Five reasons the Eagles lost to the Seahawks

Tuesday, 05 December 2017, 12:44:49 AM. Carson Wentz had not committed a turnover in the red zone all season. But his third-quarter fumble at the goal line Sunday was a game-changer.

SEATTLE — Five reasons that the Eagles lost to the Seahawks, 24-10, Sunday night:

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Carson’s red-zone fumble

Carson Wentz has excelled in the red zone this season. He had completed 65.2 percent of his red-zone pass attempts, including 21 of his last 29 (72.4%), going into the Seattle game.

He had thrown 20 red-zone TD passes and zero interceptions. And he was the only quarterback in the league who hadn’t committed a turnover or been sacked in the red zone.

Until Sunday.

Trailing by 10-3, the Eagles took the second-half kickoff and drove from their 25 to the Seattle 6. On third and goal from the 6, Wentz ran a zone-read out of a “12’’ personnel set. He faked a handoff to LeGarrette Blount and read defensive end Frank Clark. Clark didn’t bite on the fake to Blount, taking away Wentz’s outside option. So, Wentz pivoted and took it up the middle.

Clark got a piece of Wentz’s ankle at the 3 and tripped him up. As he was going down near the goal line, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson knocked the ball out of the quarterback’s left arm just before his knee hit the ground. The ball bounced through the end zone for a touchback, and the Eagles ended up with no points.

Instead of tying the score, the Eagles gave the ball back to the re-energized Seahawks, who drove 80 yards on 11 plays for a touchdown to go ahead by 17-3.

The Eagles, who led the league in red-zone touchdown percentage going into the game, were 0 for 2 inside the 20 Sunday. They saw a second-quarter drive stall at the Seattle 11 and had to settle for a Jake Elliott field goal.

They also saw another third-quarter possession fizzle out just outside the red zone at the Seattle 25. Trailing by 14 with four minutes left in the quarter, coach Doug Pederson decided to go for it on a fourth and 3 at the 25. He called a pass in the left flat to running back Kenjon Barner. But linebacker K.J. Wright came unblocked off the Eagles’ right side and forced a hurried throw to Barner, who was slowed in traffic trying to get out into space.

The pass fluttered just over Barner’s head. If Wentz had been able to complete the pass, Barner had an easy first down and more.

The penalties

A week after committing 11 penalties against the Bears, the Eagles had seven more Sunday, many of them costly.

Russell Wilson’s scrambling and ability to extend plays forced the Eagles defensive backs to get more grabby in coverage. Cornerback Ronald Darby was flagged for a questionable 19-yard pass interference on the Seahawks’ second scoring drive in the first quarter. Linebacker Nigel Bradham also was called for defensive holding on the play before Wilson hit tight end Jimmy Graham for an 11-yard touchdown.

Cornerback Patrick Robinson and safety Corey Graham also got nailed for holding penalties that kept alive a third-quarter Seattle touchdown drive.

A real killer was the red-zone hold on wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in the second quarter that wiped out a 14-yard run by LeGarrette Blount that would have given the Eagles a first down at the Seattle 1.

Scramblin’ man

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson continually frustrated the Eagles with his scrambling and improvising. By game’s end, after chasing Wilson around all night, the Eagles defensive linemen felt as if they had just run a marathon.

Wilson completed 20 of 31 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns against a defense that had given up multiple TD passes just three times in their first 11 games. He also rushed for 31 yards and engineered a third-and-8, run-and-pitch play in the fourth quarter that effectively crushed the Eagles’ comeback hopes.

The Eagles were down seven with 10 minutes left when Wilson, unable to find an open receiver, bolted from the pocket, escaped the grasp of defensive end Chris Long and headed upfield. With Bradham and Corey Graham blocking his path to a first down, he saw running back Mike Davis charging upfield to his right and pitched him the ball just as Graham was getting ready to tackle him.

Davis picked up 17 yards on top of the six Wilson had gained to give the Seahawks a first down at the Philadelphia 35. Four plays later, Wilson hit a wide-open J.D. McKissic for a 15-yard, game-set-and-match touchdown.

Covering the backs and tight ends

Seven of the 14 touchdown passes the Eagles had allowed in their first 11 games were to running backs or tight ends.

On Sunday, two of Wilson’s three TD passes were to backs and tight ends. Jimmy Graham scored his league-leading ninth red-zone touchdown late in the first quarter when he beat safety Malcolm Jenkins on a back-shoulder fade for an 11-yard score that gave the Seahawks a 10-0 lead.

Then, in the fourth quarter, with the Eagles down by seven, linebacker Mychal Kendricks bit on a slant-and-go route by McKissic, giving the Seahawks an easy touchdown.

Two plays before McKissic’s touchdown, Wilson connected on a 21-yard completion to backup tight end Nick Vannett on a second-and-10 play.

Defensive end Vinny Curry allowed Wilson to get outside. Kendricks was covering Vannett, but as Wilson got close to the line of scrimmage, he left Vannett and came up to challenge Wilson. When he did, the quarterback lobbed the ball over his head to Vannett for a first down.

Of Wilson’s 20 completions Sunday night, 11 were to tight ends and running backs.

Third-down defense

 Jim Schwartz’s defense has been very, very good on third down this season. It went into Sunday night’s game ranked second in the NFL (28.6%), just a tenth of a percentage point behind the Vikings (28.5).

They hadn’t allowed a team to convert more than three third downs against them since Washington in Week 7.

The Seahawks converted 6 of 12 third-down opportunities. Six of 10 when the game still was in doubt. And that doesn’t include the defensive-holding call on Patrick Robinson that foiled a third-and-1 incompletion in the third quarter and kept alive a scoring drive.

Wilson and the Seahawks converted 4 of their first 5 third downs in the second half. Wilson foiled a third-and-10 zero blitz by Schwartz in the third quarter, hitting wide-open wide receiver Doug Baldwin for a 47-yard completion that set up Wilson’s 1-yard TD toss to Tyler Lockett, which also came on third down.

Wilson and Baldwin also connected on a third-and-7 slant that gained 10 yards on the Seahawks’ final touchdown drive. And then there was the 23-yard, run-and-pitch collaboration by Wilson and Davis on that third-and-8 play.

Wilson completed 5 of 6 third-down attempts for 74 yards against the Eagles. All five of his completions went for first downs.

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