29 touchdowns. That’s still good enough for best in the NFL this season. The Eagles are still the #2 seed in the NFC and are too far ahead to worry about the Dallas Cowboys. But the cries have been the same all season along. ‘The record is too easy. The Eagles are pretenders.” Every week they defied expectations. Every week the team pushed further down the playoff route…until yesterday. Until Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks plunged a dagger into the heart of the Philadelphia Eagles and left the team with a treacherous road-trip ahead.
It’s not as if the Eagles simply hit a wall. It’s not like Seattle blew them out of the water. But this game was never going to be easy. Coming into the matchup, Seattle was 46-0 when leading by four points or more at halftime dating back to 2012. An 88-37 home record since 2002 says all you need to know. Regardless of injury setbacks, this Seahawks team never says die. With no offensive line and more running backs than you can shake your tail at, this was always going to be the Russell Wilson show…and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The Eagles were surging into record books across the board. Philadelphia led the NFL with 351 points coming into the matchup, which were the most through 11 games in franchise history. The team also scored 30+ points in 5 consecutive games (longest active streak in the NFL), which is tied for the 2nd-longest streak in franchise history. They hadn’t allowed a first quarter touchdown all season…but they did on Sunday night.
Ronald Darby was honed in on by Russell Wilson, allowing two first down passes before giving up a PI flag at the 16-yard line that led to a touchdown. That’s where the problems began. Just one week after being flagged eleven times, the Eagles gave up another seven penalties to Seattle. It’s not that this Eagles team isn’t as good as we thought, but it’s simply that there hasn’t been a team to punish those errors of which the Birds are so effortless in glossing over.
And then came the quarterback. Carson Wentz on paper threw for 348 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. But beyond the stat sheet is where the problems lie. Wentz underthrew two more potential touchdown passes before giving up a play that seemed so uncharacteristic.
A ten play drive that went 69 yards and shaved 4:30 off the clock ended in a lost challenge by the Eagles. Doug Pederson opted to go for it on fourth and short after losing the timeout and made it anyway. Why he didn’t go for it to begin with is another questionable decision. Carson Wentz would then decide to take the ball into the end zone himself, rushing for his first touchdown of the year. As he hit the ground, he coughed the ball up and the Seahawks recovered it for a touchback. Seven points turned into a touchdown for the Seahawks, who responded by marching right back down the field and punching it in for six.
It was an uncharacteristic mistake from Carson Wentz…or was it? The second-year quarterback has been playing like an elite signal-caller all season long. Careering into the record books, Wentz has been an absolute magician throughout the season and his greatness and consistency has become expected. His poise, his accuracy, his decision making, it’s all become the norm. It’s easy to forget that Wentz is a quarterback in just his second season. Now the leaps he has taken have been monstrous strides through the world of progression, but he’s young. There are going to be games where situations arise he has not yet experienced or pressure arises he has not yet dealt with. There will be trials and tribulations. That does not suddenly render every achievement, every touchdown, every Houdini-like spin, every win, irrelevant.
They say life is like a box of chocolates. The unfortunate part of that is that If you consume an entire box of chocolates, you don’t get the same sensation as you did when you bit into the first chocolate of the selection, that’s nature. If you get to the end of the box and there’s a slightly less tasty treat, it’s easy to criticize because you expect the standard of the box to be maintained. That’s exactly the same for Carson Wentz.
The NDSU product has set the league alight this season, but the Eagles are not a perfect team. They never were. There were sloppy errors littered throughout their campaign that went unpunished. A team like Seattle thrives on those moments and would hand Wentz and the Eagles a bitter wake-up call.
The Eagles were not perfect against Seattle, but before the cries for a drastic change or skewed perception set in, just remember that this is a young team. A second-year Head Coach, a second-year quarterback and a very young supporting cast. This team is built for the future…and not every game will be a 28+ point offensive romp with defensive dominance.
Sunday night saw the better team win. That doesn’t take away from the greatness that the Eagles have put forth this year and regardless of what happens in L.A, that won’t either. The Eagles have 10 wins this season. 10. That’s hard to do. How the remaining quarter of the season pans out is anyone’s guess, but there is no denying the greatness and potential within that locker room, win or lose.
Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports