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West Coast Trip Signals Big Next Step

Posted Nov 27, 2017

Enough with the preliminaries. December is here and the season takes another turn as the Eagles head to Seattle for the start of a three-game road trip that will be testing, will be telling, and will take an outstanding effort to defeat ...

Enough with the preliminaries. December is here and the season takes another turn as the Eagles head to Seattle for the start of a three-game road trip that will be testing, will be telling, and will take an outstanding effort to defeat.

“In a way, I guess, it’s time to take our game up to another level on the road against those kinds of quality teams in Seattle and Los Angeles,” center Jason Kelce said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to say a lot about who we are.”

Seattle is 7-4, led by the incredible playmaking skills of quarterback Russell Wilson on offense and a defense that, even with some of its top-line players out, is still winning football games. Seattle has the mindset of a Super Bowl champion, and the Seahawks, with that loud CenturyLink Field crowd behind them, plays with urgency every week.

The Eagles lost at Seattle last season 26-15 on November 20, dropping their record to 5-5 after the 3-0 start. The game, truth be told, was not as close as the final score indicated. The Eagles committed eight penalties and quarterback Carson Wentz, under a ton of pressure, threw two interceptions. The defense had trouble against Wilson, who completed 18 of 31 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown, and also caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Doug Baldwin. Seattle ran for 152 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown from C.J. Prosise on the fifth play from scrimmage.

In a season of struggles, the game in Seattle represented the low point for wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who failed to line up properly and was flagged for an illegal formation penalty on what would have been a 57-yard catch-and-run touchdown by tight end Zach Ertz. Agholor also had a critical drop late in the half as he ran wide open across the middle after beating All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman off the line of scrimmage.

All of that, of course, is in the past. The Eagles are 10-1. They are playing with terrific confidence. Wentz is in a different space than a season ago. The offense is operating at an incredibly high level, with Agholor playing a major role.

What a difference a year makes

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“The next couple of weeks, we have our work cut out,” Wentz said after Sunday’s 31-3 win over Chicago. “We have a couple of West Coast trips that we’re looking forward to, and those are good football teams ahead of us as well. The next three on the road will be a good challenge for us.”

And it all begins in Seattle, against a playoff-caliber team that knows how to win in December. This isn’t a bad litmus test for the Eagles to find out what they are all about 12 games into the season.

“Every time I’ve been up there it’s been a very hostile environment. Their crowd gets into it. They take a lot of pride in it,” defensive end Chris Long said. “Their team is a prideful group that’s confident. They play well and are well coached. Obviously, they’ve got players – Russell Wilson has proven to be one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in this league with his ability to improvise and scramble with his legs and make the throws out of the pocket. When the game’s on the line, he’s proven time and time again that he can make the plays to give their team a chance to win.

“It’s definitely going to be a huge challenge for us – one, to deal with the environment and going on the road in a prime-time situation and, also, just dealing with their defense, their offense, and what they bring to the table. We’ll work all week to prepare and be ready for that challenge.”

Oh, it will be a great game. This Eagles team is playing ridiculous football during its nine-game winning streak, with six games of 30-plus points scored, including each of the last five. They are blowing out opponents. They are dominating on defense.

Seattle is a game behind the Los Angeles Rams in the highly competitive NFC West.

Maybe, just maybe, this is a game the Eagles need. They need to be pushed, perhaps? They need to face some adversity to truly find out who they are as December arrives and the stakes are raised?

“It's loud. We have to handle the crowd noise,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “It's a great opponent, great team. They are well-coached, good players, the whole thing. So (we’ve) got our work cut out for us. (It is going to be) a challenge, but we'll be ready to go.”

Sunday night just can’t get here fast enough.

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