McMullen’s Quick Hits: Seahawks Expose Eagles
(973espn.com) - The Eagles faced a big step up in competition Sunday afternoon and they weren’t ready for it as the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks pasted Philadelphia 26-15.
Absent an early Zach Ertz touchdown reception, his first of the season, and a late garbage-time score after the Seahawks had cobbled together 20 straight points during the crux of the game as the 12th man in CenturyLink field lived up to its billing.
Seattle amassed 439 yards of total offense to just 308 for Carson Wentz and Company -- most of that in garbage time -- as in a lot of ways a true contender on the NFC side of the ledger dispatched a pretender.
Considering what happened earlier in the day elsewhere in the NFC, namely Arizona failing in its comeback attempt in Minnesota, along with both Dallas and the New York Giants handling their business, the Seahawks put a stranglehold on the NFC West while the Eagles (5-5) suffered what may end up being a catastrophic blow in the East.
A season-long narrative, Wentz was hamstrung by the ineffectiveness of his receivers, compounded by injuries to his top two running backs, Ryan Mathews (knee) and Darren Sproles (rib), who both were forced to leave in the second quarter.
Playing from behind most of the way, the rookie was forced to go to the air 45 times, completing 23 for 218 yards -- much of that in garbage time -- with two touchdowns and two interceptions and a paltry 61.2 passer rating.
Fellow freshman, Wendell Smallwood, did most of the damage on the ground after being forced into action with 13 rushed for 48 yards, while Jordan Matthews paced the receiving game as usual with five hauls for 59 yards.
THE HOME-RUN BALL
The Seahawks raised more than a few eyebrows when they released their leading rusher Christine Michael earlier in the week but you say why early in the game when Seattle’s shaky offensive line washed Fletcher Cox and Jaylen Watkins down before Jalen Mills whiffed on rookie C.J. Prosise in the hole and the speedy ex-Notre Dame star was off to the races for a 72-yard touchdown run.
The Eagles defense allowed only 48 rushing yards against Atlanta last week and 54 the week before against the New York Giants while the Seahawks only average 77.7 rushing yards per game and have had five different games this season where they never even got to the 72-yard mark.
Prosise himself left the game with a shoulder injury and ended up with four carries for 76 yards and the TD.
Rookie Isaac Seumalo’s athleticism as an extra “tight end” or “fullback” in recent weeks had the Eagles deciding to make the usual gameday swing tackle, Matt Tobin, a healthy scratch for the first time this season so of course, Murphy’s Law hit Philadelphia and Jason Peters left the game in the first quarter with a forearm injury.
That forced the Eagles to kick left guard Allen Barbre out to LT and insert Stefen Wisniewski in at LG. Both veterans did yeoman’s work in the toughest possible environment so what looked like potential disaster worked out well because Barbre is a significantly better option on the edge than Tobin.
Meanwhile, Peters was back in by the second quarter after getting precautionary X-Rays and Barbre proved to be the most versatile guy in the world, also playing right tackle late after Halapoulivaati Vaitai went down.
As we said on the Sports Bash time and time again this week, the Philadelphia receivers were going to have a difficult time but Philadelphia had a chance to do some things with Zach Ertz and the talented tight end finally recorded his first touchdown of the season thanks to a well-designed play call from Doug Pederson.
He should have had his second as well on a brilliant 57-yard catch and run on a screen pass that was called back due to Nelson Agholor’s mental mistake. The struggling wideout cost the Eagles six points with an illegal-formation penalty, failing to recognize he needed to be on the line of scrimmage to cover up the left tackle.
It’s pretty evident Agholor’s confidence is shot and he’s killing the Eagles on a weekly basis now. On the very next drive, he dropped a strike that would have been at least a 25-yard gain down the middle of the field. Even if you stipulate Philadelphia has little talent at the position, it’s a mistake to keep dressing Agholor right now. In fact, a step back from being under the microscope could actually help the second-year receiver gather himself and at least stop making the big flubs.
INJURIES, INJURIES, INJURIES
Peters was out early and then Mathews (knee) and Sproles (ribs) followed in the second quarter and never returned leaving the backfield duties to rookie Smallwood and Kenjon Barner. In a physical game Fletcher Cox and Connor Barwin also left in the field before returning while Leodis McKelvin left early and Vaitai suffered a leg injury that could be significant.
Jim Schwartz may not like ProFootballFocus.com but Jalen Mills gave credence to his grade as the worst corner in football especially in the first half when he whiffed badly on Prosise and then let Doug Baldwin beat him for a 44-yard gain. The speedy Tyler Lockett also sprinted past Mills on a crossing route for a 30-yard gain on the very next play. A lack of recovery speed could make Mills a sub-package player moving forward.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen