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Originally published December 7, 2014 at 8:37 PM | Page modified December 7, 2014 at 10:05 PM

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Seahawks defense playing with poise, power, bravado

The Seahawks answered the challenge of Philadelphia’s hurry-up offense with its most dominant performance of the season.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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PHILADELPHIA – In the end, after Michael Bennett’s sack-dancing and Richard Sherman’s crowd-taunting, after LeSean McCoy had been turned into Slim-Gain Shady and the Eagles’ hurry-up ground to a near-halt, Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner posed a simple question.

“I heard a lot of talk about the high-tempo offense,’’ he said. “But what about our high-tempo defense?”

This eagerly anticipated matchup turned out to be no contest. Chip Kelly’s vaunted offense, predicated on a frenetic pace that leaves opponents perpetually one step behind, was made to look like it was run by a bunch of plodders by Seattle’s defense.

“Personally, I feel I’ve played faster offenses than that,’’ Wagner said dismissively.

That’s what happens when you present the Seahawks’ defense with a challenge, at precisely the time when they’re getting their mojo back. Kelly’s offense is unstoppable? Seattle’s mindset clearly was: We’ll see about that.

That’s what happens when you play with acute discipline, and when you seem to know every Philadelphia nuance before it occurs.

“Earlier in the week, everyone brushed me off when I said they’ve got to deal with us like we have to deal with them,’’ said Richard Sherman. “That’s what happened today. You can hurry up all you want, but if you can’t get yards and you can’t complete passes, it’s just quick three-and-outs.”

Indeed, the Eagles’ great strength quickly became their undoing. The Seahawks controlled the ball, and the game, leading to the most anemic output of Kelly’s coaching career. You can’t wreak havoc if you’re not on the field, and the Seahawks never let the Eagles get unleashed.

“You saw it. If you can get off the field, if you can stop them, if you can be ready when they’re ready, if you understand their play concepts and read the indicator quick enough, you can get them off the field,’’ Sherman said.

An Eagles team that was averaging 416.2 yards was held to just 139 — the fewest by any team of Kelly’s as a head coach, and the least by a Seahawks opponent since they held the 49ers to a team-record-low 113 yards in 2005.

Such was Seattle’s domination that usually aggressive Kelly elected to punt with three minutes left in the game despite a 10-point deficit.

“I just didn’t think we were going to convert,’’ Kelly admitted.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, are playing with every bit of poise, power, precision and bravado they did last year. In three consecutive victories over quality foes, they have allowed fewer yards each week.

For the second straight game, they went on the road and dominated, to the point that Lincoln Financial Field had virtually cleared out by the two-minute warning.

“Yeah, it was a message,’’ Kam Chancellor said. “But the message wasn’t to anyone outside of this team. The message is to each other.”

The Seahawks knew that to stop the Eagles, they would have to tackle cleanly, above all else. They had watched on film as Philadelphia opponents were schemed out of position, taking bad angles and letting McCoy slip away.

McCoy was held to 50 yards on 17 carries, just 2.9 yards per attempt. Quarterback Mark Sanchez, who had been receiving growing acclaim for his work in place of injured Nick Foles, had just 96 yards through the air.

Asked what he saw from Sanchez, Bennett replied, “The same thing everyone else saw: Not much. I don’t really care for that guy.”

The Seahawks suddenly are playing with a chip on their shoulders and fire in their eyes. It’s a look reminiscent of last year, though they are allergic to 2013 comparisons.

Sherman said they were so thoroughly coached that they had an answer for every Eagles wrinkle. But beyond impeccable preparation there is a collective mindset that now that they are healthy, they are virtually impenetrable.

“We’re making it pretty hard for offenses to score,’’ Wagner said. “They’ve really got to have something crazy happen to score.”

Cornerback Tharold Simon added, “Not being cocky, but we just know how we come together, and how we go out and practice every day. I don’t think no offense can come out here and compete with our defense. I think we’re that dominant.”

It was a victory that further re-establishes the Seahawks as a strong contender to defend their Super Bowl title of last season. But to Bennett, it was just another step down the road.

“All the wins feel exactly the same,’’ he said. “Like the first time I kissed my wife, exactly the same.”

Bennett almost scoffed when asked if this experience of winning a big game on the road would pay off for this team in the future.

“We already have all the experience every other team wants,’’ he responded.

And they’re playing like a team that wants to do it again, with verve and passion.

“We’re celebrating every play, enjoying each other,’’ Sherman said. “Today, we weren’t able to celebrate as much because we had to be on the ball so quickly, with the hurry-up.”

The celebration would come later, along with the satisfaction of knowing that another offensive challenge had been met.

What if the playoffs started today?
The Seahawks would be a wild-card team and would face Atlanta.
Top 2 AFC teamsSeedW-L
Broncos110-3
Patriots29-3
Top 2 NFC teamsSeedW-L
Cardinals110-3
Packers29-3
Other AFC playoff teamsSeedW-L
Colts39-4
Bengals48-4-1
Chargers58-4
Steelers68-5
Other NFC playoff teamsSeedW-L
Eagles39-4
Falcons45-7
Seahawks59-4
Lions69-4
Source: nfl.com
Total shutdown
The Eagles have been one of the most productive and up-tempo offenses in the NFL this season. But Sunday, it was an entirely different story:
CategoryEntering Sundayvs. Seahawks
Total net yards416139
Net passing yards28682
Net rushing yards13057
Total offensive plays7345
Time of possession27:4518:04

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com.



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About Larry Stone

Larry Stone gives his take on the local and national sports scene.
lstone@seattletimes.com

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