In Week 12, the Seahawks traveled to Philadelphia and defeated the Eagles without Jadeveon Clowney, and with Tyler Lockett harboring a mysterious shin injury. It was an incredibly physical contest between two teams with mirroring styles of play, but it was Seattle who got a handful of big plays and dominated at the line of scrimmage.
To again get out of Lincoln Financial Field with a win and advance to the divisional round, the Seahawks will need to replicate the strengths which buoyed them to victory on their first trip. Thankfully for a banged up Seattle squad it’s entirely doable, especially as it pertains to these three areas in which they found joy in Week 12.
On the Edges
Fresh off an encouraging, disruptive win in San Francisco, the Seahawks’ defensive front rode their fine form into Philadelphia and wreaked havoc. Though they totaled just three sacks on Wentz, the disruption numbers tell the real story: Three forced fumbles, six tackles for loss and nine QB hits. Ezekiel Ansah looked healthy and downright dominant; Shaquem Griffin acted as an agent of chaos; and Rasheem Green displayed play strength we hadn’t seen from him previously. The Eagles’ dealt with a rotating cast of offensive linemen, but it was clear Seattle’s pass rush would have won against any quintet of players:
The Seahawks’ edge dominance showed up against the run, as well. On Philadelphia’s 12 carries to the outside of either tackle, they earned just 31 yards—a paltry 2.6 yards per carry. Encouragingly, this terrific display came in a game where Miles Sanders paced the Eagles’ in carries; the rookie has been a revelation over the last month but Seattle has done well to slow him once already.
The Seahawks feasted against a banged up offensive line the first time around, and it’s appearing increasingly likely Philadelphia will again be without jenga piece Lane Johnson. They already lost standout guard and Comeback Player of the Year candidate Brandon Brooks for the season. On the other side of the ball, Seattle will be as healthy as they can be: Ansah, Clowney and everyone else up front should be available. (Clowney has missed practice the past two days, but that currently seems like injury management more than a cause for concern.) The Seahawks’ two headliners were disruptive, if not productive last week; against the Eagles, the entire cast will be in a position to drive winning against both the run and pass.
Seattle’s vertical passing game against Philadelphia is probably best remembered by the shots they didn’t hit on. DK Metcalf alone left roughly 97 yards and a touchdown off the board:
However, despite Metcalf’s difficult day, the Seahawks stretched the Eagles’ defense with ease. There was the trick play that resulted in Malik Turner’s 33-yard touchdown; a 31-yard completion to David Moore; and a 38-yard shot to Lockett. The ease with which Seattle took the top off Philadelphia’s defense was consistent with the Eagles’ defensive struggles all season long. Per Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic, Philadelphia has been one of the worst teams against outside receivers in 2019: 32nd in yards allowed, 29th in explosive plays, 29th in touchdowns and 27th in yards per target.
Since their first meeting in Week 12, the Eagles have lost Ronald Darby for the year (but will have Jalen Mills return in all likelihood). The Seahawks should be able to punish Philadelphia deep again on Sunday. Metcalf is playing outstanding, and has grown as a possession and contested catch receiver since their first matchup; there’s no reason to believe he’ll suffer another hideous game of drops.
Lockett appears to be entirely healthy, and has topped his season average in targets in three consecutive games. Though he’ll likely be shadowed by the Eagles’ best cornerback in Avonte Maddox, his lone completion in Week 12 demonstrates just how easily he can win vertically. Even if Maddox does a solid job of erasing Lockett for the majority of plays, Lockett can create an explosive catch at any moment.
Tyler Lockett's ability to stack on deep routes is incredible and a big part of why he's so automatic vertically. This is a perfect example pic.twitter.com/LOe9WbazsV— Alistair Corp (@byAlistairCorp) November 27, 2019
And for as maligned as Moore has been recently, he excels at erasing a cornerback’s leverage and giving himself a chance to win above-the-rim, which is exactly what he did on his long reception against Philadelphia in Week 12:
People wanting David Moore to be cut after Josh Gordon was claimed was one of the weirder things recently, but this is what he does best. Just eats up the cushion, gets leverage and puts himself in a position to win above the rim pic.twitter.com/GMpQhSB5Z7— Alistair Corp (@byAlistairCorp) November 27, 2019
Seattle’s offense is reliant on rhythm, both from the running game which they lean on so heavily, and from Wilson, who becomes impossible to defend when he able to deal from the pocket consistently. That reliance won’t change on wild card Sunday, but if they cannot get into a rhythm, they’ll be able to count on splash plays against a susceptible pass defense.
Nullifying Carson Wentz’s Secondary Targets
Unsurprisingly, Wentz targeted his beloved tight end Zach Ertz heavily in Week 12. Ertz saw 12 receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown; the rest of the Eagles’ skill position players combined for 21 catches and 165 yards. The Seahawks did well, certainly—Bradley McDougald battled valiantly against Dallas Goedert, Tre Flowers was excellent and Shaquill Griffin was his usual steady presence—but Philadelphia simply lacked weapons.
Their talent hasn’t improved since Week 12, but Wentz seems to have at least locked onto a couple other players he trusts: Over the last four weeks, Greg Ward and Boston Scott have joined Ertz and Goedert in Wentz’s stable of weapons. This could prove crucial for the Eagles, as Ertz’s status for Sunday is in serious doubt. That would put Seattle in a highly advantageous position on defense. Quandre Diggs’ return will allow McDougald to replicate his terrific performance on Goedert in Week 12; Flowers bullied Greg Ward in their first matchup and can do so again; and the Seahawks’ suffocating edge presence, if replicated, will make space for the diminutive Scott hard to come by. With Wentz potentially without his favorite target, and his secondary and tertiary weapons well defended, Philadelphia will find offense hard to come by.
Banged up and shell-shocked from the way their regular season finale ended, Seattle could understandably be doubted as they head into a hostile environment for wild card weekend. However, as they proved once already this season, they are capable of defeating the Eagles in a variety of ways on both sides of the ball, and are well equipped to do so again on Sunday.