Up and down, and down and then up. That's the 2019 Eagles regular season in a nutshell, with the playoffs here. The vibe is a positive one in the locker room and throughout the NovaCare Complex, exemplified by the thoughts of center Jason Kelce.
"I feel really good," Kelce said when asked how he felt about the team heading into the postseason. "Obviously, I'm proud of everybody for the way we've battled all season long. I think everybody wishes the season had started off better, but that's not the way it works. With the way we've responded and the way the coaches have responded, I'm really happy for a lot of these young guys that have made a name for themselves, they've been trying to make it in this league for a long time, some of them.
"There are a lot of positives. I'm really happy with the way we're playing right now. We're playing as a team; we're playing with energy; we're playing with excitement and juice, all the things you want as a team."
Excitement. Juice. Energy. Yes, exactly. Those are key attributes for Team Resilience.
"Everyone is just focused on the playoffs, and not how we got here or what has happened before," running back Boston Scott said. "I think the key is to prepare the way you've prepared all season and not to let emotions get the best of you. We're here for a reason. We've won four straight games. We've found a way. We need to keep finding a way to win and keep our season going."
On a Thursday when the practice report revealed some good news – cornerbacks Avonte Maddox (abdomen), Sidney Jones (back), and Jalen Mills (ankle) were full participants, and tight end Zach Ertz (ribs, back) and offensive tackle Lane Johnson (ankle) were limited participants with only running back Miles Sanders (ankle) and wide receiver Nelson Agholor (knee) out of practice – the mood was upbeat, tactical, and, well, as normal as it can be for a playoff game.
This is a team that has been there, done that. The playoffs are part of the expectations around here. And for the Eagles to defeat Seattle on Sunday (4:40 p.m. kickoff, NBC, stream on the Eagles app), they're going to have to build upon the success of some of their keys through the season. For example …
• Carson Wentz in the red zone: 19 touchdown passes, 0 interceptions. Only Wentz and Baltimore's Lamar Jackson (24 TDs, 0 interceptions) have been perfect in the red zone. The Eagles ranked third in the red zone in the entire league this season, scoring touchdowns on 36 of 54 trips. They scored every time they've been in goal-to-go situations. Nary a giveaway. That was the regular season. In the playoffs, where the tempo is faster, it becomes that much more difficult.
• 27.5 percent: The Eagles ranked first in the NFL in defensive three-and-out percentage (27.5 percent, 52-of-189), including a 33.3 percent (16-of-48) mark during Weeks 14-17. This is extremely critical against Seattle. The Eagles need to take what they did against Seattle on November 24 – four three-and-out series (one ended with an interception) in 13 series – and make it even better. Seattle hit the Eagles with two big plays – a flea-flicker that quarterback Russell Wilson turned in to a 33-yard touchdown pass and a 58-yard Rashaad Penny touchdown run – and so the Eagles need to tighten up there as well.
• 90.1: That's the number of rushing yards per game the Eagles allowed during the regular season. Seattle has revamped its rushing corps due to injury, and the Seahawks are now going with rookie Travis Homer and Marshawn Lynch. Expect a physical run approach from Seattle. And expect Seattle to try to get Wilson more involved in the run game after he gained only 15 yards on three carries in the first game.
• 45.4: That's the Eagles' third-down conversion rate offensively, fourth best in the NFL. In that November 24 game, the Eagles converted just 4 of 12 third downs. The offense had its worst game of the season. Wentz was harassed (three sacks, four turnovers) by a Seattle defense that had just 28 quarterback sacks all season, second worst in the NFL. It is so incredibly important that the Eagles stay ahead of the sticks, that they keep this small-ball brand of offense on schedule and that they establish the running game as a threat. Sanders gained 63 yards on 12 carries against Seattle as the Seahawks stacked the box and dared the Eagles to win in the passing game. With receivers who didn't win and who weren't on the same page as Wentz, the Eagles' offense did a poor job finishing drives and with five turnovers, lost the game.
• 25-9: That's the Eagles' record at home since 2016, second in winning percentage in the NFL to New England. This is the team's first playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field since the NFC Championship Game in early 2018 and, yes, the fans are going to be lathered up. Taking control of the home field is critical. A fast start helps. Seattle is excellent on the road – the Seahawks are 5-0 this season making the trip from the West Coast to the East Coast for 1 p.m. games, for example, and this is a veteran team led by a quarterback who has won a Super Bowl and who has played in two of them. Wilson won't be fazed by the crowd. But the Eagles' faithful provide energy and energy is a huge reason this Eagles team has rebounded to reach the postseason. Everything matters now. Everything helps.