Injuries, turnovers, and an ineffective Carson Wentz: Eagles follow a losing recipe against Seattle
The quarterback, short of weapons and starting offensive linemen, looked like an overwhelmed rookie as a great defensive effort was wasted again.
The quotes from Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz were boilerplate — explanations that didn’t explain much. The coach and the franchise quarterback accepted blame for the Eagles’ horrid offensive performance in a 17-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday without getting into many specifics.
Tight end Zach Ertz cut to the chase.
“You’ve got no chance of winning a football game when you have five turnovers,” Ertz said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re playing a college team, if you have five turnovers, you’re not going to win.”
The injury-plagued Eagles made the worst of a bad situation, giving Seattle’s defense little to worry about en route to a win that made the Seahawks 9-2. The Eagles are 5-6 and circling the drain.
Knock yourself out with the “well actually” playoff scenarios that have them running the table in their final five games, starting next Sunday at Miami. Yes, Dallas lost too on Sunday. Hard to see that mattering right now.
“Everyone feels like the offense is letting the team down,” said Ertz, who caught 12 passes for 91 yards and the Eagles’ only touchdown, too late to matter. “It’s not on the coaches, it’s not on the scheme, it’s not on the plays that are called. Our job is to execute the plays at a high level. No one’s doing that right now.”
Missing Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard, and Lane Johnson to start the game, the Eagles lost All-Pro right guard Brandon Brooks early and looked stunningly inept on offense, even if you factor in all the injuries.
Wentz, flinging the ball around like a wild-eyed rookie, not taking care of it on sacks, did nothing to lift his uninspiring supporting cast.
A half-decent offensive effort would have beaten Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, who really weren’t Super Bowl-contender good, especially on offense. But Wentz kept turning the ball over, ending promising drives. His second interception, the Eagles’ final turnover, sent the wind-chilled, dispirited crowd home with 4 minutes, 12 seconds remaining.
At that juncture, Wentz was 25-for-37 for only 176 yards, with two interceptions. His 14-game streak with at least one touchdown pass was salvaged with a 2-yard pass to Ertz with 20 seconds remaining, a development the Seahawks hardly noticed as they looked ahead to the flight home. They are 6-0 this season on the road.
“I have to be better. I have to lead this team better,” Wentz said. "I have to protect the football better. … It starts with me, and I’m frustrated."
The strange thing was, even with all the missing parts, the Eagles moved the ball. They finished with 23 first downs to Seattle’s 14. Every turnover ended a sequence in which the Eagles had managed at least one first down. Four of the five ended legitimate drives that seemed to be building to either a field goal or a touchdown. But over and over again, Wentz and his supporting cast found ways to give the ball away.
The fatal four:
Second quarter: Eight plays, 66 net yards, last play from the Seattle 33, interception.
Third quarter: Eleven plays, 37 yards, last play from the Seattle 38, fumble.
Fourth quarter: Four plays, 42 yards, last play from the Seattle 46, fumble.
Fourth quarter: Six plays, 42 yards, last play from the Eagles 44, interception.
“There were plays there to be made, and every time we got something going, we turned it over, and a handful of those were on me,” Wentz said.
Pederson didn’t help by keeping Wentz chained to a collapsing pocket on all but a few plays. Rookie Andre Dillard’s attempt to play right tackle for the first time ever was disastrous, even though Seattle was without standout edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who was inactive with a hip injury. Dillard was benched for the second half, with Matt Pryor playing right guard and Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right tackle.
Vaitai was already in the game — Brooks left in the third offensive series with what the Eagles said was an illness. That made Vaitai and Dillard the right side guard-tackle combo. Suddenly the strong side of the O-line was the weak side.
Pederson said the offensive performance was “just not good enough to win.” Asked what the heck was going on with Wentz, who threw behind Ertz on the first third down, and seemed unsettled and scattershot all day, Pederson fell back on his “trying to do too much” trope, which is wearing thin.
“We ask a lot of our quarterback and a lot of Carson, and the one thing you can’t do in that position is just put pressure on yourself to perform,” Pederson said. “You’ve just got to let things unfold.”
Wentz finished the first half 10-for-16 for 62 yards, a 44-yard net once you factored in the three sacks.
But Pederson and offensive coordinator Mike Groh seemed to deserve a healthy slice of blame as well. Their play calls made what should have been easy hard, such as on the third-quarter third-and-3 play from the Seattle 38, which involved an exchange between Wentz and rookie running back Miles Sanders well behind the line of scrimmage.
» READ MORE: Grading the Eagles in their loss to Seattle
Seahawks pass rusher Shaq Griffin blew up Vaitai and was right next to Sanders when Wentz tried to hand the ball to Sanders, who didn’t have his hands out for it.
“I was supposed to block him. I guess my timing was off,” Vaitai said.
“He’s not supposed to penetrate the edge like that, for that play,” Sanders said. "They just made a good play."
The Seahawks returned the fumble to the Eagles’ 32, though the Eagles defense then came up huge, Ronald Darby deflecting a ball to Rodney McLeod for what became Wilson’s third interception of the season. Wilson, a strong league MVP candidate, made some great plays but also lost a fumble and missed a short throw that should have been a touchdown.
The defense kept the home team in the game, sacking Wilson four times in the first half, six times overall. But it also drove the final nail in the coffin, giving up a 58-yard Rashaad Penny touchdown run with 11 minutes, 56 seconds remaining that staked the Seahawks to a 17-3 lead.
» READ MORE: Seahawks 17, Eagles 9 - box score
Wentz spent much of that Seattle drive in the locker room, getting a throwing-hand injury checked out. He’d hurt it making the tackle on the return of the missed exchange with Sanders.
Wentz returned when the Eagles got the ball back. Pederson said X-rays were negative, but he said further tests would be performed Monday.
Wentz, asked if there was cause for concern, said, “I don’t think so, but we’ll see.” He did not have his hand wrapped when he spoke with reporters, but he left with what appeared to be a large ice pack.
The Eagles defense hasn’t allowed more than 17 points in any of its last four games. Remember back when that would have virtually guaranteed a win?
“I’m sure you have frustrations,” Fletcher Cox said. “We’re all in that locker room together. We’re one family. We got to stick together. We’re not pointing fingers at nobody.”