December 04, 2017
For the first time in two and a half months, Eagles fans are waking up on Monday morning feeling a little less confident in their football team than they did the day before.
That's natural, however, following a 24-10 loss to the Seahawks that not only postponed a potential NFC East coronation but also saw the Eagles drop from the top spot in the NFC playoff standings.
It's not a pleasant feeling, and it only gets worse when you start remembering some of Doug Pederson's questionable calls – like not challenging what clearly appeared to be a forward-lateral on a crucial third-down play – or the fact that Carson Wentz was one inch from tying the game in the third quarter but instead fumbled it out of the back of the end zone.
Then you see a flash of Byron Maxwell sealing the game with an interception and, well, good luck to anyone who interacts with you on your way to the office.
I'm here to talk you of the ledge as best I can. Your team is 10-2. All is not lost. And not everything about Sunday night's game was the worst.
Don't get me wrong, there's plenty to criticize from this one, and I'm pretty sure you won't have to search far to find those stories. But this is going to be something a little different. My only hope is it reaches you before you curse out the Wawa attendant because they were out of your favorite pork roll and cheese Sizzli (but actually because you remembered Jim Schwartz decided to dial up a zero-blitz on Russell Wilson and leave Rodney McLeod one-on-one with Doug Baldwin).
Instead of focusing on all the negatives from the loss – again, you'll have no problem finding plenty of articles doing just that – let's take a quick look at some of the silver linings from an otherwise awful night for the Eagles.
• They played their worst game against a good team and kept it close. No one expected this game to be easy for the Eagles – at least most people didn't – and that's for good reason: despite their injuries and obvious flaws, the Seahawks are a damn good football team.
"Can’t make those mistakes against good football teams on the road and expect to win," Pederson said after the game. "You just can’t do it and we did it again tonight."
They did it. And the Seahawks made them pay.
On top of that, Russell Wilson and the rest of Seattle's offense aren't a great matchup for the Eagles. Wilson's mobility and Seattle's overall lack of a ground attack neutralized the two best parts of the Birds' defense, their pass rush and their run defense. And they did a great job taking advantage of that fact on Sunday night.
Still, the Eagles played their worst game of the season. Some of that is due to the play of Seattle's defense, which is somehow overcoming injuries to several key players, but Carson Wentz was missing open receivers didn't look his sharpest. And by being forced to play from behind, the Eagles were unable to take advantage of their physical backfield in the second half, like they have throughout much of their nine-game win streak. In the first half, the Eagles ran the ball for 91 yards. They ran for just seven yards in the second half.
Despite that, the Eagles were a yard from being tied with the Seahawks on the road late in the third quarter until Wentz's costly fumble and managed to cut it to a one-score game again in the fourth quarter.
They may have played (and coached) scared at times, but the Eagles didn't go away. They didn't quit. Because they're a good team – and even on their worst night, they're in the game.
• The mistakes are correctable (and uncharacteristic). Were we all too quick to declare Doug Pederson a quality NFL coach? Did he suddenly forget how to do his job? Was Mike Lombardi actually right? The answer to all of these questions, especially the last two, is obviously no. It's more than fair to say that he had a bad game against the Seahawks – yes, he should've challenged the lateral and not the spot from earlier in the night – just don't act like that one game is representative of his entire season.
If he backs it up with another poor showing in Los Angeles, then maybe there's reason for some concern. Just don't forget what happened following a similarly poor night in Kansas City back in Week 2 – he made corrections, and the Birds won nine straight.
The Eagles were also uncharacteristically bad in two areas where they normally excel.
On offense, the Eagles failed to score a touchdown on either of their two red zone possessions and settled for just three points on those two trips. Heading into play on Sunday, they were 34-for-38 in the red zone with 28 touchdowns (71.8 percent). And on defense, they failed to force a turnover for just the second time all season (while the Eagles turned the ball over twice). The other time they failed to force a turnover? You guessed it, the loss to the Chiefs.
If it takes all of those forces combining – Pederson choking, a sudden inability to score, and a negative turnover margin – all coinciding like the perfect storm to beat this team, then they're going to be just fine.
• Carson Wentz is still Carson Wentz. Guess what? He's human.
"I missed some throws, we missed some things early on," Wentz said. "Sometimes that’s just the flow of the game early on, just try to see what’s going to work for you early in games. We were slow early on."
The final numbers (a season-high 348 yards and a touchdown) may make it easy to forget, but through the first quarter and a half, the Eagles had just 16 passing yards. Wentz was missing open receivers, including a wide open Alshon Jeffery (and another later on to Nelson Agholor that could've been a much bigger gain had the throw been better). And then after a nice drive to open the second half, one during which the Eagles went up-tempo and Wentz finally appeared to be finding his rhythm, they lost Zach Ertz to a head injury and any momentum they had when Wentz fumble out of the back of the end zone.
"It happens," Wentz said of his fumble. "It’s tough to do that on the road. Situations like that, especially when you’re down there on the 1-yard line, tough to do that and expect to win. Especially coming out the first drive of the second half, the way we did. We were rolling there. Just can’t put it on the ground."
• They got a taste of what the playoffs will be like and will have a chance to re-establish themselves as class of NFC next week. The Eagles are staying out west this week rather than flying home and turning right back around to play the Rams in L.A. next week, which might be a good thing given they just lost.
One of the big concerns about the Eagles heading down the stretch was their lack of experience in big games, especially at head coach and quarterback. Well, they got their first taste of that on Sunday night, and they proved those concerns to be somewhat justified. Then again, every team loses.
A reminder for everyone panicking over the #Eagles 14-point road loss to the Seahawks:— Matt Mullin (@matt_mullin) December 4, 2017
The 2004 Eagles lost, 27-3, in Pittsburgh. It happens.
More telling, however, will be how the Eagles react* to this loss.
"The message is always just keep going forward, keep going forward," Wentz said. "Be 1-0 every day at practice. Be 1-0 every week. And that message won’t change, that message won’t change. We’ll go back, we’ll watch the tape, we’ll see where our mistakes were made, we’ll clean some things up. But like I said, we have a mature locker room, a lot of good guys that are willing to work, willing to put the blame on themselves when necessary and we’re not going to point fingers.
"You know we’re not going to point fingers. We’re going to keep plugging along and we’ll have the same message that we’ve had all year."
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