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The Patriots were the first team in the NFL in 2013 to score 50 points in a game. (USA Today Images)
DENVER -- Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin, who beat Peyton Manning last year when he played for the Texans, said earlier last week that no magic formula exists for conquering the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
No truer words were spoken.
The Eagles were powerless Sunday afternoon to slow down Manning and the top-ranked Broncos offense. They lost, 52-20, in Denver at Sports Authority Field, with Manning tossing four touchdowns and surgically dissecting coordinator Billy Davis’ defense.
It was the most points allowed by the franchise since a 62-10 to the Giants on Nov. 26, 1972.
Manning did whatever he wanted against the Eagles, who allowed more than 400 offensive yards for the fourth time. He played pitch and catch with all of his four major targets, moving the ball seemingly at will.
The Eagles’ best hope to survive being avalanched was matching the Broncos point-for-point and hoping to force Manning into a late-game mistake, but the same self-inflicted wounds from losses to San Diego and Kansas City resurfaced in the rarefied air.
Along with committing eight penalties for 62 yards, the Eagles had more breakdowns in protection, some critical dropped passes, and couldn’t get their receivers to fight off Denver’s press coverage.
And don’t forget special teams breakdowns, which led directly to 14 Denver points. Broncos returner Trindon Holliday took a kick back 105 yards for a touchdown, and Donnie Jones had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown. Also, kicker Alex Henery missed a field goal for the third straight game.
LeSean McCoy failed to go over 100 rushing yards for the first time, and DeSean Jackson didn’t get 100 receiving yards for the second straight game.
Head coach Chip Kelly has now lost three straight after starting his Eagles career with an exciting road win against the Redskins. Kelly, the former University of Oregon coach, hadn’t lost three games in a season since he went 10-3 in his first season as Ducks coach in 2009.
After phenomenal games against Washington and San Diego, Michael Vick is going through valleys. It’s not all his fault. His receivers are dropping passes, and his protection, although better against Denver, hasn’t kept him upright enough. But the passing attack is regressing.
Vick neither threw a touchdown nor run for one for the first time this season and was sacked three times. He didn’t throw a pass longer than 15 yards.
Manning completed 29 of 35 passes for 332 yards and became the first quarterback since Milt Plum in 1960 to open the season with 16 touchdowns passes without having an interception. He also reached 16 TD passes faster than any quarterback in league history. He upped his career four-TD games to 24, a league record.
Aside from Manning, which would be too easy, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was an incredibly tough matchup on the outside for Cary Williams. Thomas caught eight passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
So many to choose from, but we'll go with tight end Brent Celek. His drop at the Denver 4-yard line in first quarter set an ominous tone for the offense. The Eagles could have tied the game, 7-7, but instead settled for a field goal. Celek actually led all Eagles receivers with 52 yards but has just five catches in his last three games.
Adding to the nightmare, former Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie won his matchup against DeSean Jackson, keeping the Eagles wideout out of the end zone. DRC had a breakup on Jackson in the end zone and broke up a pass to Avant later in the game.
The key to rattling Manning is getting pressure from the front four. Where was it? Nowhere to be found, outside of a Cedric Thornton first-half sack. This needed to be a big game for Trent Cole, but he caused very little pressure.
Holliday’s 105-yard return in the first quarter was the longest ever against the Eagles, breaking the 60-year record held by former Colts returner Buddy Young, who took one back 103 yards against them in 1953.
Jones had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown, the first time that’s happened to the Eagles in 17 years, and Henery missed a field goal for the third time in three games.
McCoy had the wind knocked out of him early in the second quarter but returned shortly after.
Did you know?
The four-yard touchdown Chris Polk rushed for in the second quarter came on the first offensive snap of the second-year pro’s career.
QB Matt Barkley, S Patrick Chung, DL Damion Square, CB Shaun Prater, OT Matt Tobin, OT Dennis Kelly, TE Emil Igwenagu.
The Eagles continue their three-game road trip and play their second NFC East game of the season, taking on the winless Giants (0-4) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.