“It ain’t about how hard you hit,” Rocky tells his son in Rocky Balboa. “It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
Life hit the Philadelphia Eagles hard in 2019, as injury after injury made the team one of the most depleted in recent memory. Their first game of 2020 was not any easier. The Eagles lost their wild-card playoff game to Seattle 17-9 after quarterback Carson Wentz suffered a head injury midway through Sunday’s first quarter on a questionable hit from Seattle edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney.
Wentz’s injury came just when Eagles fans thought their mounting injuries couldn’t get any worse. They were already down their top three receivers (Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor), top two offensive linemen (Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks), and top two running backs (Jordan Howard and Darren Sproles), plus a starting cornerback (Ronald Darby), linebacker (Kamu Grugier-Hill), and defensive tackle (Malik Jackson). No. 1 pass catcher Zach Ertz played despite a cut on his kidney, an injury that has sidelined every other NFL player for the rest of the season in the last seven years. At one point, the Eagles were so thin at receiver that backup quarterback Josh McCown, who is 40 and retired in June, was warming up to catch passes on Monday Night Football in Week 14.
Despite those injuries, Philadelphia still went 4-0 in December for a come-from-behind NFC East title. But losing Wentz for the third year in a row on top of everyone else was too much to handle. And as if Wentz’s head injury wasn’t bad enough, defensive end Derek Barnett and running back Miles Sanders both suffered injuries in the first half too. The Eagles were down only 10-3 after two quarters, but the season felt over at halftime.
It wasn’t. In true Philadelphia spirit, the Eagles never stopped moving forward. Eagles coach Doug Pederson told NBC’s Michele Tafoya he tweaked their game plan at halftime and their goal was to run the ball more and get their passes to Ertz. As Tafoya was speaking, McCown hit Ertz for a 32-yard gain on the first play of the second half. Two plays later, McCown looked deep to former AAF receiver Greg Ward, who drew a pass interference penalty on Seattle cornerback Tre Flowers. Philadelphia ended up kicking a field goal to cut the game to 10-6 with 25 minutes left.
It didn’t take long for Seattle to respond. Six plays later, Russell Wilson hit receiver DK Metcalf for a 53-yard touchdown on a play that may have been a miscommunication in the Philadelphia secondary. Metcalf fell to the ground but got up and fought his way into the end zone.
The Eagles’ skeleton crew of journeymen would not go away. McCown, who was coaching high school football when the Eagles lured him out of retirement in August, began the second half with eight completions on his first eight attempts for 105 yards. Down 17-6 on Philly’s second drive of the second half, they kept moving the ball on second down. Tight end Dallas Goedert picked up 14 yards on second-and-9. Ward picked up another 14 yards on second-and-7. On second-and-16, McCown fumbled the snap, picked it up, and tossed the ball to Boston Scott, Philly’s 5-foot-6 fourth-string running back who the team drafted in the sixth round in 2018. Scott picked up 21 yards for a first down. With under three minutes left in the third quarter, Eagles kicker Jake Elliott kicked a field goal to cut the deficit to 17-9, a one-possession game. The next time McCown got the ball, the Eagles needed just three plays to go from the their 12-yard line to the Seattle 42-yard line. Sanders, who injured his ankle in the first half, returned and broke an 18-yard run to begin the drive.
Miles Sanders begins the @Eagles drive with an 18-yard run! @BoobieMilesXXIV #FlyEaglesFly #NFLPlayoffs— NFL (@NFL) January 6, 2020
: #SEAvsPHI on NBC
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McCown later picked up a first down on a quarterback sneak, adding to his rushing total after the longtime vet ran for a first down on first-and-10 with a quarterback keeper.
But the Eagles failed to get the touchdown they needed. Philly’s depleted receiving corp could not get open in the red zone, where space is tighter. McCown, a more conservative passer than Wentz, held on to the ball for so long that the Seahawks sacked him six times; Seattle’s seven sacks on the night is their highest total this season. Later in the second half, McCown was limping after taking a few tough hits, and the next in line at QB would have been Ward.
Philadelphia’s defense mostly held. They limited the Seahawks’ two running backs, Travis Homer and Marshawn Lynch, to 17 carries for 19 yards, though Russell Wilson added 45 yards on nine rushes. But when the Eagles defense needed one more stop on third-and-10 with under two minutes to go, the defense was cracked again by Metcalf, who sealed the game with a 36-yard catch after the two minute warning. Metcalf finished with seven catches for 160 yards and a touchdown, just three catches and 9 yards shy of what Eagles rookie receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, whom Philly drafted over Metcalf, posted in 16 regular-season games.
The ultimate amount of disrespect from DK Metcalf waving bye to Eagles fans ✌️ pic.twitter.com/80H58vQ3xg— Kyle ⚾️ (@KyleNYY) January 6, 2020
Metcalf flashed Eagles fans the peace logo as he got up from his game-sealing catch. It’s fitting. This Eagles season was anything but peaceful, yet players and fans can look at it and feel at peace. The Eagles were knocked down over and over on Sunday, just like they had all year, but they kept moving forward. Philadelphia didn’t win, but that’s OK. Neither did Rocky.