SEATTLE - A little more soul-baring from Carson Wentz, more than just fleeting hints of what has to be an extraordinary level of frustration by now, might have done more to salve the wounds of an angry Eagles fan base. It couldn't have been any fun back home, watching this 26-15 loss to a Seattle Seahawks team that ultimately seemed bored as it toyed with the overmatched, mistake-prone visitors.
But Wentz, as the rookie face of an up-and-down Eagles team that still has a pulse at 5-5, can't afford to give in to frustration, can't give up on teammates who might richly deserve to be given up upon.
These are the wide receivers he has. No help is coming. They have gone from an obstacle to be worked around to an open, sucking wound that could prove fatal to any flickering playoff hopes that might remain, but the quarterback can't say that. He has to keep trying to win with them, encouraging them, nourishing them. Even though they went into the fourth quarter Sunday with exactly as many receiving yards as Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (15), and Wilson was leading them 1-0 in touchdown passes caught.
Wentz (23-for-45, 218 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions) didn't show up for his postgame news conference looking frazzled or despondent. His tie was perfectly knotted, his pocket hanky in place, any trace of despair was tucked in deep behind the buttons of his blue-checked suit.
"Mistakes are gonna happen. We just gotta stay together," Wentz said after his team's fifth successive road loss, in which the Eagles bungled early opportunities to set the tone, then got ground into the turf by a relentless Seattle machine that might be rolling toward its third Super Bowl appearance in four years. "People might start getting on guys and this and that, but we stay together . . . We're just gonna learn from 'em and try not to make 'em again. At the same time, no one's perfect."
The unnamed focus of Wentz's comments was Nelson Agholor, who not only failed to catch any passes despite three targets (the late two-point conversion catch doesn't officially count), but lined up short of the line of scrimmage on the far side, negating an eventual 57-yard Zach Ertz catch-and-run for a touchdown that would have given the Eagles their second lead of the second quarter. Then the team's 2015 first-round pick was wide-open over the middle on the first play of the next series, but the ball bounced out of his arms, as it is wont to do.
Agholor said on the called-back touchdown, he should have checked with the side judge - usually does - but was focused on "what the coverage was, and what I needed to do" after the ball was snapped. "I should have known, first thing first."
"I just have to get out of my own head," said Agholor, who has 83 receiving yards in his last five games, 16.6 yards per game. "Pressing so much and worrying about so many things . . . I'm thinking so much and so worried. It's such a selfish thing, and I need to stop. I need to give my energy to my teammates and this organization, and not myself. I'm feeling so pressured to make every single thing - just have fun."
Earlier in Wentz's postgame presser, he made it clear he was not just pretending everything was fine.
"We have so many little mistakes. Every week, even when we win games, we have so many mistakes that just keep hurting us," Wentz said. "We're leaving big plays out there, we're leaving scores out there. Just simple things, that, we gotta detail our work. It's frustrating, and we gotta go back and learn from it."
"It's a tough loss, man. I'm not going to say that lost the game, because there were so many other plays, but it was a big part of the game," said Ertz, who finished with six catches for 35 yards and a touchdown. "I'm not mad at (Agholor) at all. It's not my job to critique how he plays. My job is to be the best tight end I can possibly be, to be the best teammate I can be. He's trying his best, that's all you can really ask. I don't think he went out before that play and said, 'I'm going to take a touchdown away.' We made a lot of mistakes tonight, dropping the ball, false-start penalties, holding penalties, pick penalties (for offensive pass interference). As an offense, we're not there yet, where we can afford to make these mistakes and be successful."
Safety Malcolm Jenkins, the guy who correctly pointed out after the Giants loss that the Eagles had gotten away from the style that brought them early-season success, was equally pungent after this setback.
"I mean, it's frustrating. You would think you can get lined up, that's the basics of football," he said, when asked about the nullified touchdown. "As soon as we become disciplined, I see ourselves right up there."
The playoffs were on no one's mind when the season began, a little more than two months ago. Given that the Eagles are 4-0 at home, with an average victory margin of 17.5 points, and they play four of their final six games at the Linc, there is still a chance that a string of victories can at least put them in the wild-card running in the final weeks. But they flew home overnight burdened with the emotional baggage that comes from being casually slapped aside by a real, serious contender. And they bore physical wounds, as well.
Ryan Mathews left the game with a second-quarter knee injury, and left the visitors' locker room limping heavily, a brace visible beneath his pants. Mathews is to have an MRI today, a source close to the situation said. Ditto the other main running back, Darren Sproles, who left late in the first half with a rib injury.
The Eagles might be hosting Green Bay next Monday night with just Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner available in the backfield. Rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai also went down with a knee injury, starting corner Leodis McKelvin with a possible concussion. Jason Peters, Connor Barwin and Fletcher Cox left the game at various points but returned.
"We didn't get it done today," said defensive end Brandon Graham. There was talk during the week about whether the Eagles' defense compares with the Legion of Boom, given similar statistical profiles. Sunday, Jim Schwartz's unit made that talk seem embarrassingly provincial. There was no comparison. Seattle compiled 439 net yards, despite taking its foot off the gas early. The Seahawks averaged 7 yards a play, the Eagles facing repeated coverage and run-gap breakdowns.
"We had the momentum going, we just kind of lost it in there," said Graham, who also made a momentum-turning mistake. With the Eagles up 7-6 in the second quarter, Seattle facing third-and-16, Wilson threw long, incomplete. But Graham had jumped offside. On the ensuing third-and-11, Wilson found Jimmy Graham for a 35-yard touchdown, once the tight end shed a terrible tackling effort by Jaylen Watkins. The Seahawks were ahead for good.
"We said, 'No hard counts.' We've been doing a great job of that," Brandon Graham said. "I feel like I let 'em down on that drive, for sure."
"We got six games left. We just gotta win out and give ourselves a chance," Graham said.
You could say the offense didn't give the defense any help, but as Eagles coach Doug Pederson noted, that's a "hand-in-hand thing." The defense gave up repeated big plays and couldn't get off the field. Marcus Smith had the Eagles' only sack, just barely tripping up Wilson at the line as he scrambled.
"Not clean, not crisp," said wideout Jordan Matthews. He and Wentz padded their stats late, Matthews finishing with five catches for 59 yards, but an important one went through his arms when the outcome was still in doubt. Matthews voiced an important truth - against a team this good, now 32-5 at home since 2012, you aren't going to get a lot of chances. You have to seize the ones you get. The Eagles didn't.
"It's a humbling game," Matthews said.