SEATTLE – Carson Wentz didn't need time on the flight to California late Sunday night to realize why he experienced a losing locker room for the first time in more than two months. The Eagles lost grasp of their nine-game winning streak about the time Wentz lost grasp of the ball in the Eagles' 24-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Wentz came within one yard of tying the game in the third quarter, of pulling off the theatrics that marked what's been a magical Eagles season. The ball was stripped while he lunged toward the end zone on a run. He jumped to his feet in time to watch the fumble bounce out of bounds for a touchback.
"That's the story of the game, really," Wentz said. "We turned the ball over and they didn't. On the road in this atmosphere against a great team like they are, it's tough to win when you do that."
It was that kind of night for the Eagles. One week ago, during their ninth consecutive win, they recovered their own fumble for a touchdown. Against the Seahawks, they lost possession on the defining play of the game to drop to 10-2. It was their best chance to keep pace against a desperate Seahawks team that outplayed the Eagles on the first leg of the Eagles' critical two-game road trip.
"Like I told the team after the game, you can't just show up and expect to win against good football teams," coach Doug Pederson said.
The Eagles had no answer for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who could rival Wentz in MVP conversations after a splendid performance against an Eagles defense that stifled foes in recent weeks.
The Eagles now travel to California for a week of practice leading to next Sunday's game against the 9-3 Los Angeles Rams. It's not time to jump off the Eagles bandwagon — it was too greedy to expect the team to finish 15-1 — but the Eagles finally showed vulnerabilities after a month of dominance. They are now tied with the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots for the best record in the NFL.
The Eagles learned what could happen when Wentz is not the best quarterback on the field. He finished 29 of 45 for 348 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and one fumble. His quarterback rating was 86.9. That was dwarfed by Wilson, who went 20 of 31 for 227 yards and three touchdowns with a 118.6 quarterback rating.
"We made too many mistakes to win against a hot quarterback," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "He made some special plays and we knew he would. But for us to survive that and weather that, you can't give up big plays, you can't turn the ball over. We did that, and we got the result."
Wilson was hot from the opening drive. Even though the Seahawks settled for a field goal, Wilson moved the ball against the Eagles defense and made the Eagles realize they were not playing C.J. Beathard. The Seahawks built a 10-0 lead later in the quarter when Wilson found Jimmy Graham for an 11-yard touchdown, giving the Eagles their largest first-quarter deficit of the season.
The Eagles offense found momentum in the second quarter when they went on a 16-play, 75-yard drive that lasted more than seven minutes. Their odds of scoring a touchdown diminished with a holding penalty on Alshon Jeffery and they kicked field goal, but they kept it a one-possession game going into halftime.
"In my mind, I was hoping that we would be close with these guys in the fourth quarter," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We've been in so many tight games, it wouldn't be anything new for us. I thought they might be in a situation that was a little different. They obviously came firing back, they gave it everything they had to get close."
With a chance to tie the game on the opening possession of the second half, Wentz lost his costly fumble. Before that play, the Eagles had success moving the ball on the Seahawks, including Jeffery and Zach Ertz more than in the first half. But Wentz's fumble spoiled a precious opportunity. Wentz faked a hand off and steamed forward for the potential score before Sheldon Richardson ripped the ball out of his hands, resulting in the Eagles' first red zone turnover this season.
"I applaud the fact that he was going for the end zone and touchdown, but at the same time, you know you're going to be in traffic," Pederson said. "Secure the ball the best you can and try to go two hands on that. But listen, he's made a lot of football plays and I'm sure he's sick to his stomach from that one. He'll learn from it."
It's hard to survive those mistakes against Seattle — especially when Wilson played as he did. Wilson turned the Eagles turnover into points. It took him 11 plays and 80 yards, but the biggest one was a 47-yard pass to Doug Baldwin on a third-and-10 when the Eagles blitzed. Wilson recognized the blitz and hurled the deep pass that set up a one-yard touchdown to Tyler Lockett for a 14-point lead. Good luck coming back from that margin in Seattle.
"We knew going into the game [Wilson] would make some of those [plays] and we need to survive them," Jenkins said. "He's a special player and he showed that."
Wentz's fumble didn't leave the offense in a slumber. They continued showing life in the fourth quarter, including a drive when Wentz dazzled with two long passes to Nelson Agholor — one a 51-yard while buying time to his right, and another a 27-yard touchdown to bring the Eagles within one score. Agholor had a career night at the site of the worst game of his career last year, finishing with seven catches for 141 yards. The concern in the passing game was that tight end Zach Ertz left the game with an expected concussion.
The Eagles could not creep any closer after Agholor's touchdown. They missed a fourth down and Wentz threw his first interception since October. Wilson continued playing like a MVP. Wilson converted a third down when he scrambled for a six yards before lateraling to running back Mike Davis for 17 more yards, although whether it was a legal lateral is up for debate. It might have been a forward pass, but Pederson did not challenge the play and the Seahawks scored on the drive. It was one of a few questionable calls and non-calls that did not go in the Eagles favor. The Eagles were penalized seven times for 64 yards.
Although those calls will provide fodder in Philadelphia this week, it was not the officials that caused the loss on Sunday. The Eagles made uncharacteristic mistakes, and Wilson was the best player on the field. That was a difficult combination to overcome, and it's why the Eagles flew to California after the game with their second loss of the season.