Fresh off of handing the New England Patriots their second loss of the season, the Seahawks hosted the Philadelphia Eagles at CenturyLink Field. The Eagles, led by rookie QB Carson Wentz, had hoped to stop their three game losing streak with an impressive road win against Seattle in the home of the screaming 12s. That wouldn’t happen. Wentz would throw two TDs, two interceptions and get sacked twice, but the Eagles were unable to get a lot of offensive plays going throughout most of the game to bring it close enough.
After a pair of three and outs by both teams, C.J. Prosise ripped off a 72 yard run (on 2nd and 2) that resulted in a touchdown and put Seattle up 6-0. Stephen Hauschka’s point after kick was blocked, and Seattle clung to the 6-0 lead for most of first quarter. Philly actually moved the ball beyond center field and found a way to score at the beginning of second quarter to go up 7-6.
On the next Seattle drive, a pair of false start penalties by the offensive line made the completions come from the likes of 1st and 15 and 2nd and 20. The ‘Hawks benefitted from the return of Thomas Rawls, whose 18 yard run led to a crucial 3rd down conversion on 3rd and 11, in which Russell Wilson scrambled out and found Jimmy Graham on a naked bootleg that went for 35 yards and a touchdown.
The Eagles would seemingly come back and take the lead off of a 57 yard touchdown run by tight end Zach Ertz, but it was nullified by an illegal formation penalty, which head coach Doug Pederson was livid about. He tried fruitlessly to get his bunched receivers attention to move up to the line of scrimmage before the snap on 3rd and 6. An ensuing punt two plays later gave Seattle the ball back at 5:30 to play in the first half.
On the next possession, Seattle moved 70 yards on two plays, one 44-yarder by Doug Baldwin and a 30-yarder by Tyler Lockett. From the Philly 3 yard line, they were unable to score a touchdown, instead settling for a Stephen Hauschka Field Goal with 3:00 to go. The ‘Hawks would go into halftime with a 16-7 lead.
During the 3rd quarter, Darell Bevell decided to dial up a trick play, having Wilson toss a backwards pass to Doug Baldwin, who promptly found Wilson untouched and running free for a 15 yard receiving touchdown. When Baldwin discovered the call was to toss the TD to Wilson in place of him making an attempt at a receiving TD in the red zone, promptly flipped Bevell ‘the bird’ on the sidelines. The NFL later fined him over $12,000 for what they defined as an ‘inappropriate gesture’ By the time the 4th quarter had arrived, Seattle was holding onto a 26-7 lead.
Injuries, though, plagued both teams throughout this game. C.J. Prosise would leave the game with a fractured scalpula after his day of totaling 76 yards and a score on the ground. Thomas Rawls rushed in relief of Prosise for 57 yards on 14 carries, but appeared gassed out by later in the game. With Alex Collins a healthy scratch, recent re-signee Troymaine Pope rushed for three yards before exiting the game with a high ankle injury. The injuries got to be so bad that backup QB Trevor Boykin came in to rush for for two plays, finishing with -5 yards and taking a massive hit from an Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox as soon as the ball was in his hands. Earl Thomas left the game with a hamstring injury earlier that he would not return from, and DeShawn Shead did as well. Towards the end of the game, both teams were wincing with regards to injury.
Despite injuries to two starters, the Seattle defense came up huge in this game, twice intercepting Carson Wentz (one by Kam Chancellor before halftime and Richard Sherman in the third quarter). Cliff Avril and Bobby Wagner sacked Wentz twice (yet ANOTHER house to be built in Haiti!), and even with Wentz scrambling abilities, the ‘Hawks line was converging upon him just about every play. Wagner tallied 15 total tackles, further pushing his stellar season along. The next Seattle player had 10 tackles, and that was K.J. Wright. Seattle’s defense kept Philly’s offense to convert 6 for 16 on third down, and 1 for 3 on fourth down. Particularly once the injuries caught up to the ‘Hawks, the Eagles found it easier to travel down the field, but even with a touchdown drive at 3:46, they weren’t able to come close enough back into contention.
Seattle was out-gained slightly by Philly in 1st downs (20-18), but Philly was crushed in relation to total yards (439-308), total passing yards (287-195), and barely held on for time of possession (31:06-28:04). Of interesting note, both teams had similar number of penalty yards (48) and no fumbles.
This game seemed to cement a particularly troubling trend of missed PAT kicks and Field Goals. In a time where many kickers are routinely missing kicks, Stephen Hauschka seems to miss at least once a game now. Without trying to immediately place blame, head coach Pete Carroll has said over many postgame press conferences that some kicks “trajectory was too low”, or that an ‘errant snap or hold’ is to blame. Upon further review of the last two games, center Nolan Friese appears to have immense trouble staying upright after snapping the ball, either being bull rushed back into his teammates or thrown to the ground entirely. In this game, Seattle left 4 points on the board. With Carolina, Green Bay and three straight division games to end the regular season, hopefully this isn’t a trend that continues.
Next, the ‘Hawks travel to Tampa Bay to face a Buccaneers squad that beat the Kansas City Chiefs in their own stadium. While Tampa Bay has a suspect secondary and lackluster running game as of late, they possess big play ability in the Jameis Winston to Mike Evans connection, and tight end Cameron Brate, who has stood out as another viable passing option since the Bucs’ original tight end was released after poor early season play. Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, and DeShawn Shead lead a list a of doubtful to players listed as out. Though the ‘Hawks have plenty of firepower to outright win this game on offense, their kicking struggles as of late add a measure of uncertainty and a legitimate question mark to see if the special teams unit can stand up to keep the game out of Tampa Bays grasp.
Seattle currently enjoys a 3 game lead on Arizona for the NFC West title, and the Dallas Cowboys are the #1 seed in the NFC at 10-1. In a rather odd turn of events, no team that Seattle faces from here on out has a winning record currently. The resolving of Russell Wilsons health couldn’t have come at a better time.