The Eagles’ hopes of maintaining their NFC East division lead is growing as treacherous as the field conditions at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
In a steady and ceaseless downpour, the Eagles lost their second-straight game, a 22-17 decision to the 7-3 Cleveland Browns to drop to 3-6-1 on the 2020 season.
Their lead in the top spot of the worst division in football is now down to just a half-game with the second-place New York Giants (3-7) on a bye week. Washington Football Team’s victory over the Cincinnati Bengals also drew them to 3-7, just behind Philadelphia.
Carson Wentz’s nightmare season continued in Cleveland as he failed to get the Eagles offense to reach the 20-point mark for a second-consecutive outing.
In the difficult conditions, Wentz was held to under 240 yards passing for the sixth time this season, completing 21-of-35 passes for 235 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions — the first accentuating a miserable start on Sunday.
After taking their opening drive down to the Cleveland four-yard line, running back Miles Sanders coughed up the ball, which was recovered by the Browns to snuff out the early Philadelphia threat.
On their very next drive, Wentz threw one of his two first-half incompletions, but it was a costly one.
While under pressure, he lobbed up a screen pass intended for Sanders, but it hung up with plenty of time to be picked off by Sione Takitaki, who returned it 50 yards for the touchdown.
That one mistake had the Eagles staring at a one-touchdown advantage at halftime despite outgaining the Browns 175-123 with Sanders accounting for 63 of those yards on the ground.
With the Eagles keeping the Browns’ two-headed running game of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in check — just 25 yards midway through the third quarter — the ability to coax a mistake from their quarterback got them right back into things in the second half.
On Cleveland’s second offensive play of the half, Baker Mayfield was strip-sacked by Fletcher Cox with the loose ball scooped up by Alex Singleton on the Browns’ 19-yard-line.
One play later, the Eagles tied things up as Wentz hit Richard Rodgers in the back of the end-zone just 3:07 into the third.
Mayfield responded well to set the Browns up for a go-ahead score — a 46-yard field goal from former Eagle Cody Parkey — connecting with KhaDarel Hodge for a 42-yard completion down the left sideline on his first play back on the field.
While Wentz nosedived as the afternoon went on, Mayfield did more than enough to manage an offense that was waiting for its rushing attack to get in gear.
Mayfield attempted just 22 passes on the day, completing 12 of them for 204 yards
Philadelphia’s defense wasn’t left much margin for error as Wentz and Co. continued to struggle mightily and make costly mistakes. On a 3rd-&-8 from the Eagles’ 4-yard-line, Wentz was sacked in the end zone for a safety by Olivier Vernon — the fourth time on Sunday that he had been taken down — to give the Browns a 12-7 lead with four minutes remaining in the third.
For Vernon, it was his third sack of the day as he feasted on veteran offensive lineman Jason Peters, but Wentz had multiple receivers open that he failed to identify before the safety sack.
The Browns drove back down into field goal range after getting the ball back after the safety, but Derek Barnett athletically blocked Parkey’s 47-yard attempt to keep Philadelphia’s deficit at five early in the fourth quarter.
After Wentz was nearly intercepted in the end zone — a call that was overturned to save the quarterback from his second pick of the day — the Eagles drew within two thanks to a 43-yard field goal by Jake Elliott with 11:24 to go.
But Cleveland’s running game finally woke up, posting a pair of highlight-reel plays to extend its lead.
Nick Chubb broke free for a 54-yard run, sparked by a monumental stiff arm of linebacker Joe Ostman to get down to the Eagles’ 7-yard-line. Two plays later, Kareem Hunt found the end zone with a gravity-defying leap over defenders to the front-right pylon, putting the Browns up 19-10.
After another Parkey field goal put the Browns up 12 with 3:53 remaining, the Eagles got a gift with a questionable pass-interference call on Denzel Ward on a deep pass intended for Dallas Goedert, bringing the ball to the Cleveland 10-yard-line. But Wentz’s very next pass intended for Alshon Jeffery was picked off by Ward to ice another Eagles’ loss. He snagged a consolation touchdown in the final minute, hitting Godert from four yards out.