PITTSBURGH — The Philadelphia Eagles finally wound up on the losing end of a close game.
After notching three narrow victories in their first four games, they coughed up a late lead against Pittsburgh today. The Steelers’ Shaun Suisham booted a 34-yard field goal with no time remaining to beat the Eagles 16-14 at soggy, chilly Heinz Field.
“Both teams made some big plays,” Eagles safety Kurt Coleman said. “They just made one more big play than we did. It happens.”
Until Sunday, it hadn’t happened to the Eagles (3-2) this season.
Aside from a 27-6 loss at Arizona, all of the Eagles’ games have been down-to-the-wire, exciting contests. And they had always prevailed, beating Cleveland (17-16), Baltimore (24-23) and the New York Giants (19-17) by a combined four points.
They appeared ready to pull out another exciting win when quarterback Michael Vick hit tight end Brent Celek with a 2-yard touchdown pass to put the Eagles ahead 14-13 with 6 minutes, 33 seconds left in regulation.
But the Steelers answered with their own comeback.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed a pair of big third-down passes during a 64-yard drive that ended with Suisham’s third field goal of the game.
“Of course you want to win 50-0, but when you play a team like that, it’s probably not going to happen,” Roethlisberger said. “When you play a great team like that, you just want to get the win.”
The Eagles may have been able to hold off the Steelers if not for a pair of early mistakes. Vick committed both of the Eagles’ turnovers, fumbling on back-to-back possessions in the first quarter.
One of the errors was especially costly for the Eagles. Aided by a 31-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Ike Taylor, the Eagles advanced to the Steelers’ 3-yard line. Vick headed for the end zone but coughed up the football on safety Ryan Clark’s hit. The ball rolled across the goal line and linebacker Larry Foote recovered it for a touchback.
Vick, who also had a fumble overturned by a challenge, lost another one on the next series when linebacker Lawrence Timmons poked it loose and Foote again recovered it.
Vick has committed 11 turnovers — five fumbles and six interceptions — this season.
“I wish I could tell you why (the fumbles) are happening, but I don’t have any explanation,” Vick said. “It’s football. Things happen. I wish I could take back the fumble on the goal line, but I can’t. Ultimately, we put ourselves in position to win this game, but we didn’t win. That’s how it goes in the NFL.”
Both teams were sluggish in the early going, as if they had downed one too many of Pittsburgh’s famous Primanti Bros. sandwiches — cold cuts, french fries and cole slaw heaped between two slices of Italian bread — before the game.
The Steelers (2-2) scored their only touchdown in the second quarter on running back Rashard Mendenhall’s 13-yard run off a lateral. Mendenhall, who missed the Steelers’ first three games with a knee injury, rushed for a game-high 81 yards on 14 carries.
The Eagles’ offense got rolling in the third quarter on running back LeSean McCoy’s 15-yard TD reception. Then Vick came through with a clutch drive in the fourth quarter, converting two fourth-down plays before finding Celek for his 2-yard score. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson made a sliding, 24-yard grab during the series.
“I wanted to win the game,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “You’re in a tough place to win football games. We had the ball in our hands and I wanted to take care of it and score. That’s what we did. We put ourselves in position to win the game. My hat’s off to the Steelers. They also did a nice job with their last drive.”
The Eagles’ defense had chances to seal the win but couldn’t come up with big plays in crucial situations.
Roethlisberger hit wide receiver Antonio Brown with a 20-yard pass on a third-and-18 and then connected with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders on a 7-yarder on third-and-four. Six plays later, Suisham’s kick sailed through the rain, between the uprights and hit the net in front of a group of delirious, “Terrible Towel”-waving fans.
“It’s not like we didn’t go out there and fight right to the end,” Eagles defensive end Trent Cole said. “We just didn’t execute when we needed to execute and they ended up with a field goal. You can’t have mistakes and turnovers and win games. You have to go out there and be mistake-free. That’s what great teams do.”
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