“Now the entire NFC is up for grabs. This was a big night.”
Cris Collinsworth said it best (read: worst) at the tail end of NBC’s Sunday Night Football telecast. The entire NFC is now up for grabs. Translation for Eagles fans: That sucked.
The Eagles lost to the Seattle Seahawks 24-10 Sunday night, and if you can’t sleep or maybe you’re just waking up hoping that was all a dream, the nightmare was real. The Eagles were outplayed on both sides of the ball and Doug Pederson seemed to coach the game scared of taking risks on the road in a hostile environment he’s been routinely willing to take during this win streak, playing right into Seattle’s hands. This game really sucked.
For the first time this season, Carson Wentz was off his game Sunday night, missing two clear open shots to Nelson Agholor that could have been early touchdown passes and another, under pressure, to Kenjon Barner on a fourth down that would have been at least a first down, and probably a touchdown, too.
Wentz also fumbled near the goal line in the second half, giving the ball to Seattle at a crucial juncture and killing a potential game-tying drive in the process. But more on that play in a bit.
Statistically Wentz was actually pretty good in one of the toughest stadiums in the NFL to go into and play well. He was 29-of-45 for 348 yards and a touchdown, and two fantastic throws to Nelson Agholor in the fourth quarter got the Eagles within one score.
But Seattle proved too much all night, stymying the offense and getting just enough against the Eagles defense to drag the Eagles back down to earth. Wentz threw a late pick in desperation, which made his stats look worse. Oh, and of course it was former Eagle Byron Maxwell who picked him off.
And on top of that Zach Ertz, the team’s leading receiver and Wentz’s security blanket, left the game with a head injury.
And now the bad news.
Home Field Advantage…is gone
As if losing wasn’t enough, the Vikings won, which means that right now the Eagles would be the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. Minnesota is hosting the Super Bowl this year, so the Vikings currently hold home field advantage throughout the entire playoffs, something that’s never happened in the Super Bowl era.
The Vikings beat the red-hot Falcons Sunday to get to 10-2, and currently hold the tiebreaker over the Eagles for the top seed based on tougher opponents. That could change as the season progresses, and the VIkings could lose again, finishing the season at the Panthers, home to the Bengals, at the Packers and home to the Bears. A cause for optimism? The Panthers are pretty good, and the Packers might be getting Aaron Rodgers back for that Week 16 game.
And yet, the Eagles have to go to the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday. And if you haven’t been paying attention to the NFC West (other than Sunday night) the Rams are awesome.
The Rams won Sunday to get to 9-3 on the season, which means a win over the Eagles next week would knock the Birds completely out of a bye. Having said that, the Rams play at Seattle the week after facing the Eagles, then go to Tennessee in a huge game for both teams before hosting the 49ers to end the season.
The Rams lost to the Vikings a few weeks ago, but they beat the Saints last week, so they can surely beat the Eagles. Oh, and the Saints? They won Sunday too, so they’re also 9-3 and waiting for the Eagles to falter to steal a bye. They finish at the Falcons, home to the Jets, home to the Falcons and at the Buccaneers and should be favored in all of those games.
We wrote the other day how important Sunday in Seattle was. The nightmare scenario happened for the Eagles. A first round bye is still in their grasp, but next week is enormous now.
Pederson’s challenges were awful
The Eagles were bad all over, but maybe nobody was worse than the coach. It wasn’t just that Pederson looked like he was afraid to take risks on offense against the Seahawks defense, his inability to pick the right time to challenge a bad call was a problem all game. The Eagles challenged a first down spot about midway through the contest and while it looked like they should have been given a first down on a third-down pass to Torrey Smith, the play would have resulted in a 4th-and-1 and Wentz is automatic on the quarterback sneak in that situation.
The Eagles lost the challenge, and a timeout in the process, and Wentz had to sneak for the first down anyway.
Then later in the game when the Eagles needed to throw a challenge flag it seemed as though Pederson was gun-shy to blow another timeout when Russell Wilson pitched the ball to get a key first down for Seattle with 10 minutes to play in the game.
It was a one-score game at the time, and on 3rd-and-8 Seattle would have been forced to punt had Pederson challenged the call. The ball went forward, even though it looks in real time that it was a lateral. That’s a penalty, which would have forced a punt.
Instead, Seattle got a first down at the 35 yard line and scored a touchdown four plays later. Game over.
The worst rule in football
This is not the reason the Eagles lost. They were outplayed in all facets of the game. And yet…
This is the worst rule in football. It’s not even close. And maybe it did cost the Eagles a chance to win.
When Wentz fumbled the ball in the third quarter the Eagles were driving to tie the game. Because Wentz fumbled through the end zone out of bounds, the NFL rule is that the ball is awarded to the defense as a touchback.
Seattle never recovered the ball, but it’s theirs. And it’s not just their ball, they get it at the 20, not at the spot of the fumble. It’s the worst rule in football, and maybe the worst rule in all of American sports sports.
If Wentz had fumbled the ball out of bounds at the one inch line, the ball would go back to the Eagles at the spot in which it was fumbled. If the ball was fumbled into the end zone and an Eagles player picked it up, it would have been a touchdown. But despite no player possessing the ball for either team after Wentz fumbled it, the NFL rulebook states the ball is given to the defense because the ball went out of bounds in the end zone.
It’s a joke of a rule. The ball should go back to the team that fumbled at the spot of the fumble, just like it does when the ball is in the field of play and goes out of bounds.
That said, rules are rules, and Seattle took full advantage of this one, getting the ball at the 20-yard-line and marching down the field, scoring a touchdown after an 11-play drive (with two defensive holding penalties) to take a 17-3 lead and ostensibly shut the game down.
That sequence was a perfect illustration of what went wrong for the Eagles Sunday night. Pretty much everything.