The Eagles fell victim to a pair of setbacks on the field on Sunday that contributed to the Birds’ 17-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at the Linc.
One setback involved a physical injury that is easy to explain, the other is more complicated because it has to do with a player’s mental wellness.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz apparently injured his throwing hand while making a tackle after a fumble in the third quarter.
Wentz had the hand X-rayed right after the turnover. The results were negative, and he did not miss a play.
Wentz completed 73.3 percent of his passes on the day, going 33-for-45 for 256 yards and one touchdown pass with 20 seconds left in a game the Eagles were never really in after the first quarter.
A number of short passes surely conflated his completion percentage.
The four-year starter fumbled three times, lost two of them, and threw three interceptions.
As a team, the Eagles (5-6) fumbled four times, losing three.
Coach Doug Pederson hinted Wentz’s hand may have been bothering him earlier in the game.
The original question to the coach at his post-game news conference was about Wentz obviously favoring his hand when he came back from the locker room after the X-ray. The coach was asked if his quarterback talked to him about how bad it was hurting.
“No, he tried a glove early in the game,” Pedersdon said. “[He] pulled it off in the rain, the rain stopped, and everything was OK with his hand.”
But the eye test showed Wentz was struggling with his lack of accuracy on some relatively easy throws.
Wentz offered no excuses.
“I have to be better,” Wentz said at his post-game news conference. “I have to lead this team better. I have to protect the football better. We can’t put it on the ground the way we did. It starts with me. It starts with me, and I’m frustrated. I know everyone is frustrated with this loss, offensively. Like I said, turning the ball over. It starts with me. I have to be better, and we will be.”
At his Monday news conference, Pederson said Wentz was having more tests done that day but felt he would be fine for Sunday’s game (Fox, 1 p.m.) at the Miami Dolphins (2-9).
“He has a little bruise in his hand, kind of in the middle finger there,” said Pederson, while holding up his hand to show where Wentz was bruised. “He’s day to day, should be fine for the game.”
Pederson was asked if his bruised throwing hand could affect the accuracy of his throws on Sunday.
“It’s on his right hand,” Pederson said, who noted Wentz should not miss any practices. “It’s going to affect it a little bit. It’s sore, being able to grip the football, but he battled through it and finished the game.”
The other problem that occurred Sunday may have added to all the turnovers more than Wentz’s bruised hand. Brandon Brooks left the game in the first quarter in what he described as a setback from an anxiety disorder that sidelined him a few years ago.
The Eagles were already dealing with the loss of All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson, who suffered a concussion during the New England Patriots’ loss and was ruled out against Seattle.
Brooks, a two-time Pro Bowl guard, was recently acknowledged by Pro Football Focus as the top offensive lineman in the NFL for the first half of the 2019 season.
This was remarkable because Brooks had made what many in the medical community believed was an amazing recovery from an Achilles tendon tear suffered in January during the Eagles’ playoff game against New Orleans.
Brooks also seemed to have his anxiety issues under control. Most people had forgotten about it. Brooks posted this statement on social media Monday morning.
“I’d like to address what happened yesterday. I woke up, and did my typical routine of morning vomiting. It didn’t go away like normally does, but I figured it would calm down once I got to the stadium. It did but I felt exhausted. The nausea came back, and I tried to battle through it and went out for the first drive. The nausea and vomiting came back until I left the field, and tried everything I could to get back for my teammates but I just wasn’t able to. Make no mistake I am NOT ashamed or embarrassed by this nor what I go through daily. I’ve had this under control for a couple of years, and had a setback yesterday. The only thing I’m upset about is that when my team needed me, I wasn’t able to be out there with them and for them. Lastly, I appreciate the support of my coaches, teammates and fans. It doesn’t go unnoticed.”
Pederson was asked about the situation with Brooks and about offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland’s recent comments that other offensive linemen have similar problems at times.
“Honestly, this is probably the first time that I’ve had any experience with this type of thing,” Pederson said. “I’ve seen guys back in my days in Green Bay that work themselves up for games and then go hit a trash can and they’re out playing.
“Obviously in Brandon’s case, listen, this is real life for him,” Pederson continued. “This is serious, and it’s something he battles with every single day and he does a great job managing that. But for me, personally, this is the first time I’ve experienced that.”
Rookie Andre Dillard, who started in place of Johnson, struggled and was pulled at halftime for Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Matt Pryor filled in at right guard for Brooks.
Neither substitute distinguished himself as Wentz was not only sacked three times, but Seattle registered nine quarterback hits and six tackles for loss.
Obviously, everyone hopes Brooks is able to deal with this serious issue during the week, and gets back on the field.
Pederson said he has high hopes that Johnson and several other starters on offense will be back for the Eagles game in Miami.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins, who had a productive game registering two sacks, six total tackles and four quarterback hurries, was asked if this team can turn it around with five winnable games left on the schedule. With the Dallas Cowboys’ loss to New England Sunday night, the Birds are still just one game out of the NFC East lead.
“I think, obviously, getting healthy on offense will help us,” Jenkins said. “At the end of the day, I think we’ll get these things figured out. As we get healthier on offense, defense hopefully continues to get better week in and week out. When we start playing complementary football and get all units playing together, I think we’ll give ourselves a better chance.” ••