Seahawks' Defense a Tougher Test for Eagles Despite Similar Schemes to Falcons

If the old saying that the sequel is never as good as the original holds true, the Eagles' offense might be in for a letdown against the Seahawks this Sunday.

Last week, the Eagles scored 24 points and hung 429 yards of total offense on a Falcons defense led by Dan Quinn, who runs essentially the same scheme he used in Seattle and is utilized there to this day. There's a line of thinking that the knowledge and experience quarterback Carson Wentz and his teammates gained in that victory could be useful when they take the field against the Seahawks.

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"Possibly," Wentz said on Wednesday. "There's a lot of carryover as far as how we're seeing things, from a protection standpoint, from route concepts, lot of carryover from a play-calling standpoint."

Eagles coach Doug Pederson discussed carryover as well, and seemed to agree there are some similarities between the two opponents.

"See what carries over from the plan in Atlanta that we didn't use in that game," Pederson said. "I think it's important to have carryover, so that you are not reinventing the wheel every day."

Yet obviously, there's a stark difference between the 28th-ranked scoring defense from Atlanta and the No. 2 unit in Seattle littered with All-Pro players and Super Bowl champions. While a lot of the looks undoubtedly will be the same as last week, the talent and execution of the scheme should be vastly superior.

Right off the bat, the Eagles can probably forget about going for 200-plus yards on the ground for a second consecutive week. The Seahawks are ninth against the run and third in yards per attempt, limiting opponents to 3.5 yards per carry.

It was the ground attack that keyed the Eagles' victory over the Falcons, but it will be difficult to lean on in Seattle.

"This group stunts in games and they’re fast," Pederson said. "Their linebackers are downhill. Safeties are involved. It's still an eight-man box. You are going to see [Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor] down around the box a lot, and he's an extremely big, physical player.

"That's what they do. They try to take that run game away from you. They have been successful doing that. That's why they get you into those longer yard situations where you might have to throw the ball. And then they get that pass rush after you."

Once the Seahawks shut down the run, they have a Pro Bowl-laden secondary in the Legion of Boom that is arguably still the best group of defensive backs in the game.

"They're fast," Wentz said. "They fly around. Obviously Richard Sherman is a great lockdown corner. Earl Thomas, that guy can cover ground. If any of you want to go watch tape, it's impressive. Chancellor down there in the box, he does some really good things.

"They just have a combination of a lot of good guys that can make plays, so we've got to be sharp."

Speed is something both Wentz and Pederson mentioned multiple times. The Seahawks' secondary also has tremendous size, though. Atlanta featured at least three defensive backs that measured 5-foot-10 or shorter. With the exception of Thomas, most of Seattle's corners and safeties are at least 6-foot, several upwards of 6-2.

Not only are they bigger and possibly faster than the Falcons' DBs, they're also more experienced, too.

"They just have guys that have played in the system longer," Wentz said. "They understand it a little better, they mix it up a little more and they're just more aggressive with it.

"You have a lot of young guys with Atlanta's defense that played a lot of softer coverage, were more tentative so to speak just as far as in the passing game. These guys are just a little more aggressive and they fly around a little faster."

The Seahawks' ability to stop the run means opponents get into situations where they're forced to throw a lot. Then that Seattle secondary is all over the place, and quarterbacks become hesitant. Combined with one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL (see story), it's a recipe that bodes well for rushing the passer.

"They feed off of their crowd at home," Pederson said. "They want you in third downs. They want you in third-and-longs. That's where they get most of their hits on the quarterback in those situations. So in game planning, we've got to be a little more specific in those areas and how we're going to attack and how we're going to handle that type of rush."

For what it's worth, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll quickly dismissed any notion that the Eagles playing Atlanta the previous week would be helpful.

"We see them, they see us," Carroll said. "I don't think there's any advantage to anybody."

That's probably because everybody knows what Seattle's defense is all about. The scheme and most of the key personnel haven't changed since the Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2013. Playing the Falcons doesn't prepare anybody for that.

All the Eagles' offense can do is try to play mistake-free football, punt the ball, hope the defense can hold and come back to grind out enough big plays and points for a shot at the upset.

"The biggest thing is just that I take what they give me," Wentz said. "You don't force things because they're a big-play defense. They still get their turnovers and things, but you just have to take what they give you and be smart with the football and protect the ball."

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