ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Well, at least the Eagles didn't blow a fourth quarter lead.
Actually, Sunday's 31-24 loss to the Bills was much worse than the Eagles' previous three defeats. Yes, they came back from a 31-14 deficit to trim Buffalo's lead to 31-24. And, yes, they were driving for the tie late in the game until a Michael Vick pass to Jason Avant bounced off the receiver and into the hands of Bills linebacker Nick Barnettt. But the game was another example that the Eagles are not good -- not by a long shot.
There were turnovers, dumb penalty after dumb penalty, missed tackles, horrible play-calling, and shoddy game management. And that was just in the first half. The result: The Eagles are 1-4 and the playoffs are all but a dream.
Here are other observations off the game:
--Jason Avant is usually one of the most reliable, professional guys on the Eagles. He's no star, but he can catch and he can block. He'll rush punts and chip a defensive end. He'll cover kicks and -- in an emergency -- hold for a field goal or play quarterback. But Avant had one of the biggest mistakes of the day on an afternoon filled with them. Just when the Eagles had closed to within 14 points Avant made a 35-yard reception -- only to lose the ball at the end, giving Buffalo possession on the Philly 37. It was not the Eagles only mistake, but it was a big one. The Bills got a field goal. It was the fourth turnover of the day and sapped what momentum the Eagles had gained from a touchdown on their previous possession. When even Avant is making silly mistakes, you know something has gone very wrong. And then, of course, there was the game-ending interception that bounced off his hands.
-- Asante Samuel is widely considered the best off-corner in the NFL. The Eagles cornerback's ability to bait to quarterbacks into throwing interceptions has made Samuel indespensible on defense. But over the last two weeks opposing offenses have picked on his soft coverage, throwing underneath seemingly all day. There were two such examples in the first half on Sunday. With the Bills facing third and six on the Eagles 37, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hit receiver Donald Jones on a slant. Jones was all alone and when Samuel missed the tackle, he picked up the first down. In the second quarter Fitzpatrick went right at Samuel again when he hit receiver David Nelson for an easy six-yard touchdown. Buffalo had only six yards to go, obviously, but Samuel seemed to be playing ten yards off. Brutal.
-- After giving up three straight fourth quarter leads, the Eagles apparently decided to see what it was like to blow it at the end of the second quarter too. With a second-and-10 at the Buffalo 26 and 14 seconds remaining and no time outs, the Eagles took two shots at the end zone. The first was incomplete. On the second, Mike Vick held the ball, and held the ball, and finally lofted it high out of the end zone -- eating up the final seconds of the game clock and costing the team any shot at a field goal. It was a forehead-slapping just-when-you-didn't-think it- could-get-any-worse moment. As tempting as it is to lay all the blame on Andy Reid -- and he deserves plenty -- it made sense to take a shot at the end zone down 21-7. It's on Vick to make a decision faster. Even if the clock should have stopped, leaving a one second margin is bad football. There was plenty of that to go around Sunday, but this one was on the quarterback.
-- If there was someone the Eagles' struggling defense could not afford to lose coming off three straight losses it was Trent Cole. The defensive end was out with a cafl strain and his absence was felt throughout Sunday's game, but especially in the first half when the Eagles needed a kickstart. For the first time this season the defense did not record a first half sack. As bad as Juan Castillo's unit has been, getting to the quarterback has been one of the few things it's done well. Not Sunday against the Bills.
-- For the fourth time in five games the Eagles did not score first. They opened the game by driving into Bills territory, but like two weeks ago against the Giants the drive ended with a Michael Vick interception. That pass against New York should have been caught by receiver Steve Smith. This time the Eagles set up a slow-developing -- and we mean, sllllooowww-developing -- screen pass to LeSean McCoy that was thwarted by linebacker Alex Carrington. He tipped Vick's throw and cornerback Reggie Corner scooped it up. Vick has tossed interceptions in each of the last four games, and added another in the first quarter. The Bills, meanwhile, converted the turnover into a touchdown and a 7-0 early lead.
-- It was only a 35-yard field goal attempt -- merely a chip shot for NFL kickers -- but Alex Henery's successful boot in the fourth quarter was a confidence builder for the rookie after last week. Henery missed two field goal tries last week that would have provided the Eagles with enough points to beat the 49ers. The NCAA's most accurate kicker at Nebraska, Henery pretty much never faced adversity in Lincoln. He was that good. So there was some doubt about how he would handle failing. But that kick, which narrowed the Bills' lead to seven points, showed that he had enough confidence to come back.