One by one, the Eagles’ players and coaches strode into their locker room late Sunday afternoon in solemn silence. There were no boos ringing in their ears because, by the end of this 17-9 loss to the Seahawks, there were too few fans left at Lincoln Financial Field to make so strong a sound. Finally, defensive end Brandon Graham broke the relative quiet just before he disappeared behind the doors.
“We got five left,” he said. “It’s all good.”
Yes, the Eagles have five games left. No, it’s not all good. Some days tell you all you need to know about a football team. Sunday was one. The game was an assortment of so many interceptions, fumbles, inaccurate throws, dropped passes, missed blocks, missed blocking assignments, missed tackles, poor coaching decisions, and poor player decisions — and we’re talking about just the Eagles here — that any number of those mistakes could summarize the dilapidated condition of a team that was supposed to contend for a championship.
So let’s shove our arm deep into the vat and pull up one moment that was particularly infuriating. Midway through the fourth quarter, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson mishandled the football on a handoff and fumbled. The Eagles recovered the gift turnover, after which every member of their defense sprinted to a corner of the end zone and pantomimed the taking of a family photo. That the Eagles were trailing by two touchdowns at the time and had shown no indication that they would be able to mount a comeback seemed not to occur to them. They celebrated as if they were ahead by 14 points, as if they had accomplished something of note.
“Our job is to create energy,” safety Rodney McLeod said. “That’s our job as a defense — to get the team going. We’re not going to change who we are in a moment like that, when we are down 14. Everyone thinks we’re out of the game, and we make a stop. It’s our time to go up there, get the crowd going, and continue to play with confidence.”
McLeod is a solid player and a good guy, but come on: The next end-zone celebration that inspires a football team or its fans will be the first. As well as the Eagles’ defense played against Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense, that sequence was among the most distasteful sights of the day — not because end-zone celebrations are bad or graceless or even a big deal most of the time, but because this one revealed a total disregard for timing and context and any understanding of how a team that is getting its rear end kicked ought to react to getting its rear end kicked. It revealed a lack of attention to detail, and it revealed that the Eagles haven’t taken a good, hard look at themselves — who they are, not who they think they are. This isn’t the same team that won a Super Bowl less than two years ago, but everyone connected to it loves to act like it still is.
That team suffered several major injuries to important players, too, just like this one. But it didn’t throw up all over itself like this one did against the Seahawks — committing five turnovers, allowing a second trick-play touchdown in two weeks, trying to pass-protect and run-block with an offensive line that was overmatched without Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks.
“Thought we had a good week of preparation,” coach Doug Pederson said. “Guys were focused. That was no indication of the performance today.”
No, the majority of the season is the indication. That’s what the Eagles accomplished Sunday: They proved exactly what sort of team they are and will be. They’re 5-6, relying on players who had been in street clothes as recently as two weeks ago to help them stay in the playoff race. In Carson Wentz, they have a quarterback who over his last two games — against the Seahawks and the Patriots, two of the best teams in the NFL — has looked lost, unsure of himself, spraying errant passes around the field like a malfunctioning JUGS machine. The league MVP front-runner from 2017 is, at the moment, a distant memory, and without that version of Wentz, the Eagles have no hope of holding on to whatever relevance they still have in the NFC. And it’s possible that they won’t have any version of Wentz at all for some or all of those five remaining games. After injuring his throwing hand Sunday, he left the stadium with the hand encased in a large, thick bandage.
“I have a lot of confidence,” Wentz said, “a lot of confidence in myself to fix things I can correct. Each guy is going to do [his] part and get it fixed. We’re going to turn the page real quick. We’re going to learn from things.”