Good morning, Eagles fans. The Eagles' nine-game winning streak ended with a 24-10 loss to Seattle, which means this is the first time since September I'm writing Early Birds after a loss. Instead of flying back to Philadelphia, the team flew to Southern California, where it will practice leading up to the game against the Rams on Sunday. We'll have comprehensive coverage from Orange County all week. You're reading the Monday edition of Early Birds. It's free for anyone to sign up here to receive in your inbox every weekday. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.
— Zach Berman
The morning after a loss has been an unfamiliar feeling in Philadelphia, so let's start with a reminder: The sky is not falling. There is no reason to sound an alarm. The Eagles lost for the first time since Week 2 to a tough-minded, experienced, desperate team with a scorching quarterback. They are still 10-2 and still control their path to a first-round bye. Even though the Eagles were favored, this shouldn't be an earth-shattering result or lead to a week of despair. (I'll be in California all week, but I can only imagine what the conversation will be back in Philadelphia.) I thought the Eagles were going to lose to the Seahawks and still think they'll finish 13-3 and have the first weekend of January off. That would be an outstanding regular season.
It's easy to see why they lost. They made uncharacteristic mistakes, including their first red-zone turnover of the season, and Russell Wilson excelled. It's hard enough to beat the Seahawks in Seattle in December. It's even harder when you turn the ball over in the red zone. Sure, there were questionable decisions from Doug Pederson (as Jeff McLane dissected) and the flags didn't always go in the Eagles' direction. But the turnovers and Wilson were the biggest reasons for the loss. The Eagles won't play like that every Sunday. I think they'll play much better against the Rams next week.
However, my big-picture takeaway is similar to how Les Bowen started his story: Carson Wentz was the second-best quarterback on the field. And that's not a knock on Wentz, because he'll be the better quarterback most games. He's outplayed the other quarterback just about every game this season. That includes games against Cam Newton and Philip Rivers. But if the Eagles are going to win in January, it might need to come against tough teams like the Seahawks and accomplished quarterbacks like Wilson. (The Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams are the exceptions.) So what happens then? If the Eagles play Wilson or Drew Brees in the playoffs — or perhaps even Aaron Rodgers — will Wentz outplay him? Will the defense play well enough to stop him?
This is a fair conversation for Eagles fans to have about a 10-2 team. The second part of this road trip is still part of the litmus test of how the Eagles do against competitive teams, and they can prove much in Los Angeles. But the quarterbacks who've won in January are in a different class. Wentz is going to play in more games like the one he experienced in Seattle on Sunday, and if the Eagles lose the next time, there won't be a "next week."
Zach Berman: Third down and red zone have been strengths for the defense this season. What was different tonight?
Ronald Darby: "Extending the plays, they made some good plays on some stuff. And the plays we did stop them on, a few we got penalized. So it's hard to play the team and the refs. We just have to just scratch that, throw it in the book, and move onto the next week."
Zach Berman: Did the flags bother you?
Ronald Darby: "Of course, flags always bother anybody. It's a part of the sport. … It doesn't matter what I think [about the pass interference call]. They thought it was. I can't go to court about it or whatever. If it's called, it's called. So I guess I've got to try to do better."
Zach Berman: What's the benefit of staying in California this week?
Ronald Darby: "Just getting re-adjusted with the time and everything, being on that schedule so you feel better rest-wise and things like that."
We'll have an answer about the Rams this Sunday. My quick answer is yes, they are good enough. They don't have Jason Peters, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai is going to have some tough games. That's just the reality — he's a replacement left tackle in his second season. I thought the matchup with Frank Clark would be one to watch against Seattle, and it certainly favored the Seahawks. But as an overall unit, I think the offensive line is good enough. There are going to be games when Carson Wentz is under pressure and he's going to have to make plays, and a good running game will help keep the defense honest. They'll have some tough matchups ahead of them, but most games, the offensive line will be an advantage.
The Eagles will stay in Orange County and practice in Anaheim at Angel Stadium. I'm not sure exactly how the setup on the baseball field will look — I'll see for the first time when they practice on Wednesday — but they'll be on the field there Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons. They left for California after the game on Sunday. My understanding is they'll do most of their classroom and meeting work in the team hotel and most of the physical work at the ballpark.