Eagles can't handle Wilson, Seahawks
SELDOM DOES a game leave you wondering exactly what it was that happened.
Really, are the Seahawks better than the Eagles? So much better that they traveled 3,000 miles and won at a site where the Eagles had not lost a regular-season game in two Halloweens?
Maybe. It's hard to be sure.
Ambiguity after a close contest: That is the mark of two fine football teams. It is a sign that those two teams should meet again in the postseason.
Now both 9-4, a rematch between the conference's most explosive offense and its stingiest defense is deliciously possible.
"Hopefully, we'll get a shot at them down the road," said Eagles coach Chip Kelly.
"I'd like that," said outside linebacker Trent Cole. "Them, and Green Bay."
No doubt, he would. There is a difference, though.
The Packers and Aaron Rodgers dismantled the Eagles.
The Seahawks and Russell Wilson just beat them.
Cole & Co. could not figure out Wilson's sleight of hand. Cole & Co. were no match for Wilson's fleetness of foot.
Wilson's performance was the difference on a cold Sunday evening and his Seahawks won, 24-14.
"It wasn't a surprise what he did to us today," defensive coordinator Billy Davis said.
The Eagles live by stopping the run, by hitting the quarterback and by utilizing a fast offensive tempo with faster weapons.
The Seahawks live by stopping everything, by feeding their Beast and by hoping their quarterback makes plays.
The Seahawks' quarterback made lots of plays, and the defense stopped everything, and so they won.
Wilson was even better than his statistics relate. He passed for 263 yards and two touchdowns on 22-for-37 passing. He rushed for 48 more yards and a score. It was an elegant execution, but an execution nonetheless.
If statuesque, precise and elusive Aaron Rodgers is Michael Jordan (or at least Larry Bird), then puppet master Russell Wilson is Isiah Thomas (or at least Chris Paul).
Wilson manages the read option with just enough quickness, with just enough speed, with a willingness and ability to throw and with ample field genius.
"You've got to keep him contained," Cole said.
The Eagles mush-rushed. They tried to corral Wilson inside the hash marks.
Generally, he was as glad to throw the ball away as he was to toss it downfield or break contain and try his luck. He was sacked twice, but for a guy who ran 10 times he was hit hard maybe four times.
Cole once bit so hard on a play fake that he ran 30 yards laterally before he realized Wilson had kept it. Cole improved as the game progressed, but by then the Seahawks held command.
Once, Wilson juked Fletcher Cox onto the ground while running away from the line of scrimmage.
"Twice," Cox corrected. "He got me twice."
Again and again Wilson made plays last 3, 4, 5 seconds longer than they should have lasted; kept his eyes downfield; and connected on easy throws.
Often, he made plays last on third down. The Seahawks converted seven of 16 third downs. Twice, they converted third-and-15; once, third-and-13.
"We weren't able to get stops when we needed to," cornerback Cary Williams said. "He's a great player. He's a guy who can extend plays with his legs, and he has a big arm. He can throw the ball anywhere in the field."
Those three long conversions directly resulted in only three of the Seahawks' points, but they contributed greatly to the Seahawks holding the ball more than twice as long as the Eagles.
"Whatever cards you're dealt as a defense, you've got to go out there and play your hardest," said Williams, who earlier in the season groused about fatigue as the Eagles' practice regimen and offensive scheme wore on the unit. "If you're out there for the whole 60 minutes or you're out there just 10 minutes."
Sometimes, when Wilson was gliding around the backfield, making defenders look like the Keystone Kops, it probably felt like 10 minutes to the Eagles' defensive backs.
"The guys in coverage get exhausted," Davis said.
"We had to stay with his receivers downfield," said cornerback Bradley Fletcher, flagged for a deep pass-interference call the Eagles disputed. "When we have the chance to face him again, we'll do a lot better."
Generally, the Eagles displayed enough second-level speed, in the personages of occasional spying linebackers Connor Barwin and Mychal Kendricks, to limit Wilson.
They also gambled, and sometimes they lost.
Davis called a blitz and Cole sold out to stop running back Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch in the first quarter, but Wilson kept it and trotted 26 yards for Seattle's first score.
"I've got to keep contain," Cole admitted. "I made the mistake of letting him out, and he scored."
They blitzed and left run-stopping safety Malcolm Jenkins one-on-one against Doug Balwdin, who blithely burned him for a 23-yard touchdown catch.
"I wish I had those two calls back," Davis said.
To their credit, Cox and Kendricks and Barwin were everywhere.
However, Wilson and Lynch and the Seahawks' secondary were magnificent, as expected. And yes, the Seahawks' defensive backs got away with a little homicide, but not outright murder.
When you're the league's best defense, a little homicide is legal.
With the back end blanketed, the front seven was free to focus on LeSean McCoy, who was held to 50 yards on 17 carries.
Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez did his job; that is, he didn't make so many mistakes that he lost the game himself.
Wilson himself was not perfect. He cost his team two field-goal attempts when he lost yardage on third downs. Then again, that's the earmark of young, elusive passers.
Wilson is, incredibly, in just his third season. Yesterday's was his 45th regular-season start.
The Eagles relish the thought of playing him, and his, again.
"I think we can compete against those guys," Williams insisted.
If the fates are kind, football fans will delight in watching these two sometime next month.