As underachieving games go in the annals of Philadelphia sports history, the Eagles’ 24-10 loss to the Seahawks in Seattle was far from the worst we’ve ever seen. I’m writing it off to two basic factors—QB Carson Wentz had a down game for him, and HC Doug Pederson got caught playing a game of checkers when he should have been making chess moves.
That’s a complete oversimplification, of course, but the main point is nobody’s going to play or coach a perfect game as you get into the late part of the NFL schedule when contenders match up. Emotions are higher as the stakes get higher, and with raised emotions comes increased probability of making mistakes in execution.
I think we saw that notion illustrated in the Steelers-Bengals game yesterday on Monday Night Football. Guys on both sides were getting lit up with penalties and personal fouls for basically playing to emotion instead of technique. The one deciding factor was QB Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to rise above the emotional disturbances all around him and lead his team to a comeback win. Big Ben was a model of precise execution under duress. He stayed completely focused amid the carnage all around him. He took his own fair share of cheap-shot hits, too, but didn’t take them personally or allow his mechanics to be skewed by emotional reaction to them. He just zipped in the key darts necessary to get into winning FG range with 4 seconds left in the game. To Big Ben, it was just another day at the office. After the game, the ESPN reporter tried to goad him into condemning the physical brutality of the legal and illegal hitting in the game. Ben’s matter-of-fact response: “It’s just the AFC North…”
He played a smart, tough game in a difficult road environment. It’s how you win when everything around you says you should just be content to walk off the field under your own power.
Carson Wentz is going to become that kind of quarterback sooner than later. He’s going to lead the Eagles to comeback wins when everything around him says it is a brutally bad day. But in Seattle, we saw some growing pains. A little over-anxious in his mechanics, missing some wide open shots…perhaps trying to do too much on his own, pushing the envelope of sound execution…
So Carson Wentz had a down game. It happens to the best of them. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that Big Ben had a 5-INT game and openly questioned whether he was losing it as an NFL-quality starter.
One of the nice things about this business is occasionally a fan of the opposing team helps to put our reactions to a tough loss into perspective:
“Seahawks fan here…Wanted to wait a day before coming over. Just wanted to say that from my perspective, the Eagles are one of the top five teams in the league, and last night’s game didn’t change that (I’d say the Seahawks are probably top ten right now).
“Obviously losses happen even to the best teams, but the Eagles are so well put together (which says something about their management), and Wentz is so clearly on a franchise QB trajectory, that the Eagles should be formidable for years to come. Far from ‘all is lost’, losses like these can inspire good teams to double down on their focus and intensity down the stretch. (And maybe needless to say, I’d love to see the Eagles beat the Rams next weekend in LA).
“Anyway, if my Hawks fall short of making it to the SB this year, I’ll be pulling for the high-flying Eagles to rep the NFC. Good luck going forward.”