The Seahawks looked a bit more like champions Sunday night. Quite a bit more. Let’s take a look at how they pulled it off.
I said in my preview for this game, “control the ground game and minimize big plays by the opposing quarterback.” Anyone could have written that, and I’m sure thousands did, or at least said it. What surprised me was just how well the Seahawks executed that plan.
Seahawks controlled the Eagles ground game
It wasn’t that surprising that the Eagles didn’t break 100 yards rushing, as they were playing catch up in the second half. What was surprising was how little they ran, though. Just as they did against the Chiefs in their other loss this season, Philadelphia completely abandoned the run with a lot of time on the clock. Wentz handed off five times in the entire second half. Exactly what they did in their loss to the Chiefs. Three of those runs were in their first drive of the half. So with 5:42 left in the third quarter, the Eagles gave the ball to their three-headed running attack twice. Yes, twice.
Maybe, it was that Philadelphia wasn’t able to run more effectively when they were still trying. Their running backs only had 68 yards on 20 carries. That’s a 3.4 yard average. They came into CenturyLink Field with 1369 yards on 294 carries. That’s an average of nearly 4.7 yards. Again, that’s the running backs total, not including Wentz. The Seahawks front seven controlled the line of scrimmage. Hmmm… where did I hear that before? Right. Thanks, Steve.
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Seattle got their ground game going, finally
On the offensive side, Mike Davis had 64 yards on 16 carries. That may not sound like much, but it was the most of any Seahawks running back since Chris Carson rumbled for 93 against the 49ers back in week two. That’s a surprise too, as the Eagles had held opposing teams to just 716 yards on 207 carries. When you hold opponents to 3.5 yards per carry and just 65 yards per game, you’re going to win a lot. Mike Davis picked up 64 himself. He has brought ferocity back to the Seahawks running game.
He’s life for the Seahawks running game, that’s for certain. It can’t be overlooked that Davis ran well enough that the Eagles had to respect the run. They bit on several play-action fakes that opened things up for Seattle receivers. Wilson added 31 yards on six carries. Thomas Rawls added a four yard run, and Eddie Lacy got his now standard three yard gain. The ground game clearly belongs to Mike Davis now.
The Seahawks passing game was deadly
Another big surprise for me was that Russell Wilson got off to a good start for once. He was 8 – 10 in the first quarter with one touchdown and no interceptions. Two other passes weren’t completed, but forced the Eagles into pass interference and defensive holding calls. That is a very different start for Wilson. I think Pete Carroll let him take a nap, then woke him up and told him he’d slept through the first three quarters. He played most of the game like the fourth quarter magician he’s become.
After a quiet first half (one catch for nine yards), Doug Baldwin reminded the Eagles he’s a Pro Bowler. He looked particularly good on the 48 yard bomb that set up the Seahawks second touchdown. By game’s end, Wilson connected with his now favorite red zone target Jimmy Graham, speedster Tyler Lockett, and the stealth running back, J.D. McKissic.
The Eagles passing game was closer to dead
Compare that to what the retooled Seahawks defense did to Carson Wentz. The Eagles second year star did pass for over 300 yards, but he was pressured all night. According to Pro Football Focus, Wentz was pressured 27 times, or 58 percent of all his dropbacks. On average, he had been getting pressured just 32 percent of the time. Frank Clark continued his monster season, with two sacks, one hit, and five additional hurries.
Justin Coleman really stood out among the Legion of Boom. He allowed four of five pass completions thrown his way, but for a total of just 18 yards. Bradley McDougald and Shaquill Griffin played quite well, too. Bobby Wagner? Nah, he didn’t do much; just nine tackles and four assists. That’s a light night for that him. He probably drank a Coke and ate a sub on two of those plays. He’s just everywhere on that field.
Overall, it was as much a team win as the Seahawks have pulled off all year. Russell Wilson was stellar as always, but this time he had the ground game and the defense to make a lot of magic happen.