Can Seahawks control the tempo against Eagles’ fast-paced offense?

Dec 6, 2014, 1:32 PM | Updated: 1:37 pm
The challenge for the Seahawks against Philadelphia is keeping up with an offense that averages 73 plays per game, most of any team in the NFL. (AP)
(AP)

Speed.

It’s what everyone talks about when discussing the Eagles’ offense, the tempo and coach Chip Kelly’s desire to get an opponent’s RPMs revving into the red zone until the engine seizes up.

Speed is also something that’s not discussed often enough in the evaluation of Seattle’s defense.

“We’re fast just like those guys,” linebacker K.J. Wright said.

That goes for the format of the defense as much as the footspeed with a no-huddle mode that has been drilled into Seattle’s defense since the offseason complete with a communication system that values brevity.

“We use one word for most of our calls, and we go from there,” Wright said. “So the communication, we don’t have to do a bunch of talking out there to get on the same page.”

Good, because there’s not going to be a lot of time for conversation. At least not Sunday in Philadelphia when the Seahawks face an Eagles team that runs an average of 73 offensive plays from scrimmage, most of anyone in the NFL.

Don’t expect that to intimidate the Seahawks’ defense, though.

“We don’t panic in those situations,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “We understand in those situations they have to deal with us as much as we have to deal with them.”

That was a mantra for Seattle’s defense last year: “They’ve got to deal with us”. That’s something Seattle’s past two opponents haven’t dealt with very well, the Seahawks holding the Cardinals and the 49ers to a field goal apiece.

But that was against an Arizona team that was starting a backup quarterback and a 49ers offense that has scored more than 20 points just once in its past six games.

Philadelphia is a different equation entirely. Not only are the Eagles one of five teams averaging more than 30 points, they have yet to be held to fewer than 20 points in any game this season. Running back LeSean McCoy ranks third in the NFL in rushing yards and Darren Sproles is averaging 6.6 yards per carry while receiver Jeremy Maclin has five plays of 50 or more yards this season.

All that is coming from an offense choreographed by Kelly, the former Oregon coach that a number of Seattle’s players – as well as its coach – faced back in college.

What was most impressive about that Ducks offense?

“The simplicity of their variety,” Sherman said.

What he meant is that it wasn’t the volume of plays Oregon had at its disposal, but the way it arranged those plays and the tempo they were executed at.

“You don’t know when any of them are coming,” Sherman said.

The Eagles’ playbook is more expansive than Oregon’s, but that doesn’t mean the fundamental premise has changed.

“Before I watched film, I thought it was going to be a lot of trick stuff, a lot of fakes,” Wright said. “But it’s really simple. They’re running simple plays. They’re just going fast.”

And speed is something that hasn’t necessarily been a problem for the Seahawks. Not in terms of the players they’ve faced or the tempo that opposing offenses have tried to sustain.

The Patriots came to Seattle in 2012, pushing the pace as fast as it can be pushed in the NFL. New Orleans, Green Bay and Denver are all teams that can employ a hurry-up tempo, but the Seahawks haven’t exactly been lapped in those games. In fact, those have been the opponents for some of Seattle’s most significant victories the past three seasons.

But on Sunday, the Seahawks will face what may be their biggest test in terms of tempo.

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Can Seahawks control the tempo against Eagles’ fast-paced offense?