of an above-average outside receiver. He has a plus slot in Matthews, but Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and Josh Huff are meh receivers. Green-Beckham (3 catches for 43 yards) had some nice runs after the catch, but he failed to pull in an end-zone toss for the second straight game. It would have been a great catch, but those are the types of grabs that good, not even great, receivers make weekly.

6. Mychal Kendricks has further lost his way. Kendricks appears to have no confidence at all. He was never the greatest open-field tackler, but he now takes the worst angles more often than not. His instincts are slipping. He took far to long to cover Theo Riddick on the Lionsí first touchdown pass. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, to his credit, was ahead of the curve on Kendricks. He dropped him from the nickel package and bumped up Nigel Bradham, who was arguably the Eaglesí best linebacker in the first three games. So I canít understand why Schwartz went to a rotation in the nickel vs. the Lions. Kendricks and Stephen Tulloch were on the field ahead of Bradham and Jordan Hicks only for the third series of the first half, but it proved costly. Schwartz realized his mistake and stuck with the latter for the entire second half. But didnít he watch film of last yearís Lions game? Riddick torched Kendricks. And the Lions clearly had plays designed to take advantage of that mismatch again. They made sure the Eagles stayed in base so as to keep Kendricks on the field, and they went right at him on the first Riddick score. Iím not sure where Schwartz goes from here, but Iíd consider using Tulloch at middle and moving Hicks to weak-side over Kendricks on base downs.

7. The offensive line might not be strong enough to sustain the Lane Johnson loss. Johnson will find out the fate of his appeal this week. It will either be a 10-game suspension, or heíll be completely exonerated. The former is more than likely. If/when Johnson goes, the Eagles will have a few options. They could bump Allen Barbre to right tackle and insert Stefen Wisniewski or Isaac Seumalo at left guard, or they could promote rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right tackle. Either way, the Eagles will likely be weakened. The offensive line had a rough start on Sunday. Wentz was pressured often and Barbre, in particular, had a rough stretch on the final drive before the break. But the unit was mostly stout after halftime. Wentz had tons of time in the pocket. Center Jason Kelce had maybe his best game of the season. But Johnson has probably been the best of the group, and he will be missed if suspended. He suffered an elbow injury late in the game, but said he would be able to play against the Redskins if available.

8. Jim Schwartz doesnít think much of Vinny Curry right now. Iíve written previously about Curry getting fewer snaps than Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin, but he wasnít even in the same ballpark on Sunday. Graham played 53 of 61 snaps; Barwin, 52; and Curry, just 16. He might have been injured, but the Eagles never announced anything. I think that Schwartz and defensive line coach Chris Wilson just prefer the first two right now, particularly in run situations. Still, 16 snaps is miniscule for someone who signed a five-year, $47 million contract in the offseason. And itís not as if the Eagles pass rush was getting to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in the first half. Curry eventually notched his first sack of the season, but Fletcher Cox deserved an assist for forcing Stafford up in the pocket. Curry hasnít stood out, but maybe more opportunities would help.

9. The Eagles secondary isnít strong enough to compensate for a subpar pass rush. The Eagles secondary, like the defense overall, was two-faced. It was leaky in the first half, stout in the second. The Eagles had only one breakdown in the second half, but it was costly. Stafford hit Golden Tate on third and 4 for 27 yards on a crosser. Schwartz blitzed and the Eagles got burned. (Correction: The Eagles faked a blitz, but only sent four rushers.) He had to call on extra rushers because the four-man rush wasnít getting home enough. In the first half, that meant that corners Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks and safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod had to hold their coverage longer. Thatís hard to do, especially when you donít have a shutdown corner who can take away one side of the field. Nevertheless, I thought that unit mostly held up, even after McKelvin (hamstring) and Brooks (cramps) left. Jalen Mills jumped in for the former again and Jenkins slid into the slot for the latter as Jaylen Watkins filled in at safety.

10. And some leftovers: The Eagles were called for 14 penalties to the Lionsí two. I donít often put stock into homegrown criticism of officiating, but the disparity in flags was suspicious, especially when referee Peter Morelliís crew looked like the Keystone Cops for most of the day. Ö Sturgis' right leg was robust. He easily cleared 50- and 49-yard field-goal attempts and also connected from 33. I bet he had enough leg for 60 yards if the Eagles had given him the chance late. Ö Iím OK with one Huff jet sweep, but two? Pederson went to that well one time too many.

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