Regarding the Seahawks’ playoff opener Sunday in Philadelphia, two important things are clear:
Each team has Super Bowl-winning experience, and each team is about two injuries away from being identified only by forensics units.
Friday did bring a bit of an advantage to Seattle, however.
“He can do everything we’re doing,” said coach Pete Carroll after practice. “He’s got the whole game plan.”
Which may mean Marshawn Lynch is like adding a first-round draft pick in January. While it’s true that the Seahawks’ history with first-rounders makes it seem more like a curse than a blessing, he’s not likely to go off-road with an ATV.
A full week of practice seems to have cleared the burps and hiccups that may have affected his return last week against San Francisco.
It’s a different feeling,” Carroll said. “We’re more confident that we know what we got this time around. He had a really good week. Seemed like it was smooth for him all the way throughout.
“Took all the reps that he needed to take. I was a little surprised at that. I thought (the first game) would take more of a toll, but it didn’t. We feel confident that we have a really nice mix in our style of runs from our guys.”
Impressed as he was, Carroll wasn’t tipping his hand yet, but it seems likely the Seahawks again will open at running back with rookie Travis Homer (62 yards in 10 carries vs. SF), bring in Lynch (34 in 12) later, then decide what works best against the Eagles third-ranked rush defense.
With a completely different rushing cast on a blustery, damp day at Lincoln Financial Field Nov. 24, the Seahawks ran for 174 yards in a 17-9 win over the Eagles. With a similar weather forecast for Sunday, the virtue of ground-pounding elevates from a preference nearly to a must-do.
If Lynch can approach his old form for even a few attempts, the Eagles will be forced to plan for him. With a week’s reps, he’s also likely to be a pass-game threat. On several play-action fakes to him against the 49ers, as well as scrambles or bootlegs by Russell Wilson, Lynch went unheeded by the defense — and by Wilson.
But to throw to anyone, it means protecting Wilson much better than in the first game, when he was sacked six times. That led to Wilson’s third-worst passer rating of the season, 75.4, after going 13 of 25 for 200 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Protection will be more difficult because LT Duane Brown remains out after minor knee surgery. Compounding matters is that LG Mike Iupati is questionable with a continuing problem from a neck stinger. Since OL Ethan Pocic was lost to injured reserve this week, that likely means if Iupati can’t go, second-year OL Jamarco Jones will start for the first time in his career at left guard.
So if one were to step back a little for a broader view, winning this playoff opener on the road against a 9-7 team that won the Super Bowl two years ago would be an impressive feat, considering:
LT George Fant is a backup, LG Jones is a backup, C Joey Hunt is a backup, TE Jacob Hollister is a fifth-stringer, Homer is a fourth-stringer and Lynch was a couch potato. Additionally, WR Malik Turner did not recover sufficiently from a concussion to make the trip.
Two bits of good news: FS Quandre Diggs and TE Luke Willson will return.
WR Jaron Brown, after being deemed out with a knee injury, also practiced some this week. But then he left the team, Carroll said, “for a family thing that he had to take care of, so he had to head out of town here. I don’t know what to tell you about game time with that.”
The game of 52-card roster pickup would likely border on disaster if they weren’t playing the Eagles, who are even more of a medical mess. Zach Ertz, the star tight end, is listed as questionable with broken ribs. If you’ve ever tried to play football with broken ribs . . .
Well, never mind. If you’re reading this, you’re not nuts.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson is one of the NFL’s most resourceful coaches. The perfect guy for this task. But at some point, talent has to prevail, and the Eagles just don’t have game-breakers remaining on offense. The Seahawks, meanwhile get the Beast boost.
Seahawks 23, Eagles 21