In 2014, the last time the Seahawks put together a Super Bowl run, their proving game came in Week 14 at the Philadelphia Eagles.
That game was more of a test for Seattle’s No. 1 defense, which had built its ranking on the backs of some bad offenses and faced a big test against the league’s fourth-ranked offense. The Hawks dominated Chip Kelly’s Eagles, winning 24-14, and did not lose again that season.
This Eagles game brought a different challenge: The league’s No. 3 scoring defense against Seattle’s rollercoaster offense.
The Seahawks were coming off two pretty decent offensive games against AFC East teams Buffalo and New England, but the Eagles’ front posed a much bigger challenge.
Just like the defense in 2014, the offense proved itself in fine fashion. The Hawks put up a season-high 439 yards in a 26-15 victory that featured a bevy of big plays, a fully healthy Russell Wilson, a much more explosive running game and a resilient offensive line.
“We’re really pleased to see the offense continue to find its way, creating big plays and changing the field and putting points on the board,” Pete Carroll said. “It’s really a big swing we’ve made in the last three weeks and hopefully we’ll continue to keep pushing.”
The Hawks have averaged about 29 points over the past three weeks, and Wilson has gotten healthier and healthier. He showed he is back to 100 percent — or close enough — when he ran a wheel route on an end-around handoff and caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Doug Baldwin.
Before and after that, he lit up the airways himself with big passes — hitting Jimmy Graham on a scramble play for a 35-yard score, connecting on consecutive plays with Baldwin for 44 and Tyler Lockett for 30, and also hitting Baldwin for 34.
The Seahawks also got a couple of big runs — a nifty 72-yard score by C.J. Prosise and an 18-yard run by Thomas Rawls.
The Hawks had 33 big plays (defined as 25 yards passing, 10 running) coming into Week 11, and they added six Sunday. Thanks to Prosise’s 72-yard run (the seventh-longest in franchise history), the Hawks rushed for a season-high 152 yards.
“The balance we saw in the running game and passing game yesterday is really what we look for,” Carroll said. “It was the first time we had a really good feel for the running game the way we liked to see it. Things are getting better.”
The offensive line deserves a lot of credit for its development the last couple of weeks. That crew held up quite well against a very good defensive line.
“I thought the whole group played well,” Carroll said. “I thought they played maybe the most physical game we’ve had. Consistent again. We gave up one sack again on Russell … We needed to make another foot and we wouldn’t have had a sack. Russell worked well with the rush; I think they all fit together really well. … We went against a terrific front, one of the best in the NFL. I thought the guys held up well.”
Richard Sherman saw it, too: “Give them some credit; that was a good D-line, with some big-time playmakers, and they held up.”
Cliff Avril certainly deserves to join Seattle’s other Pro Bowl defenders. He leads the NFL with 10 sacks, one off the career best he set in 2011 with Detroit. He has been motivated by his promise to build a house in hurricane-ravaged Haiti for every sack he records. He has 32 sacks in 3.5 seasons with Seattle. That ranks ninth in team history. He could pass Rufus Porter (37.5) and Chris Clemons (38) this season, at this pace.
The Seahawks have had some excellent linebackers — e.g., Keith Butler, Chad Brown, Terry Wooden, Lofa Tatupu. But none of them ever did what Bobby Wagner has done: record 100 tackles in five straight seasons. He had 15 against Philly and leads the NFL with 108. K.J. Wright has been over 100 the past two years and has 87 now (10 vs. Philly).
Seattle’s special teams deserve kudos for handling Philadelphia’s stellar return units. It helped that Darren Sproles left with an injury after one return for 15 yards, but that was all the Eagles got. The Hawks still have problems on the field goal unit. Once again, Nolan Frese failed to get his head up at the snap to make a block, and it resulted in another blocked PAT. Steve Hauschka has missed four PATs this season, and two could be blamed on Frese for letting guys run right by him.
When is Lockett going to overtake Jermaine Kearse as the No. 2 receiver? Sure, Kearse has the experience and the contract, but he has dropped several passes in recent games and continually has trouble getting open on standard routes. He has caught just 28 of 47 targets (59.6 percent), including 2 of 6 vs. the Eagles. Lockett caught 2 of 3 vs. the Eagles and is 23 for 37 (62.2 percent) this season. It seems only a matter of time before Lockett and Paul Richardson (12 for 21) overtake Kearse.
How far has J’Marcus Webb fallen? He has gone from projected right tackle to substitute guard to backup tackle to third string to inactive. He could follow Christine Michael out of town shortly, if the Hawks want to save a roster spot for one of the injured players. But, even if he sticks around through end of the season, he clearly will not be back with Seattle in 2017. The team would recoup $2.75 million under the 2017 salary cap.