This is Carson Wentz Time on center stage, in a hostile environment, playing against a physical and very good Seattle defense in prime time.
This is Another Step for Wentz, who has met all hurdles and gone cleanly over them in his brilliant second season. Sunday night's game in Seattle is another opportunity for Wentz to play football, something he so clearly loves to do.
Wentz is one of the great stories of the NFL's season as his performance has helped the Eagles win 10 of their first 11 games. His progress has been rapid and real, and he has the league's attention. Of course, what Wentz has done is no secret to us; we've been watching his development since September of 2016 when he became the starting quarterback for the Eagles.
What are his challenges for Sunday night? Seattle's defense won't have star defensive backs Richard Sherman (cornerback) or Kam Chancellor (safety) but the Seahawks still have an aggressive and troublesome unit. The front four features ends Michael Bennett and Frank Clark, and some power inside with tackles Sheldon Richardson and Jarran Reed. Linebacker Bobby Wagner is a ballhawk. Safety Earl Thomas remains as the Legion of Boom has its injury difficulties.
So there is a lot for the Eagles to contend with, as there is much for Seattle to digest. The Eagles have a balanced, equal-opportunity offense with a terrific line, deep and talented players at wide receiver, a tight end in Zach Ertz who is among the league's best and a running game that employs three and sometimes four backs and is ranked second in the league in yards per game.
Get set for a great one.
To win, the Eagles must defeat both Seattle's defense and the 12th Man at CenturyLink Field.
"It's among the most difficult. I mean, sometimes I wonder -- I don't want to say that we make too much of it because it's obviously among the most difficult, but loud is -- in another respect, loud is loud, and once you're using the silent count, you're using a silent count," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "I think at this time of year, you never take anything for granted. I think we've gotten into a good rhythm. I think we feel comfortable.
"The real key is on the quarterback and the O-line to be able to continue to mix up -- it's sometimes easier to mix a count when you're using your voice, but you have to be just as committed to mixing up the count when you're using silent count. It's easy to get into a rut when you're in the silent count of kind of falling into the same count all the time, so you've really got to have a commitment and a discipline to mix it up."
Wentz was 23 of 45 passing for 218 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions last season in a 26-15 loss at Seattle. The Eagles led, 7-6, after one quarter. One time in that quarter, when left tackle Jason Peters jumped early, was the Eagles' offensive penalized. In the second quarter, a touchdown pass to Ertz was nullified by a penalty against wide receiver Nelson Agholor for an illegal formation.
Late in the first half, in Seattle territory, Wentz was intercepted on a throw intended for wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham and the Eagles trailed 16-7 after two periods.
In the third period, Peters committed a second false-start penalty. A series later, Wentz was picked again and Seattle converted the takeaway into a touchdown and the game was out of hand by the end of the third.
The bad news was that the Eagles lost the game and didn't play a particularly strong game. The encouraging news was that Wentz handled the noise, the environment, the pressure from Seattle's defense, like a pro.
Now he's back for more, minus the aura of playing in front of fans who love the reputation, deservedly so because Seattle wins at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks were 7-1 in the regular season there in 2016, and have won 10 straight postseason games at home.
However, the Seahawks are just 3-2 at home this season.
Playing there last year, Reich thinks, will benefit Wentz and the Eagles this time around.
"I'm sure for Carson and the other guys who hadn't been out there to play before, it's the reputation of going out to play in Seattle," Reich said. "And then to go out there and say, 'Okay, we can handle this.' We didn't win the game and hats off to them, they're a good football team and they're tough to beat in their home stadium. We have a lot of respect for them. But we have a lot of confidence in the players that we have. And I think last year's experience there showed that we can handle the noise and not have 100 offsides penalties and it kind of contributes to more confidence going back this year."