Eagles

Eagles-Seahawks: Roob's 10 observations

Eagles-Seahawks: Roob's 10 observations

BOX SCORE

SEATTLE — It's been a while. About 2½ months since the Eagles experienced this.

The Eagles, who've been pushing teams around for the last couple months, faced an elite opponent for the first time since beating the Panthers in Week 6 and got pushed around Sunday night.

The Seahawks built a 17-3 lead in the third quarter and then coasted to a 24-10 win over the Eagles at CenturyLink Field (see breakdown).

Nine-game winning streak? Over. Undefeated record vs. the NFC? Over. Firm grasp of the No. 1 seed? Over … for now.

After the Eagles' first loss since Sept. 17, let's get right to tonight's 10 Observations.

1. I felt like this game was over early. The Seahawks were really the more physical, more dominating team on both sides of the ball in the first half, and just took the game to the Eagles. This is the sort of opponent the Eagles haven't seen lately — a cocky, confident bunch with a lot of guys who won a Super Bowl four years ago. They've got some swagger and attitude, and they don't play around. They really were the aggressor on both sides of the football in building that 17-3 lead, and it felt like the Eagles took a lot of punches to the midsection before they finally kind of made the game a level playing field and started fighting back. By then it was too late. You don't come back from 14 points down to the Seahawks in the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. The Eagles have been bullying teams all year. Sunday night, they got bullied. Good lesson. Can't let it happen again.

2. Doug Pederson has been brilliant calling plays this year, finding a rhythm, being aggressive, balancing run and pass. But I just didn’t like the concept of the offense Sunday night. You don’t beat a team like the Seahawks on the road running the ball, and I get that he was trying to protect Carson Wentz from Seattle’s pass rush, but the first-half run-pass ratio was 19 runs and 13 passes, and the Eagles got some yards on the ground but only three points. The Eagles started moving the ball through the air in the second half — Wentz had more passing yards on the first drive than in the entire first half — but then his fumble out of bounds gave the Seahawks the ball. They went down the field and scored, and once it was 17-3 the Eagles pretty much had to pass. I just feel like against a team like Seattle the Eagles needed to be aggressive from the jump, and they weren't.

3. But I'll tell you what. Wentz keeps proving how special he is, and it seems like every week he does it in a different way. Wentz got battered early Sunday night. He took a lot of huge hits. He had a finger on his right (throwing) hand wrapped up on the bench with some sort of apparent injury. He struggled to find time to throw and forced a few balls. He fumbled out of the end zone when he was about to score. He missed open guys. He struggled for much of the game like we haven’t seen him struggle in a long time. You look up, and it’s 17-3 Seahawks in a building where they’re 37-8 over the last six years and the crowd is going nuts and you’re just thinking, “You know what? This just isn’t Carson’s day.” And then he busts out of a sure sack for a 51-yard miracle down the right sideline to Nelson Agholor and then a spectacular 27-yard TD across the field to Agholor and the Eagles are back in the game, and you realize just how special this kid is. With everything conspiring against him, he still threw for 348 yards, completed 64 percent of his passes, threw one TD and one interception - to Eagles castoff Byron Maxwell - and finished with a respectable passer rating of 86.2. Heck, he threw for over 300 yards in the second half alone. The Eagles fell short Sunday, but I like the fight this kid has. He may go down, but he doesn't go down quietly.

4. You can make a case either way, but I didn’t like the punt on 4th-and-2 from just inside midfield with 18 seconds left in the first half. Doug has been aggressive all year, and to beat a good team in their own building you have to be aggressive. The Seahawks are missing half their secondary. You should be able to get two yards and then try to get into Jake Elliott range, which really was only a few yards away. If you don’t get it, the Seahawks still need 22 yards in, what, maybe 13 seconds, to get within range for a 50-yarder — which is the longest field goal Blair Walsh has made the last two years. That punt had a vague sense of playing-not-to-lose, and that's not how the Eagles got to 10-1.

5. It’s really hard to question Jim Schwartz right now, but I didn’t get the zero blitz on the play that turned into Russell Wilson’s 47-yarder to Doug Baldwin down to the 1-yard-line. That play led to the Seahawks' TD that turned a 10-3 lead into a 17-3 lead. The Eagles were getting tremendous pressure the whole game, and Wilson is so good at finding his hot receiver when he’s blitzed. Again, tough to second guess Schwartz, who’s been phenomenal this year. But it was 3rd-and-10 near midfield, your pressure from the front four has been relentless, and that really turned into the pivotal play in the game.

