Wed, 20 Jan 2021

Week 12 Key Matchups: Seahawks at Eagles

Seahawks
01 Dec 2020, 19:50 GMT+10

Taking a look at three key matchups that could make the difference in Seattle’s Week 12 game vs. Philadelphia. Jen Mueller

Monday night's game in Philadelphia marks the sixth meeting between the Seahawks and Eagles since 2014. Seattle has won the previous five games, including a regular season matchup in 2019 and a wild card game. These key matchups could help the Seahawks extend their winning streak against the Eagles.

Seattle Pass Pro vs. Graham and Cox

It's tempting to overlook a team with a 3-6-1 record, but it would be a mistake to underestimate the Eagles front four and Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox in particular. Those defensive stalwarts are a big reason the Eagles rank second in the league in sacks with 34. Graham leads Philadelphia with seven. The Eagles have the fourth best pressure rate in the league but don't need to blitz to get home. In fact, they blitz just 24.1% of the time (compared to Seattle's 34.2% blitz rate) but they successfully pressure quarterbacks on 25.5% of dropbacks.

"I think Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham are some of the best players to ever play this game at the defensive line position," quarterback Russell Wilson said. "They know how to get to the quarterback. They're so intelligent. They make plays. They do some things that other guys just can't do. They're some of the top rushers to ever play this game."

All that is to say, it's going to be a battle up front.

The Seahawks benefit from the return of center Ethan Pocic which allows rookie Damien Lewis to slide back to his natural position at right guard, but right tackle Brandon Shell has been ruled out with an ankle injury. Cedric Ogbuehi takes over for Shell and will be making his first start since 2017.

If the Seahawks can keep Wilson clean, there's an opportunity to take advantage of an Eagles secondary that's managed just three interceptions this season and couldn't keep DK Metcalf bottled up in the Seattle's wild card win in January. Metcalf set a franchise and NFL rookie record with 160 receiving yards in the game.

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A solid running game from the Seahawks will help keep the Eagles defense honest and alleviate some of that pressure up front. On the surface it appears the Eagles run defense is susceptible to giving up a lot of yards. The 133.4 rushing yards allowed per game ranks 25th in the league, but the 4.2 yards per rushing attempt ranks 11th.

Here's where history is on the side of the Seahawks. When these teams met last November Rashaad Penny rushed for a career high 129 yards on 14 carries, proving the Seahawks know how to get yards on the ground against the Eagles tough defensive front. However, neither Penny nor Chris Carson were available in the wild card game in which Seattle managed 64 total yards of rushing. Wilson led all rushers with 45 yards.

Last week against Arizona the Seahawks ran for 165 yards on 31 attempts. The second-highest rushing total of the year coincided with the return of Carlos Hyde who missed three games with a hamstring injury. Russell Wilson's 10 rushing attempts were the most by the quarterback this season. His passing numbers have garnered a lot of attention this season but being able to run the ball keeps all the options on the table.

"In the running game we've done some great things, too, and to have our running backs healthy we want to have everybody out there," Wilson said. "We want to have all our best players out there and get the ball facilitated whether it's running it, throwing it, all that stuff."

The return of Chris Carson adds another powerful runner to the mix. He was averaging 4.9 yards per carry before spraining in his foot in Week 7.

Seahawks pressure packages vs. Carson Wentz

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is taking a lot of heat from fans in Philadelphia and has been feeling the heat from opposing defenses all season. He's been sacked 40 times, the most in the NFL. He's also thrown a league-high 14 interceptions and accounted for 18 turnovers.

Those numbers could easily increase this week thanks to Seattle's increasingly effective pass rush. The Seahawks have tallied the second-most sacks since Week 8 when safety Jamal Adams returned from injury and defensive end Carlos Dunlap was added via trade. It's not just the talent they bring, but the mindset.

"Execution, effort and a want-to," Adams said. "I think that's what it's all about when it comes to blitzing. Obviously there's different techniques as far as getting a jump on the ball or knowing the formation, but I think for us it's just executing and having that want-to attitude."

The impact of that attitude and pressure permeates the entire defense. As defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said this week, there's a confidence in knowing big plays can be made in crucial moments.

"It really lifts up your group it really lifts up the secondary because they know the offensive quarterback doesn't have one, two or three reads across the board," Norton said. "He's getting one read and getting off the spot. So it allows everybody to take chances and be confident and not feel like they have to cover the guy for the entire five, six, seven seconds during the play."

The Hawks will look to force Wentz into bad situations like they did when generating five turnovers in the Week 12 matchup last year. That means forcing him to throw the ball more, especially since the Eagles average just 4.99 yards per passing play, second worst in the league. Limited effectiveness in the passing game has led to problems across the board for the Philadelphia offense. They're just 2-21 on third down tries in the last two games and among the lowest scoring teams in the league, averaging 22 points a game.

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