PHILADELPHIA (AP) — J.J. Arcega-Whiteside had his hands up and his eyes on the ball as the potential go-ahead touchdown pass came the rookie receiver’s way.
Catching it was the problem.
Carson Wentz threaded the ball to Arcega-Whiteside, who failed to haul in the pass with a defender on him, one of a handful of drops that doomed the Philadelphia Eagles in a 27-24 loss Sunday to the Detroit Lions.
This one stung in the clutch — Arcega-Whiteside dropped the pass on fourth down with 49 seconds left, the second straight week the Eagles failed to make the pivotal catch down the stretch for a win.
“It’s the moment you ask for and dream about,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “I gotta make the play.”
Wentz was nearly running out of receiving options. Wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (calf) and DeSean Jackson (groin) both sat out with injuries and tight end Dallas Goedert had also been slowed by a calf injury.
Lions cornerback Rashaan Melvin may have gotten a hand on the ball that led to final of several drops in the game for Eagles receivers.
“There’s no other assessment other than, I’ve got to go get it,” Whiteside said. “Tight coverage. I was going to elevate, expected some contact. There really wasn’t no contact. The ball ended up right there. I have to make the play.”
Philadelphia’s comeback again was derailed by drops.
The Eagles lost at Atlanta last week when Nelson Agholor lost the ball in the lights of the retractable-roof stadium and let a potential go-ahead 60-yard score slip through his hands.
Agholor had two TD catches against the Lions, but fumbled the ball when he knocked it off his hip on a catch in the second quarter. Darius Slay returned it 38 yards to the Eagles 22 as Wentz dove to make the tackle. The defense held and Matt Prater kicked a 33-yarder to make it 20-10.
“It’s part of the game,” Wentz said. “Guys are going to drop passes. We’re going to put the ball on the ground. I’m going to throw picks. We’re going to miss reads. Things happen. Guys make mistakes. Any time somebody drops a pass or something like that, I make sure I go right up to them and tell them it’s coming your way next time.”
Goedert had minimal action but dropped a 26-yard TD pass in the fourth, a gut-punch until he was bailed out on the drive when Wentz hit Agholor for a score that pulled the Eagles to 27-24.
Jackson and Jeffery are both unlikely to play against the Packers, forcing the receivers left to become reliable.
“I got double-teamed almost every passing play,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “We’re excited to get them back, hopefully as soon as possible.”
The Eagles stumbled on routine plays to fall into a 1-2 hole headed into a short week with a game Thursday night at Green Bay.
On the Eagles’ final drive, Darren Sproles caught a fourth-and-5 pass for a first down but got called for their third offensive pass interference penalty.
Wideout Mack Hollins also committed two pass-interference penalties. Miles Sanders — who had his helmet ripped off on a kickoff return — also lost one of two fumbles.
“Just told him we’ve got a lot of confidence in him, we’ve got a lot of trust in him,” coach Doug Pederson said of Sanders. “We kept him out there. It’s the only way to have trust and confidence in a player is to keep him out there.”
Sanders repeated a familiar refrain in Philadelphia’s locker room: He just has to put the mistakes behind him.
“I got back in and tried to make the best of my opportunity,” he said.
He wasn’t alone in his imperfections. The Eagles were a disaster all over the field, and even allowed Jamal Agnew to return a kickoff 100 yards for a score. The Eagles still have only two sacks in three games after they came up empty against Matthew Stafford.
Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham turned to reporters as walked into the locker room and said, “You better believe we’re coming back.”
“That’s just letting people know we’re just standing tall through it all,” he said.