Offensive disconnects at critical moments doom Eagles in a 23-17 loss to Seattle
It wasn’t the worst-played loss of the season, but Monday's mishaps might have been the ones that drove home how far this team is from any sort of turnaround.
Dallas Goedert and Carson Wentz took turns taking the blame for the end zone interception that ended any reasonable chance the Eagles might have had of coming back to beat the Seattle Seahawks, whose 23-17 victory Monday night was closer on the scoreboard than on the field.
“It appeared that Dallas turned inside, and Carson threw outside,” where the duo had connected on the same play, earlier in the game, Eagles coach Doug Pederson said.
Goedert and Wentz confirmed this.
“I tried to do too much,” said Goedert, who agreed that he should have run the route the way he had before, instead of trying to take advantage of inside leverage, then assuming Wentz would follow what he was doing on fourth-and-four from Seattle’s 15, down 20-9.
Wentz’s throw was a perfect strike to Seattle safety Quandre Diggs, who hugged the ball and dropped to his knees in the end zone, with eight minutes, 35 seconds remaining.
“That’s on me,” Wentz said after throwing his career-high 15th interception of the season. “I gotta make sure we’re squared away.”
It was nice of both players to volunteer to fall on their respective swords, but the bigger question would be, why does this sort of thing keep happening, over and over? The interception was the final dagger thrust, but the Eagles’ offense already was bleeding from a multitude of wounds, many of them self-inflicted, after helping the team dig yet another huge hole, this one 14-0.
What is going on with this offense and this coaching staff that in Week 12, there is so much confusion, so little cohesiveness?
“Mistakes like that can’t happen,” Goedert said. Those might have been the truest words of the evening. Goedert, who caught seven passes on 10 targets for 75 yards and a touchdown, said that offensive competence depends on having “11 guys on the same page.” He added: “We haven’t had that.”
“Offensively, we’ve battled with a lot of injury,” Pederson said after his record against Seattle coach Pete Carroll dropped to 0-5, including last season’s playoff loss. “A lot of different moving parts up front, with the offensive line, guys in and out. We haven’t had the consistency and the continuity you would like, week-in and week-out. ... We don’t make excuses for it. It’s where we are, and we have to get better.”
Asked how Goedert and Wentz could be so out of sync in their third year together, Pederson went back to the answers he has used all season -- players trying to do too much, not letting the plays come to them.
It wasn’t the worst-played loss of the season, but it might have been the one that drove home how far this team is from any sort of turnaround, from being able to play on equal footing with a contender. Seattle is 8-3 but came in with the worst pass defense in the NFL, which the Eagles proved incapable of solving.
The Eagles converted a bunch of third downs (8-for-12 after an 0-for-5 start), for the first time in a while. And their defense hung in for quite some time, despite No. 1 corner Darius Slay’s inability to come close to stopping, delaying, or even presenting any sort of minor difficulty for DK Metcalf, the second-round receiver from the 2019 draft who is not JJ Arcega-Whiteside.
That was about it for the good news from the home team’s third loss in a row, a streak that might not end before this wretched season does. Yes, the Eagles are still in the NFC East “race” at 3-7-1, but at least we don’t have to hear about how they’re in first place anymore.
Metcalf caught 10 passes for 177 yards, on 13 targets. Russell Wilson threw for 230 yards, 53 of them to people who weren’t wearing No. 14 in white.
“I lost every 50-50 ball today. I let the team down,” said Slay. “I gotta be better.”
Oh, and after all that weekend buzz, we didn’t see any more of Jalen Hurts than usual. He completed a 6-yard pass early in the second quarter, then entered witness protection. Turned out Pederson was not lying when he told ESPN before the game that he is “100 percent with” Wentz, and reiterated his statement that Hurts got no more reps than normal in practice this past week.
After the game, Pederson said the Eagles’ early offensive struggles meant there weren’t a lot of plays, which made it harder to get Hurts into the game. Asked if offensive struggles might be a good reason to get Hurts off the bench, rather than a deterrent, Pederson answered with an emphatic “no.” He indicated that he thought the offense would not have fared any better under Hurts than it did with Wentz, said that the problems were “not about one guy,” and cited “breakdowns across the board.”
He did not seem to be setting the stage for a Hurts start, or any sort of significant usage, Sunday at 8-3 Green Bay, where the Eagles will be huge underdogs.
