Had Nelson Agholor lined up properly, the Eagles would’ve had a touchdown and some traction toward a win against the Seahawks on Sunday. Instead, Agholor’s mistake cost his teammate Zach Ertz a second touchdown catch and hampered Philly’s hopes of pulling off the upset.
It’s the type of mistake indicative of a team that struggles to win games on the road — careless and costly.
Had Nelson Agholor lined up properly, the Eagles would’ve had a touchdown and some traction toward a victory against the Seahawks on Sunday.
Instead, Agholor’s mistake — one of a handful he made in Philadelphia’s 26-15 defeat against Seattle — cost teammate Zach Ertz a second touchdown catch and hampered the Eagles’ hopes of pulling off the upset against the Seahawks.
Trailing 13-7 midway into the second quarter and facing a third-and-six from his 43-yard line, Philadelphia head coach and play-caller Doug Pederson dialed up a perfect play for the situation — a screen pass to Ertz.
Quarterback Carson Wentz faked a toss elsewhere and then stayed poised with the pass rush bearing down on him, dumping it to Ertz. The former Stanford standout rumbled 57 yards for an apparent score.
But at the line of scrimmage, just feet from where Agholor had lined up, a yellow flag was on the turf for an illegal formation. Agholor hadn’t lined up close enough to the line of scrimmage.
“They said I wasn’t on the ball,” Agholor said. “I thought I covered the line as well as I should have, but I should have checked because the No. 1 thing is that you always have to check with the ref, and that’s one of the first things I do when I line up. I hugged the line of scrimmage and tried to focus on what the coverage was and what I needed to do.”
So why didn’t he do what he normally does and check with the referee just feet away from him?
“For some reason, when I got there the first thing on my mind was just hug the line and make sure because everybody else behind me was going to be off to show a clear separation between me and them and focus on the defense. And that’s where my mind went to something else. I should have done that first thing first.”
Wentz didn’t notice it as he surveyed the formation before the snap.
“It looked pretty close,” he said. “Obviously, the two receivers were lined up behind him off the ball, so from my vantage point, I didn’t really notice anything.”
Replays showed Pederson urging Agholor to move closer to the line of scrimmage, but chose not to call a timeout.
“We could have,” Pederson said. “Sometimes the receivers look to the sidelines. I didn’t want to burn a timeout or waste a timeout in that situation. It was just unfortunate.”
Pederson wouldn’t lay sole blame on Agholor.
“It’s a little bit of him, it’s a little bit of the quarterback, a little bit of me,” he said. “I have to make sure everybody understands situational football and formations and the type of things that we do. We just have to coach that better.”
Regardless of whatever combination of people was at fault, the play changed the complexion of the game.
Wentz’s disappointment and anger was noticeable as the sold-out crowd at CenturyLink Field roared when the play was brought back.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “Anytime you have a big play like that, it’s frustrating. The biggest with us is that we have so many little mistakes every week, even when we win games we have so many mistakes that just keep hurting us. We’re leaving scores out there.”
With a touchdown, Philadelphia likely takes a 14-13 lead with the extra point. Instead, the drive flamed out two plays later and Seattle picked up a field goal on the ensuing possession for a 10-point swing.
“That was a significant great break,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “That was a pretty good deal, yeah.”
Pederson wouldn’t lament for too long on what might have been, but admitted the obvious.
“It’s definitely a momentum-changer,” he said. “A big play like that puts you right back into the football game. It’s tough to overcome sometimes.”