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December 04, 2017

Did the Eagles lose to the Seahawks before the ball was even kicked off?

In the first half of their 24-10 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday night, their first since falling to the Chiefs back in Week 2, the Philadelphia Eagles seemed flat, undisciplined and incapable of sustaining any offensive momentum. At one point midway through the second quarter, they had 54 penalty yards but just 93 yards of total offense (16 passing and 77 rushing).

That pretty much says it all.

Sure, they were facing a team known for its defense – and doing so in a hostile environment – and they didn't get a ton of help from Tony Corrente and the officiating crew, but those aren't excuses. They're simply explanations. 

However, it's not like the Seahawks, who had allowed an average of 31.3 points over their previous three home games, two of which they lost, have been their usual selves at home this season. And the Eagles have overcome questionable officiating previously this season – I'm looking at you, Pete Morelli – so it wasn't that either. 

What, then, caused the Eagles to look so pedestrian on Sunday night, especially early on?

Immediately following the loss, head coach Doug Pederson mentioned something that most Eagles fans likely hadn't considered while watching the game: practice, specifically that it wasn't a good week of practice leading up to the Seahawks game. On Monday, still on the West Coast where the Eagles will remain until their upcoming game at the Rams, the second-year coach was asked to clarify what he meant.

"Well, we obviously pride ourselves in our work and getting our work done during the week," Pederson said. "I feel strongly about – you win games during the week, and sometimes things come up and as a coach, you're always maybe a little more nervous than you should be, the way we practice.

"I just think that the way – probably in the last couple of weeks – what you saw probably previously to the last two weeks, you didn't see the penalties. You didn't see the turnovers. You didn't see some of the negative things that have been going on. And to me, that's a direct correlation to how we practice during the week. So that's what I mean by that. And we've got to get that erased this week."

In reality, they need to get it erased yesterday. Facing a 9-3 Rams team on Sunday will provide another difficult test for the Birds – and if preparation was the problem, the combination of a week on the road, 3,000 miles from home and their families, and practicing in an MLB ballpark isn't necessarily a recipe for success.

Still, that's the task facing the coaching staff this week.

"Obviously got to keep them kind of dialed in because the week is different," Pederson admitted. "We've got to eliminate the distractions of traveling to practice, and we're in a hotel and things aren't quite as simple, let's say as if we were back in Philadelphia.

"And then just the part of the game. Again, we're facing a playoff-caliber football team this Sunday [who is] good in all three phases. Their offense is obviously very explosive and playing well and I've got to bring everybody kind of full circle back to that and focus on that during the week."

That's easier said than done.

Perhaps losing for the first time in two and a half months will help refocus the Eagles, who had been flying high atop the NFC while riding a nine-game winning streak. But it's not like the Eagles were unprepared for the quality of the opponent they faced on Sunday night. Or at least they shouldn't have been. Seattle's record may not be quite as good as Los Angeles, but they're still a playoff-caliber football team. 

So to what does Pederson attribute his team's recent practice issue?

"I think sometimes, I've talked about this before, winning can kind of cover-up or mask some things, some deficiencies, a little chink in your armor, if there is any," Pederson said. "Coaches and players fall into the same boat sometimes.

"We need games where we get hit in the mouth, and we have to fight and battle and scratch. Yesterday's game was one of those games. You just have to understand that the preparation, there's no substitute for the preparation and the hard work. You can't substitute that. The guys have to know that, and it's my job to make sure that they understand that and how we prepare and how we coach and hold everybody accountable.

"When I start seeing the same mistakes in ballgames that you kind of see during the week, we've just got to get back to the, not necessarily 'the grind,' but we've got to get back to just focusing in on all our jobs and owning that."

It almost sounds like he's saying the Eagles were too confident following their win over the Bears in Week 12, their fourth straight by at least 23 points. Wait, you mean this team was starting to get a little full of itself?

Pederson, however, doesn't plan on changing much leading up to their matchup with the Rams, aside from the coast-to-coast relocation of their practices. 

"I'm not a big believer in just changing things to change. I feel like you've got to continue with the same structure," he said.

"But I think the messaging can change – how I address the football team – and sort of bring to light the fact that, listen, we're 10-2. [We're] still a good football team. Everything is in our control. And that's the beauty of this whole thing: is everything is still right in front of us. We just have to embrace that, understand that, and prepare like we have and get ready for the Rams on Sunday."

Not overreacting is the right move from Pederson. Now, it's up to him to make sure that message gets through to his players so that the emotional pendulum doesn't swing too far the other way.

As Chuck D said, "Don't let a win get to your head, or a loss to your heart."

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