Seahawks reborn as NFL's most dangerous team after dominating Eagles

BY Alex Marvez • December 7, 2014

The team meeting held last month to refocus on collective goals helped tremendously. So did the return of some key defensive players from injuries. There also is something to be said for the hangover and internal drama that often affects the defending Super Bowl champion finally fading away.

Put these elements together and what you have is the return of the NFL's most dangerous team -- the Seattle Seahawks.

The Philadelphia Eagles were the latest opponent to get steamrolled, suffering a 24-14 home loss Sunday that wasn't as close as the score indicates.

This was an overwhelming Seahawks performance on both offense and defense against a squad riding high atop the NFC East. The Eagles (9-4) were grounded just like Seattle (9-4) dispatched division rivals Arizona (10-3) and San Francisco (7-6) in its previous two games, when the renaissance truly began.

"I felt the camaraderie and connection of the team coming together around the Arizona game," Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor said as celebratory hip-hop blared throughout the visiting locker room at Lincoln Financial Field. "Everybody was just like, 'It's time. Let's go. We've got to pick this up.'

"You could just see it and feel it. It's real. It's happening."

The Eagles learned that the hard way in their first home loss of the season.

Let's start with the dominance of Seattle's defense that admittedly drew inspiration from the pregame hype surrounding Philadelphia's lightning-quick attack.

"I heard a lot of talk about the high-tempo offense," Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "But what about our high-tempo defense?"

Talk about your hurry-ups. An offense that leads the NFL in highest number of plays run was usually forced to the sideline not long after taking the field.

Seattle limited Philadelphia to its lowest yardage output (139) and time of possession (18:04) since Chip Kelly became head coach last season. The Eagles mustered only nine first downs, were two-of-11 in third-down efficiency and committed two turnovers. Philadelphia might not even have scored in the first half if it weren't for a botched punt attempt by Jon Ryan that gave the Eagles possession deep inside Seahawks territory.

"Just like I said earlier in the week when everybody kind of brushed me off, they've got to deal with us just like we've got to deal with them," said Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who was a big reason Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez threw for only 96 yards on 10-of-20 passing. "You can hurry up all you want. But if you can't get yards and can't complete passes, then it's just quick three-and-outs."

Sherman even rubbed salt in Philadelphia's wounds by alluding to the absence of wide receiver DeSean Jackson from an Eagles receiving corps that couldn't shake tight coverage or make hay downfield. Despite having a career-best campaign in 2013, Jackson was released during the offseason because Kelly didn't believe he was a good fit in his Eagles program.

"I think they miss him tremendously," Sherman said. "He was an incredible threat. He's still an incredible threat ... A player like that a defense has to account for, you've got to worry about where he is at all times. Right now, we can stand up across the board (from Philadelphia) and play."

Seattle's offense was far more efficient Sunday with quarterback Russell Wilson excelling in his customary role as a dual threat passing (263 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions) and running (10 carries for 48 yards and another score) while consistently scrambling away from Eagles pressure. Running back Marshawn Lynch also hammered the Eagles for 86 rushing yards and a 15-yard touchdown catch that put the Seahawks up by 10 points less than a minute into the third quarter. After the Eagles quickly countered with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to tight end Zach Ertz, the Seahawks responded with what proved the game's final score -- a 23-yard connection between Wilson and wideout Doug Baldwin.

Philadelphia's next five drives netted just two first downs, and Kelly essentially waved the white flag with 4:15 remaining by deciding to punt rather than go for it on fourth-and-11 from Philadelphia's 26-yard line.

"By the time it was over, we had a nice day," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said.

At several points earlier this season, it appeared Seattle's days were numbered. The Seahawks opened 3-3. The defense wasn't playing at its dominant 2013 level with some new pieces and important starters missing in Wagner (toe) and cornerback Byron Maxwell (calf). Star wide receiver Percy Harvin was traded because of friction he was causing behind the scenes. Lynch wasn't happy with team management. Wilson's leadership and team standing were even being called into question via media reports.

Despite getting on a mini-roll with three straight wins, a 24-20 road loss to Kansas City in Week 11 shook the Seahawks enough that a team meeting was held. Some of the themes emphasized were referenced by Chancellor when he spoke Sunday of "the commitment of playing for each other and staying true to each other."

"Everybody has ups and downs," said Wagner, who finished with a team-high seven tackles Sunday. "You just have to get over them. That's what a good team does."

Sherman said he is now feeling the same kind of Super Bowl vibe as last season, when Seattle claimed its first Lombardi Trophy.

"We're just having fun," Sherman said. "We're playing like kids out there. We're celebrating every play. We're enjoying each other.

"It's the years we've been playing with each other. We've grown together. We've seen the bad times together and the good times. That's why adverse situations don't rattle us."

Seattle still has plenty of adversity to overcome. Three rough division games loom against the 49ers, Cardinals and red-hot St. Louis Rams (6-7). If the playoffs started today, the Seahawks would open on the road as a wild-card against an Eagles squad that would be champing to rebound from what running back LeSean McCoy said Kelly privately told his players was a "sh****" performance.

But in three weeks, it might very well be Seattle with home-field advantage as NFC West champions and the Eagles playing as a wild-card if Philadelphia can't rebound next Sunday night against visiting Dallas (9-4).

"We've already got all the experience that every other team wants," Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said. "We've already been to a Super Bowl. We've played against some of the best teams away.

"It really doesn't matter who we play. If we play the way we're capable of playing, we know we're going to win."

The rest of the league is being reminded of that as well.


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