Seahawks Bracing for Breezy Conditions in Wild Card Rematch Against Eagles
Thanks to wind gusts topping 40 miles per hour, points were hard to come by for the Seahawks and Eagles when the two teams met at Lincoln Financial Field in late November.
By his standards, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson endured a difficult afternoon and was uncharacteristically inaccurate, completing only 13 out of 25 passes for 200 yards. He connected with receiver Malik Turner on a first quarter flea flicker for a 33-yard touchdown, but he also misfired on an easy touchdown throw to tight end Jacob Hollister and also missed on a couple deep throws to receiver DK Metcalf.
On the flip side, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz performed even worse in the swirling, blustery conditions without receivers Alshon Jeffrey, Desean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor, throwing two interceptions and finishing 33 for 45 with 245 passing yards and a late garbage touchdown. Harassed all afternoon long by an active pass rush, he also lost two fumbles.
“I thought that the wind in that stadium had an effect on both teams, both teams’ passing game,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Wednesday.
As Wilson noted after the game, Seattle could have built a larger halftime lead than 10-3 in a game that felt more lopsided than the score indicated. But missed opportunities throwing the football such as the red zone pass that sailed over Hollister’s head kept Philadelphia in the game.
Still, Seattle held on for a 17-9 road victory in large part due to creating five defensive turnovers and the strength of its rushing attack, headlined by a career-high 129 rushing yards by running back Rashaad Penny. The second year back sealed the win with an explosive 58-yard touchdown run to extend the team’s lead to 17-3 early in the fourth quarter.
Facing the then-fourth ranked rushing defense in the NFL, the Seahawks racked 174 rushing yards and averaged nearly seven yards per carry, neutralizing the effects of the weather. The Eagles weren’t quite as successful, rushing for 106 yards and 4.6 yards per carry, forcing Wentz to throw it 20 more times than Wilson.
Fast forwarding six weeks later, coach Pete Carroll expects to see similar weather conditions in Sunday’s wild card rematch. While he believes the Seahawks will be more aptly prepared because of playing in heavy winds earlier this year, it still won’t be easy sledding throwing the football.
“We saw the ball that they threw a couple times. Got moved and it happened to Russ [Wilson] and the receivers a couple times. We need to be better at handling that. It’s an unusual condition in that stadium because the wind isn’t that strong, but yet it has a big effect because of the way it swirls in and out. We got to do a nice job with that.”
While Wilson and Wentz may both be negatively impacted by such conditions, defensive players such as linebacker Bobby Wagner could not care less about the possibility of strong winds. In fact, a strong argument can be made that it aids their jobs slowing down two of the better quarterbacks in the NFC.
With so much at stake in a win or go home scenario, Wagner expects both teams will have game plans prepared to help their quarterbacks get the ball to their play makers and anticipates the Seahawks could see more quick passes and screens.
“Honestly the winds doesn’t really effect my game. I just see a body and go hit it,” Wagner stated. “As far as the pass concepts and things of that nature, I’m not a quarterback so I don’t know how they’re throwing the ball. At the end of the day, they know how to get the balls to the guys no matter what the conditions are, whether it’s raining, windy, whatever.”
To take some pressure off Wilson, Seattle will likely lean on its ground game once again, but circumstances have changed drastically in the backfield since the first matchup. Penny tore his ACL, starter Chris Carson suffered a season-ending hip injury, and Marshawn Lynch came out of retirement last week.
Lynch and rookie Travis Homer will be the primary ball carriers this time around, and while both ran well against San Francisco last week, it’s not as dynamic of a duo as Carson and Penny offered. Philadelphia also boasts a talented, physical defensive front led by All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox that isn't easy to run against.
At the end of the day, Wilson will need to be the one to carry Seattle deep in the playoffs, regardless of the shenanigans Mother Nature pulls.
After battling similar elements earlier this year, Carroll doesn’t have any doubts Wilson will have a better grasp on slinging the pigskin this time around as the Seahawks push for a berth into the divisional round and a likely third date with the 49ers.
“It’s going to be almost exactly the same it sounds. It’s going to be about 50 miles per hour winds and low 40s or high 30s or whatever. Very similar to that same setting we played in and we’ll be better because of it.”