Thanksgiving is days away, and the Eagles know their expiration date is approaching. They prepared for a long flight home from Seattle after a 26-15 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday with the same problems they've lamented on previous return trips.
There are only six games remaining in the Eagles' season, and the discussion about foolish penalties, dropped passes, and what could have been has become too repetitive, too costly, and too frustrating for a team that fell to 5-5 through 10 games.
"It's getting damned near close," tight end Zach Ertz said. "It's at the point of the season where it's put up or shut up time for a lot of guys. Me included."
The Eagles came to Seattle optimistic that they could compete with one of the NFL's elite teams and left with their own problems further reinforced. Quarterback Carson Wentz does not have enough around him to threaten a top defense, penalties and dropped passes emerge at inopportune moments, and the Eagles still appear a different team away from Philadelphia.
All five losses have come on the road. The Eagles weren't expected to win on Sunday, and they remain in postseason contention with four of their final six games at home. But their margin for error has become narrower, and the margin of defeat Sunday revealed the Eagles are not in Seattle's class.
"As soon as we become disciplined, I see ourselves right up there," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "The style with which they win is probably similar to what we'll have to do to be successful. Play really good on defense, don't turn the ball over on offense, and right now, when we're home, we don't do that. When we're on the road, we get penalties, give up big plays, kind of shoot ourselves in a foot."
In the first half, it appeared the Eagles could play with Seattle. Then a devastating second-quarter penalty by Nelson Agholor negated a potential 57-yard, go-ahead touchdown and demoralized the Eagles. They were never able to recover. The Eagles would have taken a 14-13 lead. The next time they scored, it was to turn a 19-point deficit into the final 11-point margin.
Wentz finished 23 of 45 for 218 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Dorial Green-Beckham had five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Wendell Smallwood was the leading rusher with 13 carries for 48 yards after Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles left with injuries.
"I think it's a benchmark for us," coach Doug Pederson said. "You look at certain games on your schedule, and obviously this is one."
The conversation might have been different if not for two penalties in the second quarter. The Eagles had a 7-6 lead following Ertz's 4-yard touchdown capped a 13-play drive, which offered a good response to Seahawks running back C.J. Prosise's 72-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter.
The Seahawks drove into Eagles territory and were backed into a third and 16 from the 40-yard line. Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham was flagged for an offsides on a play that resulted in an incompletion, giving the Seahawks another chance. Russell Wilson took advantage by throwing a dart to tight end Jimmy Graham, who muscled Jaylen Watkins off him and ran into the end zone for a 35-yard score.
"I felt like I let them down on that drive," Brandon Graham said.
The game swung on the next series. On a third and 6 at the Eagles' 43-yard line, Pederson called a play with three receivers bunched to Wentz's left and Ertz lined up on the right side of the line. Wentz found Ertz for a quick screen, and Ertz ran through Seattle's defense for a 57-yard touchdown. After Ertz started celebrating, center Jason Kelce alerted him to a flag at the line of scrimmage.
The wide receivers did not align properly before the snap, resulting in an illegal formation. Agholor was off the line of scrimmage by a matter of inches. That took six points off the board.
"I thought I covered the line as well as I should have," Agholor said. "But I should have checked with the \[official\]."
Pederson said the responsibility is shared by Agholor, Wentz, and himself. The coaching staff saw Agholor wasn't lined properly. Pederson considered calling a timeout, but the receiver usually checks with the side judge, who signals him to move forward.
"I've got to make sure everyone understands situational football and formations and the type of things that we do," Pederson said.
"We just have to coach that better."
The Eagles were forced to punt, and they were never the same thereafter. There are mistakes that happen during a game, but offsides and illegal formation are fundamental penalties that signal an undisciplined team. Agholor's penalty was especially problematic because it directly cost points.
"That's just discipline," Jenkins said. "Attention to detail is basics of football. Get lined up … don't jump offsides. Those things are signs of being undisciplined. And it's not just this game."
The game didn't get better in the second half. Wentz threw his second interception, and the Seahawks turned the turnover into points. Receiver Doug Baldwin threw a 15-yard pass to Wilson on a trick play. At that point, Wilson had the same number of receiving yards as all the Eagles receivers combined.
The Eagles scored late in the game, but the Eagles didn't fool themselves into thinking they were close — and didn't dispute the problems that caused the loss.
The Green Bay Packers visit next Monday. If the Eagles expect to avoid similar feelings to Sunday, they need to find an end to problems that haven't gone away. They have six weeks to do it.