Eagles blow their chance to make a statement
The Eagles were unanimous about two things yesterday at Lincoln Financial Field: that the Seattle Seahawks did, indeed, beat them by the score of 24-14, and that there are no measuring sticks in the NFL.
Because if there were measuring sticks, hoo boy.
If there were measuring sticks, it would be only fair to point out that when you look at how they have fared against the best teams on their schedule, the Eagles won at Indianapolis, lost close games at San Francisco and Arizona, lost badly at Green Bay, and now have lost decisively at home to Seattle. If there were measuring sticks, it also would be fair to mention that their other good win, at Dallas on Thanksgiving, came against a quarterback who was dealing with a broken back and a broken rib and who was obviously struggling physically because of the short week of recovery.
If there were measuring sticks, that is.
"I don't believe in that measuring stick stuff," Trent Cole said, repeating what pretty much everybody in the room said. "This is every Sunday...Every game is different, you know? Every team's different. You never know what can happen."
The Eagles have not foreclosed anything, and that is true. They have fallen back into a tie with the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East lead with a 9-4 record, but they can regain the advantage by beating Dallas next Sunday night. It is the game that likely will decide the division title. It also is the game that could decide their playoff fate.
Looking at the standings today, you get the uneasy sense that an 11-5 team could miss the tournament in the NFC. And because of all of those games that aren't measuring sticks, the Eagles would lose tiebreakers to Arizona, Green Bay and Seattle based upon head-to-head record. They also would lose out to Detroit based upon conference record. Which makes the Dallas game fairly enormous.
But in the bigger picture, the Seattle game -- and the others -- are hard to ignore when you stand them up next to each other. The Eagles can still play their way into the NFC's top echelon, and that is true enough, but they aren't there now. When Jeremy Maclin says, "Well, I think we're right up there with them," the available evidence suggests otherwise.
"I don't get caught up in measuring things like that," center Jason Kelce said to a circle of reporters. "I get caught up in getting better each week. That's something for you guys, to tell you the truth."
In a game where the Eagles tried to make Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson beat them, and the Seahawks tried to make Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez beat them, Wilson had the significant advantage. Never under Chip Kelly has the Eagles' need at quarterback been so apparent.
The Eagles are so obviously dependent on their running game to support their quarterback that it isn't even a conversation anymore. As Nick Foles found out before he got hurt, as Sanchez is finding out now, you stop the run and you stop them. Against a good team, if you stop LeSean McCoy (17 carries, 50 yards), then throw in a McCoy fumble deep in Eagles territory, well, that's that.
The stat of the game: the Eagles were 2-for-11 on third down. Either that, or this: the Seahawks ran 85 plays and the Eagles ran only 45. The Eagles' offense was shut down in a way that it might never have been under Kelly, gaining only 139 yards (compared to 440 for Seattle). Sanchez' final numbers: 10-for-20 for 96 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
And while it was true that the Eagles' defense couldn't get off of the field -- and it was true, as Wilson masterfully spun away from the pass rush and found receivers downfield -- the issue mostly was the offense. Kelly spent most of the first half keeping Sanchez under wraps against the voracious Seahawks. When he needed to turn him loose in the second half, though, there wasn't anything there.
And so, here they are -- still hopeful, still controlling their destiny as far as the division title, but unable to control the widespread skepticism about what might happen after that, a skepticism that a win over Seattle would have vanquished.
"I think you're as good as you are, week by week," linebacker Connor Barwin said. "You're as good as your record is. What are we, 9-4? We're a 9-4 team. We just lost. So that's who we are. We've got a big one next week against the Cowboys. We need to play better."
But the combined winning percentage of the nine teams they beat is .397. The combined winning percentage of the four teams that beat them is .686. They are 2-4 against teams with winning records, 7-0 against sub-.500 teams.
None of this is fatal, but it is instructive. At this point, the Eagles' only hope is to take the measuring stick that they claim does not exist and beat Dallas senseless with it.