A six-hour flight across the country is long to begin with. It could be longer on the way back if the Eagles do not win Monday night in Seattle.
With the sudden news over the weekend that Eagles’ defensive coordinator Sean Desai has been replaced by assistant coach Matt Patricia, a move more likely made by Jeff Lurie and Howie Roseman than by Nick Sirianni, there is some hint that the Eagles are panicking in their freefall over the last two games in which they were outscored by a combined 75-32.
The Eagles were a tired team against San Francisco and Dallas. They looked it. They played like they were dragging because they were.
As a team, the Eagles are among the worst in the NFL against the pass. They currently rank No. 28 in the league, surrendering 3,379 yards passing this season, giving up an NFL-high 179 first downs passing and are last in the NFL in giving up third-down conversions, with an NFL-high 48.07% that has ballooned to 61.22% the last three games. Over the last three games, Seattle and Arizona (and former Eagles’ DC Jonathan Gannon) is nearest giving up third-down conversions at 52.78%.
The Eagles are currently No. 28 in the NFL in points surrendered, giving up 24.7 points a game.
They will be without their top cornerback, Darius Slay, missing their right guard, Cam Jurgens, and without linebacker Zach Cunningham, who is second on the team in tackles (80).
Former Eagle and current NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger has one of the keenest eyes in the game. He sees things most can’t see.
“They’re giving up a lot of points, and this is a passing league, plus having a lot of breakdowns makes them more vulnerable,” Baldinger said. “You hear things like they’re tired, but it’s Week 15, everyone in the NFL is tired this time of year. The Eagles have had a tough schedule. They went one stretch of 15 days without playing a game. No one gets 15 days off like that. You look at the Jake Ferguson play on third-and-six in the second Dallas game. That was man-to-man, four receivers and defenders covering, and the Cowboys beat it. Kevin Byard came free and one more step and Dak (Prescott) gets blown up. I would point to plays like that, where Ferguson went for 32 on third-and-six. They are one step away from plays like that being an incompletion.
“Brandin Cooks catches a 30-yard pass against (James) Bradberry with 30 seconds to go in the half on another blitz. They doubled CeeDee Lamb on the play, which they should have done, and it was a perfect throw to Cooks. San Francisco and Dallas were simply playing better football than the Eagles.
“Right now, these last four games, I wouldn’t chalk up any guaranteed wins or losses for the Eagles. Seattle has lost four straight, and this is a marquee game. The Eagles’ secondary is going to get tested. They have to find a way to win this game, even if it is a shootout. If they lose, it would be three-straight losses and I can tell you that will be a miserable six-hour flight back home. You’re going to see and hear more finger-pointing, more questioning the defensive coaches. That’s the worst part.
“If you win, you right the ship. This can snowball either way. I have no problem saying this could be a make or break game for the Eagles. Seattle is supposed to be better than how they’re playing, and on paper, the Eagles are supposed to be better. If they don’t win, now the Eagles have a good locker room, but that locker room will splinter into whispers here and there, and things will begin leaking out more.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a hall of fame, award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.