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It was not pretty, and it was probably far more difficult than it should have been, given the circumstances, but the Seattle Seahawks went on the road and beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the final game of the wild card round, prevailing by a 17-9 score.
Seattle took an early lead but never really extended it far enough to put the Eagles away, despite the fact that Philadelphia was working without so many injured players on both defense and offense -- including Carson Wentz, who was concussed during the first quarter. The Seahawks struggled to run the ball all game, yet insisted on running it often. They also took 11 penalties, allowing the Eagles to stay in a game they probably had no business competing in once Wentz went down.
In the end, two players made the difference in the game: Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf. Wilson did his usual thing, making something out of nothing often. But it was Metcalf's breakout game that truly stood out. He scored what ended up being the game-winning touchdown on a 53-yard strike from Wilson. He sealed the game with a similarly-placed 36-yard catch down the field, skying over two Eagles defensive backs to haul it in and allow his team to run out the clock. He ended the game with seven catches for 160 yards and the aforementioned score.
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The Seattle defense held Philadelphia to just three points, holding Wentz to 1 of 4 passing for three yards before his exit, then sacking Josh McCown six times on 34 dropbacks and pressuring him far more often. Seattle ended the game with seven total sacks, nine QB hits, and 11 tackles for loss. They held the Eagles to 3 of 11 on third down, 0 of 2 on fourth, and 0 of 3 on their red zone trips.
Good quarterback play, explosive wide receiver play, and solid defense is as good a recipe for playoff success as there is in the NFL, and that's what the Seahawks got on Sunday. They'll need it again to win in Green Bay next week.
Why the Seahawks won
Mostly, because they have Russell Wilson. Seattle's run game was completely non-existent in this game, and what little offensive production the team had was almost entirely the result of Wilson's brilliance. He escaped crowded pockets and made plays downfield on several occasions. He made plays with his legs, scrambling six times for 48 yards, including a 22-yard scamper for a huge first down. He made the biggest play of the game, finding DK Metcalf streaking up the seam for a 53-yard score. The Seattle defense should not go unmentioned, though. The front four -- in particular -- did a strong job of keeping pressure on Carson Wentz and Josh McCown all night long. They registered seven sacks, nine quarterback hits, and 11 tackles for loss.
Why the Eagles lost
They were decimated by injuries on offense, and their defense was just shy of good enough to make up for it. Philly came into this game without Lane Johnson, Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, and Brandon Brooks, while Zach Ertz was playing with a broken rib and a lacerated kidney. By the end of the first quarter, they were also without Carson Wentz. Miles Sanders got banged up on the final play of the first half. There just were not enough threats on the field to truly do damage to the Seattle defense. Meanwhile, Philadelphia's defensive front did an excellent job of bottling up Marshawn Lynch (six carries, seven yards) and Travis Homer (11 carries, 12 yards), but the secondary was torched by DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett (four catches, 62 yards), and gave up additional crucial gains to Lynch and David Moore.
It has to be the Wentz injury, which happened about midway through the first quarter. Wentz attempted to scramble away from Seahawks defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney, and while he was going to the ground, Clowney clocked him in the back of the head. Wentz's head then banged off the turf, and he was taken into the medical tent and eventually, back to the locker room. He had thrown just four passes and taken only eight snaps before exiting. McCown did an admirable job filling in, considering the circumstances, but pretty much all hope of explosive plays from the Philly offense went out the window when Wentz went down. With nearly all of their perimeter weaponry missing, the Eagles were mostly limited to check-downs to their running backs and tight ends. It's extremely difficult to run an offense that way, and it showed.
Play of the game
The 53-yard touchdown toss to Metcalf. It's a thing of beauty.
Everything about this play works fantastically well.
The Seahawks motion Tyler Lockett from the left side of the formation to the right, snapping the ball while he's crossing the field. Wilson fakes a hand-off to Travis Homer, who chips a rusher on the left side of the line. Lockett draws the attention of the wide side safety, while David Moore's crossing route holds the linebacker underneath.
All of this allows Metcalf to take the top off the defense, splitting two defensive backs to get down the field. Wilson almost overthrows him, but Metcalf has such an enormous catch radius that he's able to haul it on while going to the ground, spring back up to his feet, and tumble into the end zone. Gorgeous.
The Eagles are eliminated from the playoffs. They'll have the No. 21 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They have needs in the secondary and at wide receiver, and one would assume they'll want to make sure they have a very strong backup quarterback, given that Wentz's last three seasons have now ended in injury.
The Seahawks advance to the divisional round, where they'll meet the Green Bay Packers. That game will be played at Lambeau Field, next Sunday (Jan. 12) at 6:40 p.m. ET.