Dismal defense costs depleted Eagles in loss to Steelers
Carson Wentz and Philadelphia’s injury-depleted offense put up 29 points against the Pittsburgh Steelers and still lost.
The Eagles fell to 1-3-1 with a 38-29 loss to the Steelers (4-0) following a dismal defensive performance Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger picked apart the secondary, took advantage of coverage mismatches and tossed three touchdowns to rookie Chase Claypool.
“We pride ourselves on if we score 3, it don’t matter (because) they shouldn’t touch the end zone,” defensive end Brandon Graham said. “We didn’t hold up our end of the bargain. It can’t be only one side clicking. We have to be more consistent.”
The Steelers converted 73% (11 for 15) on third downs, including TD passes from Roethlisberger to Claypool of 32 yards on third-and-6 and 35 yards on third-and-8.
Linebacker Nate Gerry inexplicably was left to cover Claypool one-on-one on the 35-yard TD that sealed the win in the fourth quarter.
“Ideally, would we like Nate to be on a receiver? No,” safety Rodney McLeod said. “We would prefer a defensive back but that was the call defensively and they checked to a good play. ... That’s a tough play for Nate going against a receiver like Claypool. Ben saw it and we have to live with that play.”
Cornerback Darius Slay was called for two pass interference penalties. The first one negated an incomplete pass on second-and-16 that set up Pittsburgh’s first touchdown.
Philadelphia’s highly touted and highly paid defensive line only sacked Roethlisberger once and didn’t generate much pressure.
“The ball was coming out fast,” Graham said. “That’s respect for us. They were hitting the perimeter. We need to make sure we tackle. They try to take the D-line out of the game. That’s what we’re going to see moving forward so we have to get that corrected.”
The Eagles entered without six starters on offense: left tackle Jason Peters, left guard Isaac Seumalo, right guard Brandon Brooks, wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery and Jalen Reagor. Also, tight end Dallas Goedert is out. Right tackle Lane Johnson was injured during the game.
Still, they moved the ball well at times and had their highest point total this season.
Miles Sanders had a 74-yard TD run, but gained only 6 yards on 10 other carries. Wentz connected with Travis Fulgham 10 times for 152 yards and one TD. But the offense also missed some opportunities.
Wentz eluded pressure and threw a potential 51-yard TD pass that went through rookie John Hightower’s hands late in the second quarter. Wentz’s next pass went for a 37-yard gain to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside but the Eagles didn’t have time to stop the clock and kick a field goal before the first half ended.
Wentz tossed an interception early in the third quarter when Zach Ertz was bumped by a defender and the ball went right to Steven Nelson. That set up a short TD drive that gave the Steelers a 31-14 lead the Eagles couldn’t overcame. They trailed 31-29 when Jake Elliott missed a 57-yard field goal wide right.
“We’re so close,” Wentz said. “We can get this turned around. I’m confident we will. We’re frustrated. Don’t me wrong. This isn’t where we want to be. I have confidence in the coaching staff and players to fix things and get going.”
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