6. We haven't seen the Eagles' secondary torched like this in a long time. Wilson was brilliant Sunday, doing exactly what Schwartz said he's most dangerous at - making plays on the run, especially after rolling backward, deep behind the line of scrimmage, and then reversing field and either running or throwing on the move. Wilson finished 20-for-31 for 227 yards with three TDs and no interceptions, and his 118.6 passer rating is the highest against the Eagles since Matt Stafford's 135.0 in Detroit last year. Good measuring stick game. The Eagles' pass defense has been so effective lately, but Wilson is just a uniquely talented quarterback, and now this secondary knows exactly where it stands. The two QBs who've beaten them -- Alex Smith and Wilson -- are both guys who can run and throw. If the Eagles are going to make a deep playoff run, they're going to have to beat some really good quarterbacks. They're going to have to play better than they did Sunday night.

7. Brandon Graham played out of his mind Sunday night. Playing on the same field as Earl Thomas, who eight years ago the Eagles bypassed in the draft to take Graham, he was an absolute beast. He picked up his career-high eighth sack of the year and got constant pressure on Wilson, forcing several errant passes and rushed passes, including one in the third quarter that should have been a pass interference. I thought Graham was the Eagles' best player Sunday night.

8. One quick note on Halapoulivaati Vaitai: He seems to struggle from time to time early in games, and Sunday night he sure did. He had a very tough first quarter. But he generally seems to bounce back, and he did again this time. Vaitai needs to figure out how to start off more effectively, but it is encouraging that he's able to figure things out and play better as the game goes along.

9. His performance will probably go unnoticed because the Eagles lost, but Agholor had a career game with seven catches for 141 yards. That's the most yards by an Eagles wide receiver since Jordan Matthews had a 159-yard game against Arizona in 2015, and the second-most yards anybody has had against the Seahawks this year -- DeAndre Hopkins had a 224-yard game in October. Last year, Agholor was so bad against the Seahawks he got benched the next week. That's how far this kid has come. Agholor is now sitting with 40 catches and 599 yards, both career highs with four games left. Good for him. He's overcome a lot and really become a weapon.

10. Finally, this: Big point now for the Eagles now. They're spending the week in Los Angeles, they have another very good opponent waiting for them in the Rams, and with the Vikings, Rams and Saints all in hot pursuit, the Eagles can’t afford too many more losses if they're going to snag a first-round bye, in particular the No. 1 seed. Big test. Big moment. There's a ton at stake here. The Eagles have answered all the big tests they've faced this year. They answered their only previous loss with nine straight wins. Let's see how they respond to this one. I have a hunch they'll respond positively.

5 more Eagles who were impressive during spring practices

eagles_5_guys.jpg
AP Images

5 more Eagles who were impressive during spring practices

As the Eagles wrapped up their spring practices last week, head coach Doug Pederson was asked for a list of young players who stood out over the last few weeks. 

It was a pretty good list (see story)

But with a limited amount of time, Pederson probably didn’t mention every young player who had a good spring. I’m gonna give him a hand and list five more players he failed to mention. 

De’Vante Bausby 
This guy was the revelation of the spring. He joined the Eagles’ practice squad last season but seemingly has a great shot to make the active roster this year. During many OTA practices and in minicamp, the 25-year-old took first-team reps at the nickel corner spot. I still have trouble believing that Bausby is going to be on the field ahead of Sidney Jones, but that doesn’t take away from how good he’s looked so far. Aside from just getting first-team reps, he made the most of them. It seemed like he was making a play every day. 

Nate Sudfeld
This was really our first extended look at Sudfeld, but it’s far from our last. In fact, prepare yourselves to see a ton of the third-stringer this summer. Because while Carson Wentz recovers, Sudfeld is Nick Foles’ backup. And the Eagles need to treat Foles like a starter, which means fewer reps. Sudfeld didn’t come to the Eagles until after last cuts a year ago. This spring, it was easy to see why the Eagles like Sudfeld so much. He’s pretty athletic, can move his legs, and spent the few weeks dropping dimes all over the field. Eventually, Foles is going to move on and Sudfeld should be able to take the backup role. 

Bryce Treggs
Remember when Treggs-mania took over Philadelphia in 2016? Fans were clamoring for more of Treggs after he made that one big catch. Since then, that mania has certainly died down, but Treggs is off to a good start in 2018. He’s a much better player than he was a few years ago. To me, he made the best play we saw all spring, when he stretched out to catch one of those dimes from Sudfeld. Treggs doesn't have a great shot of making the Eagles’ roster, but he can put together some more good tape and maybe find another team. 

