BY Art Thiel 06:45PM 01/03/2020

Thiel: Seahawks likely to get a boost from Beast

Marshawn Lynch took in the playbook during a healthy week of practice. Perhaps it can be said that the Seahawks gained a first-round draft choice in January.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was sacked six times against the Eagles Nov. 24. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Regarding the Seahawks’ playoff opener Sunday in Philadelphia, two important things are clear:

Each team has Super Bowl-winning experience, and each team is about two injuries away from being identified only by forensics units.

Friday did bring a bit of an advantage to Seattle, however.

“He can do everything we’re doing,” said coach Pete Carroll after practice. “He’s got the whole game plan.”

Which may mean Marshawn Lynch is like adding a first-round draft pick in January. While it’s true that the Seahawks’ history with first-rounders makes it seem more like a curse than a blessing, he’s not likely to go off-road with an ATV.

A full week of practice seems to have cleared the burps and hiccups that may have affected his return last week against San Francisco.

It’s a different feeling,” Carroll said. “We’re more confident that we know what we got this time around. He had a really good week. Seemed like it was smooth for him all the way throughout.

“Took all the reps that he needed to take. I was a little surprised at that. I thought (the first game) would take more of a toll, but it didn’t. We feel confident that we have a really nice mix in our style of runs from our guys.”

Impressed as he was, Carroll wasn’t tipping his hand yet, but it seems likely the Seahawks again will open at running back with rookie Travis Homer (62 yards in 10 carries vs. SF), bring in Lynch (34 in 12) later, then decide what works best against the Eagles third-ranked rush defense.

With a completely different rushing cast on a blustery, damp day at Lincoln Financial Field Nov. 24, the Seahawks ran for 174 yards in a 17-9 win over the Eagles. With a similar weather forecast for Sunday, the virtue of ground-pounding elevates from a preference nearly to a must-do.

If Lynch can approach his old form for even a few attempts, the Eagles will be forced to plan for him. With a week’s reps, he’s also likely to be a pass-game threat. On several play-action fakes to him against the 49ers, as well as scrambles or bootlegs by Russell Wilson, Lynch went unheeded by the defense — and by Wilson.

But to throw to anyone, it means protecting Wilson much better than in the first game, when he was sacked six times. That led to Wilson’s third-worst passer rating of the season, 75.4, after going 13 of 25 for 200 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Protection will be more difficult because LT Duane Brown remains out after minor knee surgery. Compounding matters is that LG Mike Iupati is questionable with a continuing problem from a neck stinger. Since OL Ethan Pocic was lost to injured reserve this week, that likely means if Iupati can’t go, second-year OL Jamarco Jones will start for the first time in his career at left guard.

So if one were to step back a little for a broader view, winning this playoff opener on the road against a 9-7 team that won the Super Bowl two years ago would be an impressive feat, considering:

LT George Fant is a backup, LG Jones is a backup, C Joey Hunt is a backup, TE Jacob Hollister is a fifth-stringer, Homer is a fourth-stringer and Lynch was a couch potato.  Additionally, WR Malik Turner did not recover sufficiently from a concussion to make the trip.

Two bits of good news: FS Quandre Diggs and TE Luke Willson will return.

WR Jaron Brown, after being deemed out with a knee injury, also practiced some this week. But then he left the team, Carroll said, “for a family thing that he had to take care of, so he had to head out of town here. I don’t know what to tell you about game time with that.”

The game of 52-card roster pickup would likely border on disaster if they weren’t playing the Eagles, who are even more of a medical mess. Zach Ertz, the star tight end, is listed as questionable with broken ribs. If you’ve ever tried to play football with broken ribs . . .

Well, never mind. If you’re reading this, you’re not nuts.

Prediction

Eagles coach Doug Pederson is one of the NFL’s most resourceful coaches. The perfect guy for this task. But at some point, talent has to prevail, and the Eagles just don’t have game-breakers remaining on offense. The Seahawks, meanwhile get the Beast boost.

