The Seahawks travel to Philadelphia for the second time this season, this time for a wild-card playoff game against the Eagles, who finished the season winning four straight games to claim the NFC East crown. To learn more about Seattle's playoff opponent, we reached out to PhiladelphiaEagles.com team insider Dave Padaro with five questions about the Eagles.
Q: Things looked bleak for the Eagles after they lost to Miami to fall to 5-7, what changed for Philadelphia to win four straight to win the division?
Spadaro: That loss in Miami served as a wake-up call to a team that entered the season with huge expectations and then hit rock bottom at 5-7. The team came back to Philadelphia and, prior to the Monday night game against New York, head coach Doug Pederson put the pads on in practice and the Eagles haven't looked back since. Really, it was the second half of the Giants game that turned it all around. The Eagles trailed 17-3 at halftime to the Giants and the fans booed them off the field at Lincoln Financial Field as they went into the locker room. Quarterback Carson Wentz got the offense moving and engineered the first overtime win of his career, and that seemed to build a lot of confidence.
Playing NFC East teams helped as well. The division was poor this season and the win over New York, coupled with another comeback win the following week at Washington, served as a couple of building blocks for the critical Week 16 victory over Dallas that pushed the Eagles into first place in the division."
Q: Other than not turning the ball over five times, what do the Eagles need to do better this weekend compared to how they played in the previous meeting with Seattle?
Spadaro: A team that ranked third in the NFL against the run allowed 174 yards that day to Seattle, including a 58-yard touchdown run from Rashaad Penny. A trick play – a perfectly executed flea flicker – went for a Seattle touchdown. The Eagles converted only 4 of 12 third downs on offense. Seattle, a team that recorded only 28 quarterback sacks all season – second-fewest of any team in the NFL – had three that day and pressured quarterback Carson Wentz into a myriad of mistakes.
The Eagles didn't finish drives and, while they corralled Russell Wilson about as well as a defense can hope, the defense allowed two big plays for touchdowns.
This is a football team that plays so much better with a lead. It's important on Sunday to jump out on Seattle, control the line of scrimmage, run the ball effectively and get the crowd lathered up and into it.
Q: Considering all the injuries around him, just how impressive has Carson Wentz been this season, and how is he approaching his first playoff start after dealing with injuries in previous playoff seasons?
Spadaro: This isn't the offense the Eagles expected when they traded for wide receiver DeSean Jackson and running back Jordan Howard and drafted running back Miles Sanders. They expected to be one of the league's best offenses. Instead, injuries robbed manpower from this team. And, much like Seattle, the coaching staff had to adjust its game plan. Wentz has thrived in the "small-ball" approach, throwing to players like wide receiver Greg Ward, tight end Joshua Perkins and running back Boston Scott, all of whom were on the practice squad this season. In this four-game winning streak, Wentz has seven touchdown passes and zero interceptions (he does have two lost fumbles, however) and he's been in command of the offense. For the season, Wentz has 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He's been resourceful and, when the situation has dictated, he's been able to move the chains with his legs.
In 2017, Wentz threw 33 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions in 13 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He was a prime MVP candidate that year. Wentz hasn't been quite at that level in 2019, but he's been very good working with a far less-talented cast.
Q: Way back in 2010, the Seahawks won a much-maligned NFC West at 7-9, heard how it was unfair they got to host a playoff game despite an inferior record to their wild-card opponent, then with a considerable chip on their collective shoulder, they went out and won as a home underdog. Are the Eagles looking to follow a similar script, or does a four-game winning streak that gave them a winning record take away that underdog mentality?
Spadaro: When you have gone to the practice squad well to promote 13 players to your active roster during the course of the season – the number is now up to 15 as the Eagles brought in running back Elijah Holyfield (Carolina) and wide receiver Shelton Gibson (Cleveland) – it's an inherent underdog mentality. The players who are here – 10 players who were on practice squads this season suited up for the Eagles in their NFC East-clinching win Sunday at the Giants – are hungry, trying to prove themselves. That, more than the criticism the NFC East has received this season, is the driving force for an underdog mentality.
Q: The Eagles did a good job, one trick play notwithstanding, containing the Seahawks passing game the last time around. Since then, however, cornerback Ronald Darby has gone on IR, and corners Jalen Mills and Avonte Maddox are both banged up. How tough will it be for the Eagles to match their defensive play from the previous meeting?
Spadaro: Very difficult, especially considering the job the Eagles did on Wilson – six sacks, limiting him to 200 passing yards. But the Eagles have allowed just under 17 points a game at home this season, it's a veteran group and they know the stakes. If they can match their physical intensity from the last couple of weeks, the Eagles will give Seattle's offense some challenges. As much as the Eagles have injuries, so do the Seahawks.
It comes down to how the Eagles handle Wilson, though. He's so creative and efficient and smart and just a great quarterback who is 4-0 against Philadelphia. Just when you think you have him tackled for a loss, he vanishes and is making a big play down the field.
The Seahawks and the Eagles will meet for Monday Night Football at Lincoln Financial Field for the 18th matchup during the regular season. Take a look back at photos from past games between the two teams.