Of course it ended on a Byron Maxwell interception.
That was the cherry on top for the most annoying game I’ve watched in at least five years. Annoying because of stops, starts, and penalties. Annoying because of Russell Wilson running backward 15 yards, then heaving the ball into the air for a defensive holding call. Annoying because Cris Collinsworth wouldn’t let the game breathe. Annoying because the Eagles left points on the board and shot themselves in the foot.
And it was an illegal forward pass. It absolutely was. The guy or guys in the booth need to tell Doug Pederson to throw the flag and the officials have to get the call right in the first place.
Watch it again for the ten millionth time:
Forward? You decide. pic.twitter.com/7rhLdBvKIk
— SPORTSRADIO 94WIP (@SportsRadioWIP) December 4, 2017
When you’re down by a touchdown in the fourth quarter and they convert on third and long, it’s the type of play that kills a game.
But listen, credit to Seattle for a great performance. Carson Wentz was pressured constantly and put off his game. Wilson did his thing and converted plays like the one above to move the sticks and keep the Birds’ offense off the field. It was frustrating to watch because every defensive win seemed to be followed by a backbreaker of a chunk play.
The Eagles fall to 10-2, which is where nobody had them at this point in the season, so let’s keep things in perspective. I’m fine with the “facing adversity” narrative. I think this kind of loss brings the team back down to Earth where they hit the reset button and hopefully finish strong down the stretch. Next week’s game in Los Angeles will tell us everything we need to know about this team.
1) Key plays
There were at least seven of them that just killed the Birds.
Off the top of my head:
- Carson Wentz missing Nelson Agholor wide open in the first quarter
- Wentz underthrowing Agholor in the third quarter
- Kenjon Barner stumbling on a failed 4th and 3
- Alshon Jeffery’s blatant holding penalty in the red zone
- Wentz’s fumble through the back of the end zone
- Failed blitz on third and 10 Seattle touchdown pass
- the forward lateral no-call
Bullet point #2 in visual form:
A good throw by Wentz and this is a TD. Two missed to Agholor tonight. pic.twitter.com/9fgO7EfduM
— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) December 4, 2017
All of those plays were just brutal to watch unfold. Carson just didn’t seem to have it last night outside of two clutch third down conversions on the Birds’ only touchdown drive.
2) Empty sets
If you don’t run the ball well and you’re facing the league’s best rushing defense, don’t use a running back, yeah?
We saw a lot of empty set from Seattle last night, with five receivers for Wilson to work with:
The Eagles are in nickel there, with Malcolm Jenkins in the slot and Rodney McLeod playing as a single high safety. Mychal Kendricks is lined up on a running back, J.D. McKissic, who motions inside.
Here’s how the above freeze actually played out on the field:
It’s a little five yard cross there for a big YAC gain.
Empty set is tough to defend because you usually end up with at least one matchup that you don’t like. Plus, with five receivers going out, there’s less space to operate, you know? More bodies to screen and pick and rub and drag and confuse corners and safeties. It’s also hard to blitz against because you’ve got 1v1 matchups all over the field that a veteran like Wilson will identify and pick apart.
The Birds are generally very good at getting to the quarterback in these situations, but Wilson’s ability to escape the pocket and extend plays just made it a nightmare for the secondary in coverage.
3) Jalen Mills and Big V
No, these guys don’t have anything to do with one another, but they stood out a bit more than others in being problems for the first time this year.
Vaitai had trouble with Frank Clark on the left, who had a pair of sacks and three tackles for loss.
Mills had some issues navigating crossing/drag routes and getting caught up in traffic. He wound up on skates on a Doug Baldwin third down catch, then got left behind trying to trail Tyler Lockett on this touchdown grab:
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) December 4, 2017
That’s not easy to defend– just a lot of junk in a small amount of space, similar to the empty set above.
These types of plays were bread and butter Eagles back in 2013. Nick Foles had a great understanding with Riley Cooper on that little matriculation and misdirection across the middle.
4) “Shut up and tote the ball”
For the first time since coming to Philly, Jay Ajayi had more carries than LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement. He finished with 9 for 35 yards and a long of 11.
It looked like they might have something in the running game after a somewhat slow start, but Ajayi didn’t touch the ball again after getting two carries on the touchdown drive that started in the third quarter and carried over to the fourth.
Overall, they finished with 98 yards on 26 carries, 30 of which came on six Wentz rushes.
They mostly abandoned the run while playing from behind, ending with a split around 65/35 in pass/run ratio. Seattle’s defense was stout at the line of scrimmage, but I don’t feel like the Eagles really tested their beat up secondary. Nelson Agholor had a big game, but Zach Ertz only had two grabs before leaving with concussion symptoms. Again they failed to get him involved early and he was a total non-factor before heading to the medical tent.
