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Eagles receivers come up way short

The Eagles were unlikely to beat the Seahawks if they could generate only 57 rushing yards, so when they were held to so few on the ground it wasn't a surprise that the passing game was ineffective against the Legion of Boom.

Jordan Matthews can't hold onto a pass. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Jordan Matthews can't hold onto a pass. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)Read more

The Eagles were unlikely to beat the Seahawks if they could generate only 57 rushing yards, so when they were held to so few on the ground it wasn't a surprise that the passing game was ineffective against the Legion of Boom.

But did their receivers have to be so thoroughly dominated in the Seahawks' 24-14 win over the Eagles on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field? Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, and Jordan Matthews were targeted 16 times and caught only eight passes for 77 yards.

Richard Sherman is probably the best cornerback in the NFL, as Chip Kelly said after the game. Earl Thomas may be the best safety, as well. And the rest of the Boomers in the secondary aren't slouches, either.

But if the Eagles are to be legitimate contenders in the NFC, they have to put up more than 82 passing yards against the defending Super Bowl champions. They weren't calling the Seahawks game a measuring stick, but Maclin, when asked about Sherman last week, said that he liked his chances against anybody.

He didn't measure up.

"Credit to him, credit to that defense," said Maclin, who caught three passes for 21 yards and a 1-yard touchdown. "We just didn't get the job done."

Mark Sanchez certainly deserves his share of blame, but he could not be expected to carry the offense when LeSean McCoy (17 carries for 50 yards) was held in check on the ground. The offensive line didn't hold its blocks very well, although it faced an uphill battle in the second half when the Seahawks' rushers were able to pin their ears back.

And Kelly's offense had arguably its worst day since he became coach. The Eagles had only 45 plays to the Seahawks' 85; gained only 139 total yards to the Seahawks' 440; and were on the field for only 18 minutes, 4 seconds to the Seahawks' 41:56.

Aside from Zach Ertz's 35-yard touchdown catch, the Eagles were lacking in the explosive play department. They used to have a receiver who was explosive and could stretch defenses.

The Eagles didn't lose because DeSean Jackson was no longer on the roster. The argument could be made they may have won nine games because he's no longer in the locker room, although that would be dismissing the 10 they won last year with him. But it is fair to question Kelly's offseason decision after the receiving corps was shut down.

"I think they miss him tremendously," Sherman said of Jackson. "He was an incredible player, and he's still a threat in this league. You can tell by the things he is doing out there in Washington. He either leads the league or he's up there in explosive plays - 40-plus and things like that."

Jackson, who didn't play Sunday for the Redskins because of a leg bruise, leads the NFL with 10 catches over 40 yards and a 20-yard per-catch average. Maclin is in second with seven, which has helped offset the loss of Jackson. He has been excellent for most of the season.

But the Maclin-over-Jackson counterpoint never made much sense when the Eagles could have had both and not re-signed Riley Cooper (three catches for 13 yards). Kelly has praised Cooper's blocking, but do you pay a receiver $5 million a year to block?

"A player like that, a defense has to account for," Sherman said about Jackson. "You have to be worried about where he is at all times. Right now, we can stand up across the board and play."

Sherman's comments have to be taken with a grain of salt. He and Jackson are childhood friends. Sherman wrote a column on criticizing the Eagles for releasing Jackson not long after a report about the receiver's alleged gang ties was posted.

But if there's anyone who knows something about the league's top receivers, it's Sherman. He faces them every week and almost always gets the upper hand. Maclin has nothing to be ashamed of.

Sherman has also benefited from his reputation. He clearly held Maclin on a third-down pass in the third quarter. Cornerback Byron Maxwell also appeared to have his hand on the shoulder of Jordan Matthews (two catches for 23 yards) on a third-down incompletion.

"I never blame the game on officiating," Maclin said.

Sherman, who taunted Eagles fans after his apparent penalty, said he heard complaining from his counterpart.

"I don't remember talking a lot. He was complaining a little bit," Sherman said of Maclin. "I don't like people who complain, so we pointed that out way early. . . . He's a good competitor, and we had a good competitive matchup. It was fun."

The Eagles secondary, meanwhile, wasn't having as much fun. Cornerback Brandon Boykin was called for holding. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher was flagged for a 44-yard pass-interference penalty that looked like it could have gone either way.

Was the game being called evenly?

"I wouldn't say that," Boykin said. "Me personally, I don't think that's Sherman's strength to cover down the field a long time. So he'll do what he has to do to make sure he's still in coverage. He obviously got away with a couple of them."

To pin this game on the officiating would be missing the big picture, though. The Seahawks defense exposed the limits of the Eagles offense and whether you want to point the finger at Kelly, Sanchez, McCoy, the line, or the receivers, you wouldn't be wrong. Everyone stank.

But the Eagles were unlikely to beat the champs with an offense lacking a true No. 2 outside receiver.