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Upon Further Review: Penalties doom Eagles defense

The Eagles had just trimmed the Seahawks' lead to 17-14 but on the second play of the ensuing possession, their balloon was popped.

Bradley Fletcher goes after the football after committing a pass interference penalty on the Seahawks' Doug Baldwin. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Bradley Fletcher goes after the football after committing a pass interference penalty on the Seahawks' Doug Baldwin. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

The Eagles had just trimmed the Seahawks' lead to 17-14 but on the second play of the ensuing possession, their balloon was popped.

Russell Wilson went deep to Doug Baldwin, who was singled up against cornerback Bradley Fletcher. The Seattle receiver had a half step, but the ball was underthrown. Fletcher, though, made contact - was it incidental? - before he turned to knock the ball away. A flag was thrown and at first it looked as if it could have gone either way. But the replay showed that Fletcher had grabbed Baldwin's shoulder.

"I turned around and knocked the ball away," Fletcher said. "I don't know exactly what they were calling, or maybe there was too much hands downfield."

Was it a ticky-tack call considering how Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman got away with holding Jeremy Maclin a series later? Perhaps. But the penalty cost the Eagles 44 yards, and the Seahawks scored a touchdown four plays later when Baldwin beat safety Malcolm Jenkins for 23 yards.

Boykin's tough day

Brandon Boykin had a rough first half. His coverage on third and 13 on the Seahawks' last possession before the break was soft. The Eagles cornerback was matched up on Doug Baldwin in the slot. The Seahawks receiver gave a slight shoulder move to the outside, and Boykin backpedaled as Baldwin cut inside. Russell Wilson hit him in stride for 20 yards and a first down. Boykin blanketed Baldwin on an earlier third down, and Wilson was forced to throw the ball away, but the slot cornerback also was called for a third-down hold on an earlier series.

"B.S.," Boykin said when he was asked about the call. The Seahawks receivers "were trying to do everything they could to get an advantage to try and get the flags. As a defensive back when we're covering whether it's three, four, five seconds - however long it was because Wilson was making plays by scrambling - it's tough on us to get position."

Crucial penalties

The Eagles had two third-down penalties on defense that extended Seattle's drives, including one drive that resulted in a touchdown.

In addition to Brandon Boykin's holding penalty, Trent Cole had a neutral-zone infraction in the second quarter that negated a Seattle three-and-out. The Seahawks could not capitalize with points, but it cost the Eagles field position.

"Any time you have penalties, they kill you," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "It's tough to get out of drives when you have too many penalties, especially on third down."

Throwing it away

What's intentional grounding and what is not?

Chip Kelly was clearly looking for clarification in the first half as Russell Wilson chucked the ball out of bounds several times from the pocket. Quarterbacks are not permitted to throw the ball away under duress when there isn't a receiver in the area of the throw, and Wilson appeared to get away with such an infraction a few times.

On one play before the half, Mychal Kendricks rushed up the "A" gap and nearly got to Wilson before he heaved the ball away. Kelly flung his arms up the air when no flag was thrown and was apparently yelling to the officials for a penalty. He didn't get one.

"You always have conversations. Just trying to get interpretations," Kelly said. "I wouldn't read too much into that."

Early break

Seahawks punter Jon Ryan may have been the Eagles' first-half offensive MVP. His most costly mistake came in the first quarter. He bobbled a snap, dropped it, and tried to pick it up and punt. He had brief possession of the ball, but Marcus Smith was the first to arrive and knocked the ball away. Zach Ertz pounced on it for the recovery, and the Eagles turned the turnover into seven points.

As for Smith, he had played little on special teams this season, but with Trey Burton (hamstring) sidelined, the top draft pick made the most of his opportunity.

Timeout gamble fails

After Vinny Curry sacked Russell Wilson, Chip Kelly called a timeout with 1 minute, 8 seconds remaining in the first half. The Seahawks had third and 13 at their 30-yard line, and Kelly wanted to try to get the ball back.

"I thought our defense was going to stop them," Kelly said.

Instead, the Seahawks converted the third down and drove for a field goal. The defense's failure was more costly than Kelly's timeout, although with the way the offense was playing, the Eagles also could have just hoped the Seahawks would run out the clock and enter halftime with a tied score and possession to start the second half.

Poor reply

Chip Kelly often talks about response off turnovers, and Mark Sanchez failed to respond after the Eagles forced a fourth-quarter fumble. On the first play, Sanchez gave the ball back with an interception.

Sanchez was under pressure and tried throwing deep to Riley Cooper. Cooper and Sanchez did not appear on the same page, and Seahawks cornerback Tharold Simon grabbed the easy interception at the Eagles' 30-yard line.

"I missed a landmark to Coop," Sanchez said. "I was kind of flushing forward, and I didn't get everything I wanted on the ball. . . . Just a bad throw."

Opportunity lost

With the offense struggling, the Eagles defense needed a big play.

Malcolm Jenkins had a potential interception in his hands in the fourth quarter with nothing but the end zone in front of him. If he made the play and returned it for the score, the Eagles could have cut the Seahawks' lead to three points with just under eight minutes remaining.

"It's definitely a play I want to make, especially for my teammates in that situation to give us some life," Jenkins said. "Just a play I have to make."