5) Russell running backwards
It’s frustrating to watch Seattle operate, because you’re sitting there thinking, “what the hell is this gimmicky flag football offense?” Then you grudgingly start to accept the fact that their one-dimensional look works because Russell Wilson is just so good at what he does. It’s hard to hate on him. He makes you miss, linemen get tired and demoralized chasing after him, and corners and safeties get irritated having to cover for 6, 7 and 8 seconds on a play. That’s part of the reason why there were so many penalties on the secondary last night.
This is not C.J. Beathard, Mitch Trubisky, or Brock Osweiler at home. The Eagles played a Super Bowl winner on the road, a guy who strung out plays and just showed a ton of smarts on the night.
For what it’s worth, the Eagles did get to him a couple of times. They sandwiched him in the third quarter and forced an intentional grounding a little bit later. Schematically, there’s not a ton you can do to adjust, because while rushing three gives you another guy to drop in coverage, you’re still not forcing him to get rid of the ball any faster. And on the one time the Eagles brought a ton of pressure, he identified a mismatch on a deep flag pattern and burned the Birds for a touchdown.
On a play like this, they force him from the pocket and Mychal Kendricks picks up his assignment, the running back, coming out of the backfield. But Wilson just rolls right, points his RB inside, and dinks it to him for a huge gain:
He’s just a pain in the ass to play against.
6) The “12th man”
Hard to say if the crowd played a factor in the loss since I’m sitting here watching the game in Fishtown.
There were a few instances where the Eagles didn’t get their snaps off until right before the play clock went, and one of those times Seattle tee’d off on Wentz for a sack. Maybe the noise had something to do with the confusion before halftime as well, but I really don’t know.
I just find it hard to believe that a bunch of coffee-drinking hipsters would be more raucous than a true “blue collar” and “lunch pail” type of city like Philadelphia.
It was Carolina-esque, but not as lopsided.
I’m not sure about that pass interference on Ronald Darby, but the dumb holding call on Alshon Jeffery was correct. I also felt like the late hit on Kenjon Barner’s punt return could/should have been flagged.
Another shitty call was this, which the Eagles’ challenged and lost, inexplicably:
Not a first down. Got it. pic.twitter.com/3yP1Z3I8eI
— Eagles Fan Problems (@EagleFanProbs) December 4, 2017
They also missed a blatant holding call on Beau Allen when Corey Graham was whistled for defensive holding on the same play:
Refs had no problem calling a hold on the Eagles on this play. But apparently didn’t see that Beau Allen was put in a choke hold on the same play. pic.twitter.com/KgkihJ9Rbl
— Patrick (@PatrickMCausey) December 4, 2017
Allen is mugged, Wilson spins backward 15 yards, and we’re playing backyard bullshit football again.
In fairness, there were some bad calls against Seattle, too. Darby clearly got a hand inside a receiver’s facemask on a play where he failed to get his head turned around and locate the ball. So that made up for at least one crap call against the Eagles.
8) Doug’s worst call?
Not challenging the illegal forward pass is on the guy(s) upstairs. I think Kyle and I disagreed on that, but it’s not entirely a black and white issue. The guy(s) with replay access have to give Doug a concrete yes or no. It can’t be, “well, maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t.” So Kyle is right, ultimately it’s Doug’s call, but if the booth dudes are watching the same shit we’re watching, then you need to be in his ear screaming for him to throw the flag.
Now, let’s recap the moment right before halftime:
- 3rd and 2, Corey Clement pitch right for 0 yards. No real issues with the play call, might have preferred a downhill run there
- let the clock run, become confused, then waste a timeout
- Seattle kneels down and we go into halftime
On one hand, they were getting the ball back to start the second half. Failing the fourth down conversion allows Seattle about 2 plays to try to get into field goal position. So I get that side of it.
But it just felt very conservative by Doug’s standards. And when you’re used to going for it all the time, and that being part of your rhythm and mindset, it just felt wrong overall.
9) Doug’s best call?
Despite what I literally just wrote above, I thought Doug made the right decision not to go for it on 4th and 1 on the very first drive, just for the fact that it was still too early in the game and the field position wasn’t totally ideal. If they’re 10 yards further up the field, I say go for it every time, and he probably would have. But the defense held, Seattle punted, and they reclaimed position right around the Seahawks’ 40-something yard line, so it ended up working out.
No problem on the first challenge, which I linked above. The refs got it wrong.
That’s about it. Whatever. Doug didn’t have his best game.
10) Flannel and jeans
Did you catch the Alice in Chains song on a first quarter bump shot? I appreciate the shout out to Seattle grunge. NBC did it again in the second quarter, too. The first song was “Man in the Box” and the second was “Rooster.” Pearl Jam made it on there later with “Even Flow.” Somebody in the production booth had good taste in music.
Seattle grunge rankings:
- (big gap)
- Pearl Jam
Honorable mentions to Mudhoney and Screaming Trees and Candlebox, etc.
Yeah, Nirvana probably had the biggest influence on music, but their discography doesn’t stack up to AIC or Soundgarden. And I like Pearl Jam, always have, but I don’t worship them like the rest of Philly does. We’ve always had this thing for Pearl Jam, Springsteen, and Bon Jovi that I never understood.