The eyes of the football-watching world were on the Eagles Sunday night, as the NFC Super Bowl favorites had a chance to clinch their division and an 11th win out west in Seattle. But what viewers saw was a team that resembled a pretender — as the usually superior all-around Birds laid an egg against the Seahawks in a 24-10 loss.
Just the second setback of ths season, one bad performance is hardly enough evidence to debunk 10 spectacular performances in a still-ongoing season. However this week in Philadelphia many will nausiatingly pontificate on what went wrong. And many will ask whether their confidence in the Eagles was unfounded or premature.
We'll get an early start as we give an instant reaction to the ugly defeat that lifted powerhouse Seattle to 8-4 (and Philly to 10-2):
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Where's the defense?
The Eagles defense looked soft, allowing Seattle to convert three of three opening drive first downs en route. But they didn't allow a conversion on the fourth, holding the Seahawks to an early 3-0 lead on a Blair Walsh field goal.
Brandon Graham broke through in a big way a pair of tackles for loss (one of them a sack) on Seattle's second drive, pinning them against their end zone but an Eagles three-and-out set up Russell Wilson once again, who took advantage of back-to-back defensive penalties (pass interference and holding) to set up a scoring toss to Jimmy Graham and a 10-0 advantage (the first double-digit deficit for Philly since Week 2).
The most critical error for Philly came in the third. After getting consistent pressure on Wilson and nearly creating several sacks, the Birds allowed the fifth completion of 40-or-yards all season when Doug Baldwin's catch and run went 48 yards and a few plays later Seattle upped the lead to 17-3.
Where's the offense?
After two punts and looking stuck in neutral during the first quarter the Eagles slowly found their footing as a 16-play drive saw 10 running plays and eventually a Jake Elliott field goal to put the Eagles on the board. However there wasn't much more to feel good about as the Birds gained just 45 yards through the air in the first half and were content with a 10-3 deficit.
Wentz eclipsed that total out of the gate in the second half, tossing for 59 yards as he led Philly down the field to knock on the door of the end zone, thanks in large part to one of his patented QB sneaks on fourth and one. But a run up the middle plays later resulted in a rare fumble that wound up going through the end zone for a touchback, essentially resulting in a Philly turnover.
Wentz wasn't all bad (29-for-45, 348 yards), as a scrambling sprint to the sideline somehow allowed Wentz to complete a 51-yard pass to Nelson Agholor just as he was being tackled on a third and 13. Agholor, plays later, was on the receiving end of another remarkable third and long strie as he found the end zone on a 27-yard touchdown catch giving the Eagles new life.
Why the mistakes?
The first glaring mistake on the stat sheet from Sunday's loss is the Eagles' seven penalties for 64 yards — a week after committing a similar number of violations against the cupcake Bears. Several calls defensively helped Seattle. Whether it was the famous 12th man in the stands or jitters as Philly plays its first playoff-type test the kinks must be worked out as the season continues on.
Wentz' fumble into the end zone put the Birds in their biggest hole of the year down by 14 midway through the third and a shaken confidence followed them throughout the second half.
But arguably the biggest mistake of the game was Eagles coach Doug Pederson's failure to challenge a pitch made by Wilson past the line of scrimmage that, if reviewed, would have been ruled an illegal forward pass negating a 17-yard lateral and third down coversion. The Seahawks found the end zone later on the drive to collect a 24-10 lead. Had the play been ruled correctly the third and long may have given Philadelphia a chance to get the ball back down by just one score.
Byron Maxwell, former Eagles cornerback, nabbed Wentz' first interception in a while as he aired out a deep bomb in garbage time.
Not technically a mistake of any sort — a potential blow as Zach Ertz exited with a potential concussion could have a lingering effect on the Eagles' offense.