SEATTLE -- There was a lot of talk about mistakes in the wake of the 26-15 loss the Eagles suffered at CenturyLink Field on Sunday afternoon. Carson Wentz repeatedly used the phrase "Detail our work" as he dissected the defeat shortly after its conclusion. A palpable sense of frustration filled his voice, a rarity for the rookie quarterback. Again, Nelson Agholor found himself surrounded by a pack of media at his postgame locker. Again, the purpose of their visit was not a positive one.
"This is going to be a great learning experience," Doug Pederson said.
Let's be real, though: The Eagles did not beat themselves. You can't hang this one on Agholor's failure to line up correctly on what would have been a 57-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Zach Ertz, nor can you hang it on the 20-yarder he dropped on the next drive. You can't hang it on the false starts, or the missed assignments, or even the interceptions.
This might have been a learning experience, but the lesson was mostly this: The Eagles do not have the talent necessary to win these kinds of games, and the Seahawks do. The Eagles did not have matchups they could exploit, and the Seahawks did. It seems pretty simple when you watch it in action. Seattle knew that the quickness it possessed at the wide-receiver position could pose some problems for Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills, whose recovery speed is not among the reasons that he is starting as a rookie. Late in the second quarter, Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was finally able to exploit that advantage. First, he got Doug Baldwin isolated on Mills on a go-route down the middle of the field, which resulted in a 44-yard catch. Then, on the next play, he got Mills isolated on Tyler Lockett on a deep crossing pattern that went for 30 yards.
Where, exactly, are those kinds of matchups on the Eagles' side of things? For most of the season, the answer has been limited to Darren Sproles almost exclusively. Once the veteran running back went down with a rib injury on Sunday, you looked down at the field and struggled to find one man-on-man situation where the Eagles might be able to count themselves as having the upper hand. Ertz had some success working the middle of the Seahawks' press-cover-three zone, but Seattle's linebackers were more than willing to play that game. Dinking and dunking might get you a couple of first downs on a drive, but it is not a viable recipe for repeated trips to the end zone. The teams that beat Seattle tend to do it with a strong running game and timely big plays. Once Sproles and Ryan Mathews went down, the Eagles did not have the ingredients to produce either.
The second category is the one that is most glaring. While Pederson has had some success manufacturing big plays this season, they've mostly been of the smoke-and-mirrors variety, relying on misdirection and sleight of hand and X's-and-O's to get players into space. Exhibit A was the Ertz catch-and-run that was called back due to an illegal formation (Agholor was not lined up on the line of scrimmage, which he attributed to a mental mistake). Pederson used some hard motion by Sproles just before the snap to draw Seahawks safety Earl Thomas out of centerfield, opening up a chasm on the far side of the field for Ertz to make the catch and rumble downfield with a Jason Kelce escort. If Agholor lines up correctly, that's a touchdown, and maybe that changes the complexion of the game. Still, those kinds of plays aren't the foundation for a sustainable offense. Same goes for that lateral reverse throwback from Baldwin to Russell Wilson that the Seahawks used to score a touchdown in the third quarter. Well designed, well executed, but not the kind of thing they're going to be able to run five times a game. In fact, Wilson said afterward that the Seahawks had been waiting for years to find themselves facing the right look to run that kind of play.
Most of the Seahawks' offensive success followed a much simpler recipe: a guy in blue beating a guy in white and making a play in a tight man-on-man situation. The Baldwin catch, the Lockett catch, the 72-yard cut-back touchdown run by C.J. Prosise in the first quarter, Jimmy Graham's post-up of Jaylen Watkins and Wilson's ability to buy enough time to find him for a 35-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
"It's simply football," Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "You get penalties, you give up big plays, you don't make enough plays, you lose."
On Sunday, the mistakes were glaring. So was the absence of the kind of talent that can increase the margin for error.