The Eagles have the best record in the NFL. At 10-1, Philadelphia is enjoying incredible success this season. Dominating teams at every turn, the Eagles extended their win streak to 9 with a 31-3 win over Chicago. While they’re playing their way into the history books with three consecutive wins by 28+ points, there have been flaws that in the last few weeks are beginning to surface. Since returning from the Bye, the Eagles have made some sloppy mistakes. Chicago may not have had the talent to make the Eagles pay for 11 penalties and four fumbles, but a hungry playoff team like Seattle certainly does.
For Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson, rectifying those errors is key. Not every game is going to be won in blowout fashion…and not every game will provide situations where the team are seemingly off the hook after some costly mistakes.
“We anticipated the count just a little bit too much.” Pederson said on his teams performance on Sunday. “I think there was four of those, so we’ve got to clean that up. Good football teams, down the stretch, need to eliminate those 11 total penalties, we have to eliminate that.”
Good, but not good enough. There’s always room to improve in the NFL and in a game where LeGarrette Blount’s pair of fumbles were followed by a Jay Ajayi fumble that very nearly turned the ball over inside the end zone, the Eagles have plenty to work on prior to a conference clash against Seattle.
“On the offensive side, I thought our offensive line played okay, played good. Didn’t play great.” Pederson said assertively on Monday. “Didn’t play their best ball. But at the same time, they were able to manage and sustain the line of scrimmage. All in all, it was a great effort by all the units, all the phases, and we’ve just got to continue to improve this week.”
The Seahawks may be wounded…but any time a team has to travel to CenturyLink Field, a stiff challenge awaits. The Rams are on the horizon for the Eagles, but the Birds cannot afford to focus on what lies too far ahead. The Seahawks are beginning to click offensively and Bobby Wagner may be having his best year yet. In fact, he’s tied for the best run-stop percentage in the league according to Pro Football Focus. Wounds to the secondary aside, the Eagles will have their hands full and their ears ringing as the twelfth man bellows out as they did against Philly last season.
“We are focused on Seattle this week.” The Eagles Head Coach went on to say. “I want to make sure that these guys understand that the way we played yesterday, even though we won the game, some of the mistakes that were made, the penalties, the fumbling, the off-sides, those things are unacceptable, and that we have to play our best ball in the month of December. Those are the things that have to get cleaned up.”
This will be one of the Eagles toughest challenges of the season. A playoff atmosphere in every sense of the word, the Eagles have enjoyed blowout wins over a 3 win Chicago outfit, a dismantled Dallas and a Dallas team who still have no idea who their quarterback is. This will be the first time that the Eagles are expected to enter a dog-fight. Especially with what happened last season.
The Seattle Seahawks were responsible for bringing the Eagles back down to earth one year ago and they could well do so once again if simple mistakes aren’t ironed out. There is no questioning how far Carson Wentz has come since that crushing 26-15 defeat, but this will be a “must-win” for both teams…and stepping across enemy lines will be no easy feat, regardless of injuries or setbacks.
“Every time I’ve been up there it’s been a very hostile environment.” Those were the words from veteran Safety Malcolm Jenkins after the Eagles incredible win over Chicago. “Their crowd gets into it. They take a lot of pride in it. Their team is a prideful group that’s confident. They play well and are well coached. Obviously they’ve got players – Russell Wilson is proven to be one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in this league with his ability to improvise and scramble with his legs and make the throws out of the pocket. When the game’s on the line, he’s proven time and time again that he can make the plays to give their team a chance to win. It’s definitely going to be a huge challenge for us – one, to deal with the environment and going on the road in a primetime situation and, also, just dealing with their defense, their offense, and what they bring to the table. We’ll work all week to prepare and be ready for that challenge.”
The Eagles simply cannot afford to let complacency set in. Their historic season on both offense and defense has seen some jitters and stumbles along the way, but not against punishing talent with a playoff berth on the line. The Eagles simply have to come out swinging against the Seahawks. If they don’t, the Eagles may end up receiving a bigger punch than they expected.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports