One week after systematically dismantling the Cowboys defense on Thanksgiving, the Eagles offense was completely dominated by the Seahawks. Seattle’s D was the more talented unit, and their execution was nearly flawless. The result was a paltry 14-point output by Philadelphia’s high-flying attack.
Stopping the Run:
The Eagles’ running game is based off of sweeps and zone reads. The scheme is centered on getting LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles in space, where they are both very good at using their athleticism to make defenders miss.
The Seahawks defense has the perfect antidote to this type of running game – team speed and discipline. When big running lanes were created on Sunday, Seattle linebackers and safeties plugged them quickly. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor were like missiles on the football field as both aggressively attacked ball carriers fearlessly. As a whole, Seattle defenders were great at playing to their responsibilities. Outside force players kept McCoy and Sproles from being able to bounce runs to the edge for big plays.
McCoy is a dynamic runner. However, he isn’t a power back. He runs to avoid contact. His strengths are his quickness and elusiveness, and he uses these to pick up big chunks of yards. He gets himself in trouble, though, when he tries to hit the home run on every play.
There were times on Sunday, as there have been all season, where the play was blocked for at least a 5-yard gain. Instead of sticking with the run, McCoy would try to cut it back. Then he would see a defender closing, and instead of lowering his shoulder and taking the 5 yards, he would try to avoid the contact, make another cutback, and end up being caught for minimal or no gain. This was one reason for Philly’s stalled running game. The Eagles finished with just 57 yards on 22 rushing attempts against Seattle.
Seahawks Pass Defense:
The Seahawks are not complicated as a defense. They’re one of the few teams in the NFL that can play pretty much the same coverage on every play and still be effective with it. This is because their talent level is so high.
In addition to the talent, the Seahawks have a bunch of smart defenders. Their secondary reads and reacts to route concepts better than any team in the league. Whether they play man or zone, they are rarely fooled. This coupled with their team speed means lots of incompletions and very few yards after the catch.
The Seahawks weren’t fooled by the Eagles’ passing game on Sunday. Their corners stayed on the same side of the field on almost every play, eliminating some potential for confusion. Sherman stayed on the left side as he normally does. Tharold Simon stayed on the other side, and Byron Maxwell played inside. Seattle played with nickel personnel all game to get more speed on the field and match up with Philly’s 3-wide-receiver sets.
The Seahawks played almost all single high (as they always do) with a little more zone than man. They played with lots of lurk or robber coverage, where safety Kam Chancellor roamed the intermediate middle area of the field, ready to pounce on any crossing routes. Regardless of the coverage, Seattle was ready for whatever route combinations Philly threw at them. Their smarts and speed were too much for the Eagles to overcome.
Mark Sanchez only finished with 96 passing yards. Quite frankly, his struggles shouldn’t have been a surprise. He is still Mark Sanchez despite some good performances this season. He’s in a quarterback-friendly system, and this has been the biggest reason for his success this season. The system wasn’t working on Sunday, though, and Sanchez isn’t talented enough to make up for that against a good defense. Sunday’s game was a glimpse of what the Eagles will need to overcome to succeed in January.