PITTSBURGH -- A cold rain fell intermittently on Heinz Field. It was the second half of Eagles vs. Steelers, and the Eagles were trying to overcome another first half of mistakes.
It was a game where Michael Vick could not hold on to the ball, again. And where they couldn’t sack the quarterback, and where they trailed at the half, again. The deficit this time was 10-0, but that was just a detail. It is as if the first act of the script is written in ink now. There is nothing the Eagles can seem to do about it.
And this time, they could not overcome.
Vick led the Eagles on two second-half touchdown drives and the Eagles took a 14-13 lead in the fourth quarter. But in the end, the defense could not hold. A Shaun Suisham field goal from 34 yards with only zeroes left on the clock gave the Steelers the victory, 16-14.
Two Vick fumbles in the first half -- one of them just a yard away from scoring a touchdown -- doomed the Eagles to another afternoon of climbing out of a crater. Neither resulted in points for the Steelers, but one robbed the Eagles of points and the other just perpetuated a worrisome syndrome. It is a ridiculous way to try to make a living in the NFL, and the fact that they have been so good at it so far this season does not alter that truth.
It is too hard.
It cannot continue.
All of that said, the Eagles do make things thrilling. Down at the half, they kept coming. They scored their first touchdown with 6:32 left in the third quarter on a 15-yard touchdown pass to LeSean McCoy, a short throw that featured a devastating cutback move by McCoy that paralyzed Steelers linebacker Larry Foote.
Then, after a Steelers field goal, the Eagles put together a 17-play, 79-yard touchdown drive that ate up 8 minutes, 18 seconds. Along the way, they converted two fourth-down plays -- a gutsy fourth-and-1 from their own 31-yard line, when McCoy only gained the necessary acreage with a second effort, and another fourth-and-1 from the Steelers’ 47, when McCoy just slammed into the line for 2 yards.
The touchdown play was a 2-yard pass to tight end Brent Celek. Buried at halftime, the Eagles led by 14-13 with 6:33 left in the fourth quarter. Once again, their defense would either hold or not -- last week against the Giants’ Eli Manning, this week against the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger.
This time, it could not hold. They could not sack Big Ben, and the Steelers’ quarterback hung in and made just enough plays to pull out the game. But he is a good player, and he is going to make some plays. This is not a defensive issue.
This is about fumbles. It is about another slow start. When will it end? If you know the answer to that question, you know how the Eagles’ season is going to turn out.