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Is leadership an issue in the locker room?
Michael Vick had a 19-yard completion to DeSean Jackson wiped away because of a Lane Johnson holding penalty in Sunday's 52-20 loss in Denver. (USA Today Images)
DENVER -- So, so many penalties.
So many mind-numbing, head-scratching, crippling penalties that keep spoiling opportunities for the Eagles and gift-wrapping them for the opponent.
Eight against Washington in the season opener. Nine against San Diego in the home opener. Six of them four days later against Kansas City. Eight more in Sunday’s embarrassing 52-20 loss to the Broncos at Sports Authority Field.
They come in droves, and at the worst times. They killed any chance the Eagles had of sticking with unbeaten Denver.
Connor Barwin jumps offside on 3rd-and-4 deep in Eagles territory. The Broncos go ahead 7-0 three plays later on a Wes Welker touchdown.
Fletcher Cox jumps on 2nd-and-5. Two plays later, Knowshon Moreno barrels into the Eagles' end zone, breaking open a 14-13 game.
DeSean Jackson’s 19-yard catch stakes the Eagles inside Denver’s 25-yard line, but comes right back thanks to Lane Johnson’s holding.
“I know mine was one that gave them a first down,” said Barwin, who didn’t know he had stepped over the line of scrimmage. “I guess I have to go back and look at the rule, but I didn’t think it was encroachment because I didn’t cross the line, but they called it. That definitely hurt us. We gave up another one that hurt us. Those are third-down plays that we can’t have.”
The Eagles committed 62 yards in penalties against Denver, which committed just two for 25. It was the third time in four games this season that they eclipsed 60 yards in penalties.
In their 26-16 loss to Kansas City, the Eagles had a makeable 3rd-and-6 pushed to 3rd-and-11 after a Mathis hold, and then punted. Vick had a 19-yard connection Zach Ertz wiped away by a Todd Herremans hold, and then turned the ball over on downs.
Against San Diego, in a 33-30 loss, Jackson had a 37-yard touchdown wiped away by Johnson’s illegal formation.
“Yeah, and again, they’re coming at critical times,” head coach Chip Kelly said. “Those are the things that really hurt you. Offensively, we were pretty clean. We didn’t have any false starts. Those are the administrative penalties that we talk about.
“That one [on Johnson] where we’re driving and have a huge gain, not only do you have a penalty that sets you back, but it nullifies a big yardage gain, and that’s the stuff -- those are drive killers. We’ve talked about it, but we’ve got to continue to emphasize it.”
Kelly said he emphasizes discipline and fundamentals every practice. If someone jumps, they stop and do it again. If someone’s lined up wrong, they correct it and start over.
So far, it’s not doing the trick.
The Eagles entered the game with seven false starts and managed to play the entire game without committing one, but they doubled their season total in offside penalties with two, registered their fourth holding and added their fourth and fifth pass interferences of the season.
In only one game, the opener against the Redskins, have the Eagles committed fewer yards in penalties than their opponent. For the season, they’ve been penalized 52 total yards more than the teams they’ve played.
With 31 total penalties, the Eagles have the fourth-most in the NFC. San Francisco (39), Tampa Bay (35) and Seattle (32) each have more. The 49ers and Seahawks have enough talent to overcome their penalties, but the Eagles have other issues on offense and defense to confront.
Penalties are just adding to the frustration.
“Yeah, we coach them in practice,” Kelly said. “If we see people holding or we see people not doing what they’re not supposed to be doing, we correct them. That’s where we’re at right now.
“That’s not what good teams do. Good teams don’t stop themselves and right now we’re stopping ourselves at times, and we can’t do that. When you’re playing against a Peyton Manning team, you can’t stop yourself.”