A team that overcame one injury after another to literally every position group on the roster throughout the course of the 2019 season couldn't, in the end, overcome the loss of the one player who matters most: Quarterback Carson Wentz.
Making his NFL playoff debut, Wentz took a hit to the back of his head on the first play of the Eagles' second offensive series from Seattle defensive end Jadavean Clowney and, while Wentz finished the series, he was clearly wobbly. The same could be said for Philadelphia's offense after Wentz left the game and went into concussion protocol.
The final: Seattle 17, Eagles 9 in Sunday's NFC Wild Card playoff game and while there were several reasons for the loss, the absence of Wentz from the offense clearly had a negative impact.
"We have so much faith in each other that we didn't blink or take a step back when Carson was injured," said running back Boston Scott after Josh McCown replaced Wentz and completed 18 of 24 passes, but couldn't push the Eagles into the end zone. "It was just 'next man up,' and we kept doing our thing."
That kind of team-together thinking is what helped the Eagles save their season despite injuries that rattled the wide receiver corps, the running backs, and the right side of the line on the offensive side of the ball along. The defensive tackle rotation started as good and deep as any team's in the league, but got dragged down by injury as well. It just wasn't enough to replace the talents and production of Wentz, who waited so long for this moment – and then had it end so quickly.
"We all feel for Carson," running back Miles Sanders said. "We know how much work he put into the season and his job. He's a pro's pro. He was ready to play. He prepares like crazy. We had a good game plan going in and we had some success moving the ball, but we just didn't score points."
We'll talk about what's next for the Eagles in the coming days, but for now it's important to put into perspective how the Eagles fell short on Sunday. Losing Wentz was the big, huge, overwhelming Reason No. 1, and with his injury came some repercussions …
1. The red zone, an area where Wentz threw 19 touchdown passes without an interception during the season as the Eagles scored touchdowns on 67 percent of their trips inside opponents' 20-yard lines (third best in the league), was a dead zone.
The Eagles managed just two field goals and a turnover on downs in three red zone trips and they failed to get points on two other trips deep into Seattle territory. On the first possession of the third quarter, the Eagles had first-and-goal from the 5-yard line, only to be penalized for delay of game, which blew up the drive. A touchdown there (with the extra point) would have tied the game, but instead the Eagles gained 2 yards on a McCown completion to Dallas Goedert, McCown scrambled for 7 yards after fumbling a snap out of the shotgun formation, and then McCown was sacked on third down. It was typical of the struggles in the red zone.
2. Seattle, which registered only 28 sacks in the regular season, had seven in this game, including six of McCown, who had played just 15 snaps all season prior to Sunday. Too often McCown tried to run away from pressure, and his 40-year-old legs just couldn't get away from the heat consistently enough.
3. The Seahawks' offense converted 8 of 15 third downs, including a couple that were truly back-breakers. A third-and-10 throw from quarterback Russell Wilson to wide receiver David Moore from the Eagles' 43-yard line gained 38 yards when cornerback Cre'Von LeBlanc missed a tackle and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch bulled into the end zone from the 5-yard line two plays later to put Seattle ahead 10-3 late in the first half. Late in the fourth quarter, Wilson went up top for DK Metcalf on third-and-10 with 1 minute, 47 seconds remaining at the Seattle 11-yard line and Metcalf went above the crowd to haul in a 36-yard gain.
4. Metcalf was too much to handle, catching seven passes for 160 yards and a 53-yard touchdown on nine targets. "He's a big guy and he uses his body well. He's fast. He goes up and get it," cornerback Avonte Maddox said. "He's tough down the field."
5. That the Eagles controlled the football for 33:15 just meant that they had to work so, so hard for yards and first downs. They were only 3-of-11 on third-down attempts after ranking as one of the best teams in the league on third downs during the season. The Eagles had just two plays of 20-plus yards (a McCown pass to Zach Ertz for 32 yards and a McCown pass to Scott for 21 yards on a catch-and-run play). Seattle registered seven plays of 20-plus yards. It made a difference.
6. The Eagles mixed up their looks against Wilson, spying him here and there, blitzing, laying back in zone, mixing in man coverage, and he still had success. Wilson compiled a 108.3 passer rating with 18 completions in 30 attempts for a whopping 325 yards (10.3 yards per pass attempt). He also hurt the Eagles with his legs, running for 45 of the Seahawks' 64 yards on the ground. "That's Russell being Russell," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "I thought we did a pretty good job on him, but he makes plays on you. That's just what he does. He's been doing it for a long time."
So, just like that, the season is over. How can you not feel for Wentz, who carried the team on his back and who was so excited and "grateful" to be in the postseason for the first time, only to have his debut shortened by a hit that looked an awful lot like the one Ricky Manning, Jr. put on Donovan McNabb way back in Carolina's NFC Championship Game win over the Eagles in the 2003 season at this very stadium. It was a hit that many looked at as dirty, or at the very least one that needed to draw a penalty flag. In both cases, there was no flag. Only a lost quarterback. And, as so often happens when the starting quarterback goes down, a game is lost.
"We can overcome a lot and I think that every person believes in Josh," said Ertz, who played two weeks after suffering extensive rib damage and more injuries. "Losing Carson, man, that was a tough one. I feel terrible for him, but I know he'll come back stronger and better. I know how much it hurts him not being out there. From the human side of things, yeah, you feel for him. You know how much this moment meant for him."