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Duffy: Why the defense's outstanding effort wasn't enough to beat Seattle

It was a crazy ride, but the 2019 season has now come to an end. This is an Eagles team that fought with everything it had and, despite the injuries up and down the roster on both sides of the ball, went to the playoffs for the third straight season while winning the division in the process. Losing Carson Wentz in the first quarter just proved to be too much, as the team clawed its way into keeping this a tight football game deep into the fourth quarter, but just didn't have enough to take it to the finish line and advance to the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

For a team that was so good in situational football during the regular season, the offense was just 3-of-11 (27 percent) on third down and 0-for-3 in the red zone. Conversely, the Seahawks were 8-of-15 (53 percent) on third down while going 1-for-2 in the red zone. In an eight-point game, that meant all the difference, as the Eagles were just a play here or there away from tying it late in the contest. Make no mistake, situational football hurt the Eagles in this football game.

Defensively, a number of those third-down conversions were due to quarterback Russell Wilson's ability to create with the ball in his hands. On multiple occasions, Wilson was able to escape the rush, break the pocket, and make plays both his arm and with his legs, moving the chains and putting points on the board for a Seattle offense that, otherwise, struggled to move the ball. He was the catalyst for that team on Sunday evening, as our friend Dan Orlovsky pointed out on Twitter.

How did these plays happen? The defense lost contain multiple times, and in key situations against different schemes. It didn't matter if the Eagles were in man or zone, were blitzing or playing coverage, had a spy or not – Wilson had an answer for everything.


On a number of these plays, the Seahawks were trying to be aggressive by pushing the ball downfield on called shot plays that were completely covered up – but the defensive line lost contain. On others, the defensive line won quickly and was able to push Wilson off his spot, but the coverage didn't hold up long enough and he was able to get the ball out on the run for a big gain. That's certainly a credit to Wilson, who is a great player, but the Eagles did not get enough big plays (one sack, no turnovers) in this game.

The biggest play of the game, however, came late in the fourth quarter with under two minutes left. Facing third-and-10 from his own 11-yard line, Wilson hooked up with rookie receiver DK Metcalf on a vertical route down the right side against a Cover 0 blitz from the Eagles' defense. It was a perfect complement from the Seahawks on a play they ran against the Eagles back in Week 12.

Remember, the Eagles sacked Wilson a season-high six times back in Week 12 and the blitz was a big part of that. On this key snap late in the game, the Seahawks clearly were expecting pressure. They faked a screen (after beating the Eagles on a screen in the last matchup), getting Metcalf matched up on a safety through their bunch set. The rush didn't get home in time, Wilson put it up, and Metcalf came down with it for the huge play.

It wasn't just Wilson running around being Superman, however, because the Seahawks did script some impressive plays as well. On numerous third-and-short plays, they did a good job with various rub concepts to attack the Eagles' man coverage schemes.

These legal "pick" plays created separation for Seattle pass catchers and got receivers open for Wilson on money downs.

At the end of the day, the defense held Seattle to just 17 points. That is a winning effort in most weeks. It was not enough to get the W in this matchup, but there was plenty of good things to take away from the defensive output. One player who jumped off the film was Fletcher Cox, and it started on the opening series.

Cox was absolutely dominant against Seattle. He was powerful one-on-one as a pass rusher, explosive to attack gaps and get upfield, stout at the point of attack in the run game, and was a consistent disruptor all game long. Seattle had no answers for him other than to keep an extra tight end to block defensive ends one-on-one (with Brandon Graham sidelined at times in the game), allowing the guards to help battle Cox on the inside.

Offensively, one player who stood out was running back Miles Sanders, who had a couple of impressive efforts as a ballcarrier. Fresh off an ankle injury, Sanders led the team with 69 yards on the ground on nearly 5 yards per carry.

Sanders, who caught three passes as well, made people miss, did work out on the perimeter, and battled through a game where the Eagles were missing the two best run blockers on the offensive line and still ran the ball well.

With Wentz out of the game, the Eagles' offensive staff performed some surgery on the game plan and catered the offense to things that Josh McCown felt comfortable with. One of those concepts certainly appeared to be their various three-level stretch pass combinations.

That 32-yard catch to open the second half was the longest play from scrimmage for the Eagles on Sunday, and it was just one example of those three-level stretch concepts that the Eagles used to attack Seattle's zone coverage schemes.

It was a tough way to go out for the Eagles after the way they finished the season, but there's no questioning this team's resiliency, battling through injury to win the East and come within one score of advancing to the second round of the playoffs.

Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominatedEagles Game Planshow which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts,Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as theJourney to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices, and opponents.

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