For the second time this season, the Eagles held the Seattle Seahawks to 17 points. And for the second time, it wasn’t quite good enough.
You hold a team to 17 points, you’re usually going to win. The Eagles did it eight times previously this season and won six of those games.
“We knew that probably wouldn’t be enough with this team,’’ safety Malcolm Jenkins said after Russell Wilson & Co. ended the Eagles’ season by a score of 17-9 in the wild-card playoff game Sunday at the Linc. “They’ve got a really good defense. It was tight last time. We just made one mistake today that they took advantage of. But for the rest of the game, I thought we battled well. We just didn’t make enough plays.’’
It might have been enough if Carson Wentz hadn’t gotten hurt, but he did. The Eagles quarterback left the game late in the first quarter after suffering a concussion on a questionable hit by Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
He was replaced by 40-year-old backup Josh McCown, who played his heart out, completing 18 of 24 passes. But he wasn’t able to get the Eagles into the end zone. All of their points came on three Jake Elliott field goals.
Wentz’s injury meant Jenkins and the defense had little margin for error. They gave up an 82-yard touchdown drive to the Seahawks late in the second quarter that gave Seattle a 10-3 halftime lead.
Then, in the third quarter, the Seahawks’ rookie wide receiver, DK Metcalf, who dropped a long pass from Wilson six weeks ago against the Eagles, got behind cornerback Avonte Maddox and caught a 53-yard touchdown pass from Wilson that put the Seahawks up, 17-6.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz started the 5-9 Maddox on the outside ahead of Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones. Maddox got caught peeking into the backfield on the touchdown pass, which enabled Metcalf, who has 4.3 speed, to blow by him.
“We gave up that one play and that definitely was on me,’’ Maddox said. “I’ve got to do better. He’s a bigger guy with speed. A very good receiver. I can’t let him get behind me like that.’’
Metcalf caught seven passes from Wilson for 160 yards. The Eagles, who had the fourth-best third-down defense in the league this season, had their problems on third down Sunday. The Seahawks converted eight of 15 third-down opportunities, including three third-and-10s and a third-and-11.
The last third-and-10 conversion came with less than two minutes left in the game. The Eagles needed to get the ball back. Schwartz called a zero blitz. The Seahawks lined up Metcalf and two other receivers in a bunch formation on the right side.
Safety Marcus Epps dropped down to cover Metcalf, who just blew by Epps. Wilson got the ball out and Metcalf picked up 36 yards and a game-clinching first down.
“The last game [against Seattle] ended the same way,’’ Jenkins said. “We sent an all-out blitz because you gotta try and create something negative. And [Wilson] just steps back and throws it up and their receiver makes a big catch. Tough play for the guys on the back end. We’re selling out to make something happen, and they make a play.’’
The Eagles’ defense held Seattle’s two running backs, Travis Homer and Marshawn Lynch, to 19 rushing yards on 17 carries, though Lynch had a 5-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, breaking out of the grasp of Jenkins and Maddox.
And for the second straight time, they held Wilson to one touchdown pass.
But that turned out to be enough.
Wilson completed just 18 of 30 passes. The Eagles played a lot of man coverage against him.
“We tried to tighten down the windows on him,’’ Maddox said. “He just made some really good throws.’’
“We already knew what kind of game it was going to be,’’ safety Rodney McLeod said. “Good defenses on both sides. Both teams like to run the ball. It’s the playoffs, man. We knew it was going to be a fight. Our mindset didn’t change. We have to do our job. And our job is to keep points off the board.’’
Cornerback is going to be a top offseason priority for the Eagles. Both of their starters, Jalen Mills and (injured) Ronald Darby, can become free agents. Maddox is better suited for the slot or possibly safety. He’s a good cover corner, but at 5-9, he was giving up 7 inches to the 6-4 Metcalf Sunday.
“We gotta live with that,’’ McLeod said of Metcalf’s long touchdown catch. “Wish we could have it back. But that’s the way this game is. Two to three plays usually determine the outcome.’’
Maddox isn’t going to let the touchdown define him. He has played well wherever the Eagles have used him since they drafted him in the fourth round in 2018.
“We’re a resilient team,’’ he said. “Everybody counted us out. But we just kept fighting with the people that are here. We made it this far. I wish we could’ve made it further.’’