Eagles look sloppy, mediocre in 23-21 loss to Vikings

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              Philadelphia Eagles' Carson Wentz prepares to pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Mental mistakes, sloppy turnovers and too many penalties have turned the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles into a mediocre team.

Carson Wentz and the rest of Philadelphia’s offense again had trouble converting in the red zone and on third down, even after the defense gave them a perfect opportunity to take a lead.

Now the Eagles (2-3) have lost two games in a row for the first time since 2016, which was the previous time they had a losing record.

“We have to take a hard look in the mirror,” Wentz said following a 23-21 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in a rematch of last season’s NFC championship game. “Little mistakes are killing us. We’re playing like a young, rookie team and we’re not.”

Down 20-3 midway through the third quarter, the Eagles rallied to cut the deficit to 20-14. Then Nigel Bradham recovered a fumble at the Vikings 30 after Roc Thomas dropped a backward pass in the fourth quarter. But another illegal formation penalty followed and Wentz was called for intentional grounding. Coach Doug Pederson elected not to let Jake Elliott try a 58-yarder and the Eagles had to punt.

“I feel we’re where we were two years ago,” Wentz said. “I’m confident we’ll fix it, but it’s frustrating right now.”

Pederson tried to accept blame for the team’s struggles.

“A lot of self-inflicted wounds. It starts with me. I have to self-examine,” Pederson said. “I have to do a better job.”

Linval Joseph snatched Wentz’s fumble out of the air and rumbled the distance to give the Vikings a 10-3 lead in the second quarter. Stephen Weatherly knocked the ball loose and Wentz couldn’t recover to catch Joseph from behind after the strip-sack.

Kirk Cousins tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen to extend the lead to 17-3 at halftime.

The Eagles finally got going on the opening drive of the third quarter, but Eric Kendricks forced Jay Ajayi to fumble at the Vikings 5 and recovered it. Cousins connected deep with Thielen for 68 yards on the next play and the Vikings reached the Eagles 2 before settling for Dan Bailey’s 22-yard field goal.

“I didn’t do my job,” Ajayi said. “There’s no excuse for it.”

Many of his teammates had a share in the loss.

The offensive line is struggling, receivers aren’t making plays and the two turnovers were costly. Playing his third game since returning from a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee, Wentz still hasn’t found a rhythm after finishing third in NFL MVP voting last season.

“It’s really just beating ourselves,” All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson said. “At the same time, we have to be accountable. It starts with me and goes right down the line.”

Three illegal formation penalties on the receivers were inexcusable.

“We can’t have that,” Pederson said.

The Eagles haven’t scored more than 23 points in the first five games. They were 2 for 9 on third down.

“We’re just tired of hearing it every game,” Wendell Smallwood said of the mistakes. “We have to stop doing it to ourselves. We’re putting ourselves in bad situations and having to fight harder than we need to. We’re just doing a lot of things we don’t normally do that you don’t see out of a championship team.”