Jadeveon Clowney returned in Week 17 from a core injury that had sidelined him, battling pain and constant double teams in the Seahawks’ close loss to the 49ers. As gut-wrenching as the tight defeat was, at least Seattle could take solace in the knowledge their best defensive lineman would appear moving forward. But then, the week came and went, and Clowney didn’t practice. Presumably pain management, but still cause for concern.
Come Sunday and the Seahawks’ wild card showdown against the Eagles, Clowney was off the injury report completely and on the field. Seattle needed him, and Clowney delivered in a brilliantly tough performance.
In a weirdly anonymous-yet-disruptive game, the Seahawks’ defensive line swarmed first Carson Wentz and then Josh McCown, registering seven sacks, nine QB hits and 11 tackles for loss—bringing their two game total against Philadelphia this season to 10 sacks, 18 QB hits and 17 tackles for loss.
Clowney’s input to Seattle’s total on Sunday was modest: One sack, two tackles for loss and a QB hit. The underlying numbers were more generous, and closer to painting the picture of the disruptive defender’s effectiveness against the Eagles:
Above all else, it was the way Clowney had to deliver this performance that makes it so heroic. As the second-half wore on, Clowney seemed to get slower, undoubtedly due to the pain he was fighting through. His trademark of marauding into the backfield to cause panic became less of a common sight, and the NBC broadcast continued to remind viewers just what he was dealing with.
In describing how he has to play through the pain of his core injury just over a month ago, after an excellent game against the Vikings, Clowney said “You feel it, but you try not to pay no attention (to it). You just keep playing through the pain,” and “Right now I’m trying to give my team all I’ve got and everything I’ve got dealing with that.”
Clowney did just that in the biggest game of the season, playing through the pain and delivering for his team. His final moment came on the Eagles’ final offensive play of the game, wrapping up McCown for a sack on fourth down that gave the Seahawks the ball back for good.
Fighting through pain and playing with an injury will be Clowney’s reality for the rest of the season, however long that is for Seattle. Luckily for the Seahawks, their reality is that Clowney continues to make plays for himself and his teammates, in the biggest moments.