Eagles come up short in 16-14 loss to Steelers
PITTSBURGH -- Fourth-quarter comebacks and close wins allowed the Philadelphia Eagles to emerge from September in first place despite a negative turnover ratio.
But engineering another late go-ahead drive wasn't enough for Michael Vick to overcome his early sloppiness with the football on Sunday.
Vick fumbled three times -- losing two in the first half, including one at the goal line to negate likely Philadelphia points. It was enough to overshadow what would have been Vick's fourth fourth-quarter game-winning drive in five games this season.
"It's the game of football," Vick said. "Things happen. I wish I could take the fumble back on the goal line but you can't. Ultimately I think we put ourselves into a position to win this game and we didn't win."
Philadelphia (3-2) took its only lead at 14-13 with 6:33 left on Vick's 2-yard touchdown pass to Brent Celek. That play capped a 17-play, 79-yard Eagles drive that took up more than half of the fourth quarter and included a pair of risky fourth-down conversions, including one deep inside their own territory.
But the Steelers responded by driving 64 yards to set up the winning kick, including a pair of key third-down conversions by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
"They just, on that last drive especially, made one more play than we did, one more yard than what we were able to stop them on," safety Kurt Coleman said.
Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall ran for 81 yards and a touchdown in his first game of the season as the Steelers (2-2) avoided their first two-game losing streak in three years.
Vick completed 20 of 30 passes for 175 yards and two scores for the Eagles, who couldn't keep their string of narrow early-season victories going. LeSean McCoy rushed for 53 yards, and caught four passes for 27 yards and a touchdown for Philadelphia.
The Eagles' first three victories had come by a total of four points, and Vick had become the fourth quarterback since 1960 to lead his team to a fourth-quarter comeback win in three of his team's first four games of the season.
Philadelphia's magic ran out against the Steelers.
"We're not playing complete games," Eagles defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "We're just waiting to the end, to try to pull it out at the end. We're not putting ourselves in the best situations we should be."
After a penalty backed Pittsburgh up to its own 10 on the final drive, the Steelers methodically moved down the field. Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for a 20-yard gain on third-and-12 at the Pittsburgh 18 and later found Emmanuel Sanders for seven yards on third-and-4 at the Philadelphia 38.
"Even on elite defenses, every now and then, a third-and-10, a third-and-12, you might give up," Philadelphia cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. "It's just that, at the time when you need it the most, you've got to be able to make that type of play."
Mendenhall, making his season debut after recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee, bolted for eight yards on the next play to get the Steelers well within Suisham's range. Three more runs put the ball at the Philadelphia 16, and rookie punter/holder Drew Butler had no problems with the snap in soggy conditions. The ball sailed through the uprights as the sideline erupted.
"We had the ball last," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. "Such is life."
The first of Vick's first three official fumbles -- another was reversed by video replay when it was determined he was down by contact -- rolled into the end zone and the awaiting arms of Pittsburgh linebacker Larry Foote.
Vick fumbled again later in the first quarter in his own territory.
"I never really had a problem fumbling the football," said Vick, who has 11 turnovers in five games. "It was just one of those days ... I have no explanation for it. There's really none."
The Steelers came in looking to avoid their first 1-3 start under coach Mike Tomlin, but hardly played with the crispness of a team coming off its bye week. At one point Pittsburgh committed penalties on four consecutive snaps, one of them wiping out a 29-yard burst by Mendenhall.
Philadelphia wasn't any better in a game that was pretty chippy for in-state "rivals" that meet when it counts only once every four years. There was a considerable amount of pushing and shoving after the whistle and flow of any variety was hard to come by.
Pittsburgh's offense found its footing first, with Mendenhall taking a lateral from Roethlisberger and dashing 13 yards for a score midway through the second quarter.
"Our savior is back," Roethlisberger joked. "We've been teasing him all week. It was great to see him out there and he did a great job."
Pittsburgh made it 10-0 at the half on a 20-yard field goal by Suisham.
"The first half set us up in a bad position, being down 10-0 and coming into halftime just trying to make the adjustments," Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson said. "I think we did a great job in the second half showing intensity."
Philadelphia drew within 10-7 on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Vick to McCoy, setting up a dramatic fourth quarter.
On the Eagles' final drive of the game, McCoy turned both fourth downs into first downs, twisting for the necessary yardage on fourth-and-inches at the Philadelphia 30 then bulling for two yards on fourth-and-1 at the Pittsburgh 47.
"We put ourselves in a position to win the game," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "We need to make sure we get off the field on that last drive."
NOTES: Tomlin said it's too early to tell if either LB LaMarr Woodley or S Troy Polamalu will be available for Thursday night's game in Tennessee ... The Eagles escaped injury-free according to Reid. RB Bryce Brown left briefly with a shoulder strain while LB Mychal Kendricks went out for a bit with a sprained ankle ... The Steelers are 5-1 after bye weeks under Tomlin ... Pittsburgh TE Heath Miller had four receptions for 43 yards to become the eighth player in franchise history to top 4,000 career receiving yards ... Vick had a quarterback rating of 104.2, the 12th time he's topped the 100 mark during his time in Philadelphia ... The Eagles host Detroit next Sunday.
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