The time for excuses about having no offseason program is long past. Blame Wentz all you want -- his 25-for-45, 215-yard passing performance was inflated by a meaningless Hail Mary touchdown to Richard Rodgers with 12 seconds remaining that was the Eagles’ longest completion of the game. But throughout the offense, players didn’t seem to know assignments. Confusion and ineptitude reigned, starting with the decision-making on the sideline.
» READ MORE: Grading the Eagles after a 23-17 loss to Seattle
Pederson could have opted to kick a field goal on the interception play, which would have made it a one-score game at 20-12. He went 0-for-3 on fourth down, giving the Seahawks repeated short fields.
Pederson said he felt it was important for the offense to remain aggressive, rather than settling for three points at that juncture.
Behind his 10th starting offensive line grouping in 11 games, Wentz was sacked six more times, losing 41 yards. Seattle blitzed safety Jamal Adams everywhere, and the Eagles often left him unblocked. On a crucial red zone third-down play, Adams sacked Wentz as Wentz looked to Reagor on a screen. But Reagor was running downfield, not in screen mode at all, even though the Eagles took a timeout to set up the play.
The first quarter was excruciating for Eagles fans, when the offense was on the field. The defense, thanks to Derek Barnett, came up with a pair of fourth-down stops, the first when the ball was snapped from the Eagles’ 2, after a Seattle first-and-goal from the 5.
That offense, though. The Eagles’ first three possession netted minus-5 yards. On their opening set of downs, Rodgers and Alshon Jeffery dropped passes, sandwiched around a Wentz miss of an open Greg Ward on a slant.
Wentz ended the scoreless first quarter 1-for-6 for 3 yards, so it wasn’t a big shock to see him leave the field in favor of Hurts on the first play of the second quarter, second-and-9 from the Eagles’ 28. The offensive line greeted Hurts with a Matt Pryor false start. So on second-and-14, Hurts found Alshon Jeffery at the left sideline for 6 yards – and then left the game in favor of Wentz, who was sacked on third down.
“When we’re stagnant like that, I’m all ears,” Wentz said, when asked his opinion about Pederson using Hurts in that situation, or more often in general.
The defense could hardly hold forever, and when Wilson found Metcalf for 52 yards on the next Seattle series, the Seahawks were on their way to a 7-0 lead, Wilson hitting wideout David Moore on an end zone fade over undersize and overmatched Avonte Maddox.
The next Eagles series, Hurts entered the huddle, then left, as the Eagles called a timeout. Miles Sanders couldn’t pick up third-and-2, when Jordan Mailata was cut-blocked and sprawled in the hole.
Despite a grounding call that put the Seahawks in second-and-goal from the Eagles’ 16, Seattle easily made it 14-0, Chris Carson blasting through a huge hole and carrying Rodney McLeod into the end zone.
Down by double digits for the eighth time in 11 games, the Eagles offense finally found itself in familiar surroundings, and got comfortable. A 20-yard Wentz scramble gave the home team its initial first down of the evening. This was the play following a sack in which Wentz never stopped moving and shook free of the tacklers, only to find the whistle had blown and the play was over.
A 2-yard Wentz pass to Miles Sanders ended the Eagles’ 0-for-5 start on third-down conversions. Wentz then survived chasing down a bad snap and throwing it out of bounds short of the line of scrimmage; had he been called for intentional grounding, it would have been a 30-yard loss.
Wentz gained 13 yards on a QB draw, and as the final seconds of the half ticked down, he found Goedert in the end zone for a 3-yard TD pass.
This being the Eagles, Jake Elliott missed the extra point, and the halftime score was 14-6. Wentz went into halftime 7-for-17 for 30 yards, Hurts 1-for-1 for 6.
The Eagles converted their final three third-down opportunities of the half, but somehow, there was no celebratory parade during intermission.
Both teams drove for third-quarter field goals. The 17-9 score entering the fourth quarter was uncomfortably familiar – that was the final of both Eagles-Seahawks meetings last season, including the Eagles’ home playoff loss.
The Seahawks made it 20-9 after getting the ball at the Eagles’ 48 early in the fourth quarter. Pederson went for it on fourth-and-2, out of an empty set, and somehow, Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright intuited a pass. Hard to see how. Wright blocked it at the line of scrimmage.
Two plays later, the ESPN cameras followed Metcalf as he took the field; everyone knew what was coming. The 31-yard completion over Slay set up a 33-yard field goal. Another field goal came on another short field, before Wentz and Rodgers made the final score look misleadingly respectable.