By Dave Spadaro
As the Eagles packed their bags in a disappointed CenturyLink Field locker room late on Sunday night and prepared for a week in Los Angeles ahead of Sunday’s game against the Rams, they knew the immediate challenge: Against good teams in the NFL, the Eagles need to play an “A” level game.
They didn’t come close to that in a 24–10 loss at Seattle, losing as the Seahawks shut down the NFL’s highest-scoring offense, getting turned this way and that way by quarterback Russell Wilson and his creativity and missing on scoring opportunities that they had routinely converted on the way to nine straight wins.
“We learned a lot about ourselves in this game,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said, “and we’re going to learn a lot about how we respond. I think we all expect to have a great week of work and play our best game against the Rams. We need to rise to the moment.”
The moment is this: After a joyride of nine straight wins on the way to an NFL-best 10–1 record, the Eagles stumbled in Seattle. And it wasn’t pretty. They stunk in the red zone on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Carson Wentz flinched for the first time this season and turned the football over twice, once when a fumble bounced through the end zone for a touchback to cost the team a chance at a touchdown and a tie game. The defense had no answer for a red-hot quarterback. The receivers didn’t exploit an injury-ravaged Seattle secondary.
And the Eagles lost.
How they bounce back is the key to this entire season. All of the “Super Bowl” talk from the fans and the media drained away quickly as the Eagles took their lumps in Seattle. This is December football, where the margin for error is slim and mistakes are magnified.
We’re going to find out about the team’s leadership. We’re going to find out about the coaching staff. We’re going to find out how the Eagles respond to some adversity. There is not going to be a cakewalk to the №1 seed in the NFC playoffs.
Instead, the Eagles are tied with Minnesota at 10–2 and only one game ahead of Los Angeles and New Orleans. The playoffs, really, start right now.
“We were in a playoff atmosphere and we came up short, so how we prepare in the week ahead and how we play next week is going to say a lot about what kind of football team we are,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “We’re all disappointed, but you’re going to have ups and downs in the course of a season. Let’s see where we go from here. I think we’ll respond well.”
So there you have it. The bitter taste of defeat after nine glorious wins in a row. The NFL is a cruel place and the Eagles, young and new to the playoff chase, found that out the hard way Sunday in Seattle.
“We have a locker room of high-character, hungry guys,” center Jason Kelce said. “I have no doubt we’re going to respond in a positive manner. We have to go to Los Angeles and win a game. That’s all there is to it.”