Seahawks 23, Eagles 21


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YourThoughts

  • Husky73

    Eagles are going up (4 in a row), and the Seahawks are going down (lost 3 of 4). Eagles are at home. Hate to say it, but Eagles prevail.

    • art thiel

      As I said above . . .

      • Husky73

        Here I am, happily eating a big helping of crow, with fava beans and a nice Chianti. And, Barton did a good job.

  • Darrell Roberts

    Except for bad call by refs Seahawks won the last game so 2-2 in last 4. Seahawks have played better on the road all season. Hate to say it but Seahawks by 3.

    • art thiel

      No hating here. All funning.

  • Cory Hume

    As resident of Philadelphia I am ok with the SF loss since now going to game Sunday. Eagles fans / media are big on 3rd string RB Boston Scott, looks like could be a battle of the low rollers Homer and Scott. KJ Wright comments after last game about Eagles Predictable offense getting a lot of replay. Need to keep walking the tight rope!

    • art thiel

      Hey, I’m in your house, Cory. Fine day walking through Reading Terminal Market. Good approximation of Pike Place Market in Seattle.

  • Kevin Lynch

    7-1 on the road this year. 3-12 on the road in the playoffs in their 44 year history. Something has to give. All three wins have asterisks – Washington against a broken legged QB, Minnesota in extreme cold when Vikes missed a gimme field goal, and all the way back in 83 against the Dolphins in Marino’s rookie year. They are due for a blowout win on the road post-season. Prediction: Seattle 17, Philadelphia 33.

    • art thiel

      So you’re saying Philly wins? They’re at home.

      • Kevin Lynch

        Picking Philly. Brutal loss for Buffalo today.

        • Husky73

          Last week I watched the ESPN documentary on the Bills and their four SB losses. So today, I was rooting for Buffalo….not necessarily rooting against Houston….but hoping for some fun for the Bills’ fans. They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

  • coug73

    I’m thinking FS Diggs ‘aka the Drill’ will have a big impact on the game, while Wilson will impact the offense. The Beast does what the Beast does, a Hall of Fame moment to come.

    • art thiel

      If Lynch goes 75 on 15, the Seahawks are controlling the clock.

  • The Eagles do not have a SuperBowl winning quarterback. Foles won that SuperBowl.

    • art thiel

      Fixed. Thanks.

  • BB46

    It’s not always who has the best team. Most of the time it’s who plays the best. If our defense has a good day on 3rd down I believe Russel Wilson will make enough good plays to be the difference. But our “D” has to have a good day.

    • art thiel

      Diggs is back. That is large. Barton is also starting. That is bad.

      • Chris Alexander

        While I agree that Barton isn’t quite “ready for prime time” – especially in comparison to Mychal Kendricks, the REAL question (IMO) is whether the coaching staff continues to insist on staying in their base defense with Barton in there instead of Kendricks. If so then the shortcoming isn’t on him, it’s on the coaches who SHOULD be setting him up for success, not failure.

        Pete has consistently said that they play the base-D so much because he loves what his top 3 LBs bring to the game. With one of them down, the team needs to adjust … unless Pete has been blowing smoke up our bums all season and the REAL reason the team plays base so much is that he doesn’t trust his DBs.

  • BB46

    Also,,, a couple turnovers will help or really hurt depending on which team makes them.

    • art thiel

      Eagles gave up five last time, thanks to a broken O-line.

  • dingle

    Art, I think you have the score right, but the winner/loser switched. That offensive line is, well, offensive.

    • art thiel

      I’m guessing they will run block better than pass block, and will have more chances with Lynch a full go.

  • Ken S.

    I’m not going to predict who will win. I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the game, and the better (coached) team will win. Oh yeah, GO SEAHAWKS!!!

    • art thiel

      So you are picking the Eagles.

  • Chris Alexander

    My keys to the game for Seattle to win:

    1. Move the pocket to give Wilson time to throw.
    2. 15-20+ touches for Lynch, including at least 3 targets in the passing game.
    3. No injuries on defense (we’re already thin but as long as Diggs and Clowney and everyone else can stay on the field, I think we’ll be okay).

