Dropped passes doom Eagles in loss to Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The dropped passes hit the ground -- when Sam Bradford was lucky, that is.

Six of the passes dropped by the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night landed harmlessly, but fruitlessly, on the ground. They were bad.

A seventh, which caromed off the hands of wide receiver Jordan Matthews, was worse. It was intercepted by Carolina Panthers safety Colin Jones.

That will go down as Bradford's 10th interception of the 2015 season, and his only turnover in the Eagles' 27-16 loss to the undefeated Panthers. But it was a product of whatever physical or mental issues caused the Eagles to drop seven passes.

That was their most drops in a game in 10 years. The Eagles dropped eight passes in a 2006 game against the New York Giants. Five of the seven drops came on third or fourth down, which means they ended Eagles' drives.

"I don't have an answer for that," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "We did have too many for us to be successful. I thought that we threw the ball well, threw with authority tonight, but the drops, obviously, hurt us. But I don't have an answer for that."

Matthews and fellow wide receiver Nelson Agholor have come to the Eagles' complex at 7 a.m. on practice days. They get in extra time catching balls fired from a JUGS gun. But when the game began Sunday night, the balls started dropping.

"I don't have one specific answer," Matthews said. "It's not a lack of preparation. It's something that needs to be fixed. It's embarrassing. And I feel like I'm No. 1 on the list of guys who takes that responsibility on my shoulders.

"It's not who we are as a team. It's not who we all want to be as players. It has to be fixed. It's embarrassing."

Wide receiver Josh Huff dropped a pass in the back of the end zone, leaving the Eagles to kick a field goal. On their final possession with a chance to tie the score, Miles Austin dropped one pass. Tight end Zach Ertz dropped another.

"I've got to catch the ball," Ertz said. "It's third-and-9 or whatever it was, running a shallow route, I've got to catch the ball and put us in a manageable fourth-down situation. I've got to make the play."

Bradford completed 26 of his 46 passes for 205 yards. If those drops were completions, he would have delivered 33 passes successfully for close to 300 yards. It's not overstating things to say that the drops were the difference between victory and defeat.

"We've got to do a better job catching the ball for Sam," Ertz said. "He's doing all he can out there. The protection isn't perfect. The throws aren't perfect. But we've got to do our job of catching the ball when the ball's in the air. As a receiving corps, we're not doing. We're not helping our quarterback right now."

Matthews added: "The hardest part is, individually, when you're going through those struggles, it hurts the whole team. That's the part that hurts the most. I've got to look at my teammates and know I didn't get my job done."

For his part, Bradford said he has to maintain confidence in his receivers and just keep throwing them the ball.

"Obviously, it's not good for us," Bradford said. "But they happen. And we just have to move on and keep going. Just because someone drops a ball, I don't lose any confidence in anyone out there. I have confidence in everyone."