Nate Gerry 
In his second season out of Nebraska, Gerry has a real chance to win the weakside linebacker job. He’s battling Kamu Grugier-Hill and Corey Nelson for the spot left by Mychal Kendricks’ release. And Gerry is off to a good start. Having a year in the defense under his belt should certainly help him gain an edge on Nelson, but he still needs to make plays. In the spring, he did. He had a couple interceptions and seemed to read everything well. His background as a safety is clearly something the Eagles like for this position; the other two guys have coverage skills too. 

Josh Sweat
It’s a little tough for defensive ends to stand out in non-padded practices, but the rookie from Florida State did. The first thing to notice about Sweat is just how big he is. He’s listed at 6-5, 251. For now, he’s really long and skinny, but is quick and athletic too. It helped him going against someone as raw as Jordan Mailata, but even when he was facing others, Sweat still looked explosive. We’ll know more once the pads go on, but it seems like the Eagles might have a steal and somehow added even more depth on the D-line. 

More on the Eagles

Watching Carson Wentz attack his rehab is nothing short of incredible

Watching Carson Wentz attack his rehab is nothing short of incredible

Carson Wentz has done some of his best work behind closed doors, far from any TV cameras or adoring fans, with just a trainer or two and maybe a few teammates in the room.

While Nick Foles has enjoyed the banquet circuit these last few months and all that comes with being Super Bowl MVP — national TV appearances, a book deal, life as a celebrity — the guy he replaced has had a pretty good offseason himself.

It’s just that nobody has seen it.

For Wentz to do what he did at these spring minicamps — compete in a variety of individual and team drills and look comfortable, fluid and confident six months after hobbling off the field at LA Coliseum with a towel covering his head — speaks volumes about this kid.

We know he’s a competitor on the field. We’ve all seen it. But rehabbing a shredded knee is different.

Throw a touchdown pass, and you instantaneously hear 66,000 fans roaring their approval.

Extend your range of motion by one degree and you get a trainer telling you, “Good. Now do it again 50 times.”

We can talk all day and night about how Wentz has attacked his rehab, but now we’re seeing the fruits of his labor. And it’s impressive.

It takes a certain type of motivation and determination to keep grinding away when nobody is cheering you on and the moments of true progress are fleeting and measured in millimeters.

We saw Wentz out there at practice taking five-step drops, firing dimes to Mike Wallace and Nelson Agholor in 7-on-7s and sprinting the length of the field under the midday sun.

What we never saw is what it took to get there.

It’s been about six months since Wentz tore his ACL and LCL.

That means probably about 150 days where Wentz has driven from his home in South Jersey to the NovaCare Complex at dawn and pushed himself through hour after hour of drills to regain his strength, his mobility, his speed, his endurance, his agility.

And then he’s back the next day to do it all over again.

We’re so used to athletes getting hurt and rehabbing it’s easy to forget just how grueling it is, and the fact that Wentz has made the progress he has since Dec. 10 is astonishing.

He’s taken that same ferocious competitive spirit we saw the first 29 games of his career and used it to fuel his rehab.

A month ago, there was no reason to think he’d be cleared to do anything at OTAs and there he was running, throwing, competing and looking every bit like the Carson Wentz we watched evolve into a legit MVP candidate the first 14 weeks of last season.

And if that doesn’t mean he’s ahead of schedule, I don’t know what does.

At this point, I’d be shocked if Wentz isn’t the Eagles’ opening day quarterback in 2018.

There’s always the possibility of a setback. Maybe he doesn’t get completely cleared quite in time to face the Falcons on Sept. 6. But the progress he’s made already has to make every Eagles fan feel confident and encouraged.  

Since he got hurt, Wentz has put the same remarkable level of energy and effort into rehabbing that he put into preparing to play football every Sunday.

Think about Wentz’s 2017 season.

Everything was going perfectly. The Eagles were on top of the football world. He was putting up numbers that were unprecedented for anybody other than Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Before Foles was on anybody’s mind, the Eagles were a Super Bowl contender.

And then disaster.

We’ve all seen Wentz when things are going well. He blossomed into a superstar in front of our eyes.

But you really learn the most about a person when things aren’t going well. When they face adversity. What are they really about? How will they respond?

Wentz has definitively answered those questions.

We didn’t see Wentz in those long, lonely, arduous rehab sessions, but we can see the results.

While Foles was out winning the Super Bowl and taking all the bows, Wentz was doing everything humanly possible to make sure he’s ready to lead the Eagles to another Super Bowl title this year.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m not betting against him.

More on the Eagles