"We just had a miscommunication. I should have been on 91 [Jones]," center Mike McGlynn said. "That was my error. I caused the fumble, basically. It was disappointing; I felt like we physically beat 'em up. And that one play, in that situation, that can't happen."
On replays, it seemed Tennessee defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, No. 94, got into McGlynn, keeping him from getting to Jones. What we don't know is whether left guard Nick Cole, in the game for a handful of snaps while King Dunlap shook off a hyperextended knee, was supposed to keep Marks, coming in from Cole's left, off McGlynn. Or maybe the real mistake was the protection call, which might be why Kolb said: "It comes from our communication in the huddle . . . Obviously, that was the turning point in the ballgame."
How we got from that play, which ended with 5 minutes, 51 seconds left in the third quarter and the visitors ahead by nine points, to a 37-19 Eagles loss that left Sean McDermott's defense the laughingstock of the league is an intriguing tale.
Somehow, immobile and erratic Titans backup quarterback Kerry Collins, who entered the fourth quarter with a 40.7 passer rating, threw for 163 yards in the final 15 minutes, 159 of them to former Rutgers star Kenny Britt, who finished the day with 225 receiving yards, the most anyone has ever compiled against the Eagles. Britt didn't play the first quarter, his punishment for being involved in a nightclub altercation during the week.
The Titans' 27 fourth-quarter points, inflated by a final-play pick-six, were the most by an Eagles opponent since a memorable 28-point Joe Montana effort back on Sept. 24, 1989.
A couple of months shy of his 38th birthday, with a reported torn tendon in the middle finger of his passing hand, Collins did not look much like Joe Montana yesterday. Collins was intercepted twice, sacked three times, and he fumbled the ball away once, but the Eagles contrived to make none of that matter.
"We beat ourselves today," tight end Brent Celek said. "It's awful. It's one of those games where it's, 'Wow, how did that happen?' "
"Absolutely brutal there," said Eagles coach Andy Reid, whose team was penalized 10 times for 100 yards, often in crucial defensive situations.
At least Reid won't have to do a lot of explaining of the decision he confirmed yesterday, to go back to quarterback Michael Vick for the Indianapolis game coming out of the bye; Kolb was nothing close to the surgeon who sliced up the Falcons last week. Against a defense that brought persistent pressure, his problems getting the ball downfield resurfaced, and Kolb could have been picked more than twice.
"It was up and down," Reid said, when asked about Kolb's day. "We've got to continue to work with pressure and make sure we continue to protect him, and so on."
Kolb (26-for-48, 231 yards, one TD, two interceptions, 56.9 passer rating) was asked if Reid's decision to go back to Vick was disappointing.
"Sure it is," said Kolb, who started his career-high third game in a row. "I enjoy playing out there, and I want to continue to play. You learn something every time. You feel like you read things a little faster every time . . . But I'll say it again, I always trust him. I trust him now."
Everybody understood the fumble was the turning point. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said it didn't need to be.
"We're going to be in that position, where we're going to have to come back [from adversity]," Mornhinweg said. "We've got to be able to do that."
Indeed, though the now-5-2 Titans drove for a field goal that made it 16-10 after the fumble, the Eagles got those three points right back on the last of David Akers' four field goals, set up by a 41-yard Jorrick Calvin kickoff return. It was 19-10 with 13:26 left to play. Granted, that isn't as good as 23-7, but it should have sufficed.
Veteran corner Ellis Hobbs and rookie free safety Nate Allen took the starring roles in a meltdown for the ages, abetted by McDermott, who finally switched Asante Samuel to Britt's side after the damage was done.
"You shouldn't have to do that," McDermott said of the switch. "You can't do that in this league. You don't normally do that, not in the NFL."
"They just kept running that route," said Hobbs. "Every different way I played it, they did the opposite of what I was thinking . . . You just couldn't get a bead on him. Whether it was poor technique, or not reading this, or taking a gamble and it not working . . . they were exposing [shortcomings]."
"We came out in the second half, I think they had 95 yards at halftime, [got] the pick [from Samuel] to start the second half, and after that, it was the Britt Show," said McDermott, extremely frustrated at holding Chris Johnson to 66 yards on 24 carries, and still getting embarrassed.
"[Collins] made plays and we didn't make plays," said McDermott, who demurred when asked if he might change some secondary personnel when the team comes back from the bye. "He threw the ball over the top of the defense into two-deep coverage, and give credit to him, he made the play. For 3 1/2 quarters there, it was a dominating effort on our side, two turnovers and three sacks, but you've got to finish the game. You've got to make the plays."
Tennesee got within 19-17 on a drive that lasted 13 seconds, the time it took Britt to run past Hobbs and Allen, loop back around Allen, catch an underthrown ball Collins said was tipped coming out of his hand, and complete an 80-yard touchdown play.
After that, the Eagles spent the remainder of the afternoon floating facedown.
A 42-yard pass to Britt set up the 38-yard Rob Bironas field goal that gave Tennessee the lead, 20-19. The Eagles never got another first down, let alone another score.
Collins-to-Britt from 16 yards made it 27-19. Then Calvin's fumble of a punt return set up another field goal. Then corner Cortland Finnegan ran back Kolb's final-play heave 41 yards for the final TD.
The Eagles, without concussed wideout DeSean Jackson, and with pressure frequently keeping Kolb from stepping into throws, were limited to a dink-and-dunk offense that could have put more points on the board in the first half, when Collins really looked lost, subbing for injured Vince Young. Leading Birds receiver Jason Avant caught six passes, for only 60 yards.
The Eagles' biggest pass play came from first-half razzle-dazzle. Jeremy Maclin took a Wildcat snap with Kolb lined up as a wideout. Maclin then handed off to McCoy, who flipped the ball to Kolb, who lofted a bomb that turned out to have a little too much air under it. Titans safety Chris Hope settled under the throw, but as Hope went to make the catch, Eagles rookie wideout Riley Cooper came flying across and took the ball away, for a 37-yard gain, to the Tennessee 5. On third down from there, Cooper caught his first career TD pass, giving the Eagles a 10-7 lead with 1:56 left in the second quarter. It would be the Eagles' only touchdown of the day.
"I missed too many easy ones early," Kolb said. "We had a chance to get one of those [long] shots on them, really about three of them. We just didn't execute it, and I felt like that really kept them hanging around. You can't do that. You have to have, as we've been saying for a couple of weeks now, a step-on-their-throat mentality . . . We're a young team. We have to learn from it."
You could make a case that the Eagles did step on a throat yesterday - their own.
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