Clayton: Seahawks-Eagles will be a battle of attrition
The Seahawks’ playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles has the looks of a boxing match.
Both teams come into the game like heavyweight fighters who have fought too many rounds. The Seahawks and Eagles are battered by injuries. The Eagles have been destroyed at wide receiver. The Seahawks lost their top three running backs. Both teams have injuries on the offensive line.
Whoever can win the battle of attrition will advance into the divisional round of the playoffs next week. Let’s look at some of the keys to this wild-card game.
• Even though the NFC East turned out to be the worst division in NFL history, the Eagles rode the division route to get into the playoffs. Their four-game winning streak came against NFC East teams. They beat the New York Giants twice, the Washington Redskins once and then beat the Dallas Cowboys to take charge of the division.
At the very least, the Eagles gained confidence in getting to nine wins. The Seahawks lost three of their final four games and those games were divisional games. The difference is the NFC West is a much tougher division. The San Francisco 49ers are the NFC’s top seed. The Los Angeles Rams went to the Super Bowl last season. The Arizona Cardinals have Kyler Murray at quarterback and the team is getting better.
The Seahawks at least go to Philadelphia with the confidence that they won the last meeting there 17-9. On the road, the Seahawks won seven of eight games.
• The biggest difference from the last meeting against the Eagles is how the Seahawks lost just about everything in their backfield. Gone are Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and C.J. Prosise. The Seahawks went into the San Francisco season-finale with only one back, Travis Homer, who had eight carries in the 2019 season. Marshawn Lynch and Robert Tobin were signed but they hadn’t played since last year.
To win, the Seahawks need to get at least 100 yards rushing. That won’t be easy. The Eagles are the third best team stopping the run. It was stunning the Seahawks rushed for 174 yards in the Week 12 game against the Eagles. If the Seahawks have the running game, they can work play-action passes, getting the ball downfield.
• Don’t be surprised if John Ursua gets a little more action. He made a great catch at the 49ers 1-yard line last week. The only reason Ursua hasn’t been on the field is because Tyler Lockett has worked mostly from the slot this season.
Lockett finished the season with the third most yards from the slot at 731 yards, third behind Cooper Kupp and Julian Edelman. He averaged 14.3 yards per catch out of the slot.
• The Eagles blitzed more than 50 percent of the snaps in the last Seahawks game and ended up sacking Russell Wilson six times. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will probably use the same strategy Sunday.
• Not only do the Eagles have injuries on offense, but they are banged up at cornerback. Ronald Darby is on the injured reserve. Jalen Mills have been playing despite an ankle injury. As good as the Eagles defense is, the Eagles are vulnerable to long passes. Russell Wilson will certainly try to test them with some long throws.
• Doug Peterson deserves a lot of credit for getting the team into the playoffs. Down the stretch, he added some movement plays for Carson Wentz. Wentz carried the team down the stretch. He ended up throwing 607 passes this season, completing 63.9 percent and getting 4,039 yards. The Seahawks defense needs to do a good job with a four-man pass rush to put pressure on Wentz.
• The biggest injury to follow is right end Zach Ertz. He’s not been cleared for contact, but he will get another checkup Saturday. He has a rib injury and lacerated kidney. He’s one of the best tight ends in football. The injuries to Eagles receivers turned the Eagles into a two-tight end offense. Ertz had 88 catches for 916 yards in 15 games.
The Eagles lost the ability to get the ball downfield with DeSean Jackson on injured reserve. They’ve been playing unknown receivers such as Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Deontay Burnett and Robert Davis.
• One Eagle to watch is running back Boston Scott. Scott is a 5-6, 203-pound back who surprised everyone in the final weeks. Last week Scott had 54 yards rushing and 84 receiving. He’s taken over the running back role that used to be with Darren Sproles, who is on injured reserve and announced he will retire.
- Tune in to 710 ESPN Seattle weekdays at 10am for John Clayton's show.
The Professor’s Notes
John Clayton hosts a daily video breaking down the latest NFL news.