    A takeaway or two would help but I don’t think they’re “needed.” Philly is more beat up than we are and their 9-7 record was built on the NFL’s 2nd or 3rd easiest schedule. While it’s true that they finished 4-0, 3 of those 4 wins were against the Giants and the Washington DC team; not exactly “bragging rights” there.

  • jafabian

    Key Seahawks not named Wilson will be Diggs & McDougald and the 3 RB’s. With the injuries to Philly’s O-Line the defense has opportunity to put the pressure on Wentz who will be in his first playoff game.

  • DJ

    Dang Art, I might actually be getting psyched for the game tomorrow!
    Great article! It’s really good news to see Marshawn fit in so well – yeah, like a 1st rounder for sure. He and Homer can make play action fakes actually worth something, and give Russell more of a chance to do his thing. This really could be special….GO HAWKS!!!

  • Alan Harrison

    It’s hard to pick between two cars that have F1 caliber drivers and replacement engines. That said, I would love to pick the Hawks, but I just can’t get past the “you can only win in the 4th quarter” blues. In the playoffs, coaching matters – especially time management (see Vrabel, Michael) – and that’s where the Eagles have it over the Hawks. With flat tires and a leaky radiator, a late Seahawk touchdown pass to Johnny U cuts a 15-point lead to 8, the ensuing onside kick doesn’t work, and the Eagles take it.

  • Husky73

    Art— Do you like Lincoln Financial Field? How does it compare with Century Link?

  • Effzee

    Luckily, we get the easiest QB draw in the NFC (Wentz). I’ve got no belief in that guy, but the Hawks will probably make him look way better than he is. He could game-manage them to a win, but I anticipate him making a fatal error. Either way, it’ll likely be a field-goal laden slog-fest. Meanwhile, the playoffs are why Petenjohn gave Russell WIlson a bajillionty dollars. But, Doug Pederson is, imo, one of the best head coaches in the league, which makes me *shudder*. I anticipate the same kind of thing we’ve seen from the other well-coached, stodgily-defensed teams: Get after Russ. I don’t think we will see anything but what we’ve seen from the offense, even with Marshawn. It might look more menacing, but if it doesn’t help Russ, then it wont matter.

    Chris Carson rushed for 1200+ yards and that didn’t help Russ to not get worse down the stretch, or lead them to a season of consistent offensive performance. I think we need to lower our expectations. They aren’t ever going to get out to a lead and slowly crush a really good opponent to death slowly with the running game and time of possession. They had Marshawn at the 1 last week, for the division title, and the bye, and a game at home…. and the coach screwed it up. Another reason I fear games against guys who out-coached Belichick and beat Brady with Foles. They tend to brain-fart one too many times against the really smart guys. #theplaywhichcannotbeunseen Speaking of brain games… Norton Jr vs Schwartz today… This makes me feel uncomfortable as well.

    Anyways, I think we just have to accept that with Russ at QB, there is usually just one way to win: Hope the defense can keep it close enough for Russ to pull out the magic when the other team goes into the two-minute defense. Sure, sometimes they can hit some deep balls against (usually) bad teams, and occasionally they can even run up the score.

    But I’m talking about playoffs, I’m talking about just wanting to see my team figure out a way to play a complete game on offense, from start to finish, against the best coached teams who know how to neutralize Russ. What can he do to counter this, aside from just try to keep it close until the other team gets into the two-minute mode, and Russ just needs one drive to win it. But now the other team knows they pretty much just have to wait it out, too, and then stop that one drive Russ is trying to have. I just don’t see this as a sustainable model.

    I reserve the right to change all of the above if it turns out that Marshawn’s mere presence leads to an unpredictable ass-kicking today by the Hawks. He definitely puts the chip back on the shoulder of this team. If he’s just that big a freak, and he changes the offense that profoundly, then I guess it would put to rest the question of how much credit he deserves the two previous Super Bowl appearances.

    /endpregamerant

    #gohawks