On the surface, the Philadelphia Eagles look like the perfect team for Seattle to continue its running-game revival, especially with starter Chris Carson expected back after missing four games because of a sprained foot.
The Eagles, who host Seattle on Monday night, rank 25th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed at 133.4 per game and have allowed 133 or more in each of their past six games.
But dig a little deeper, and the numbers tell a little different tale.
The Eagles, for instance, are allowing just 4.2 yards per rush, which ranks 11th.
And take out one of the season’s flukiest plays — an 80-yard run by Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, a play in which he fell untouched before reaching the end zone — and that number drops to 3.9, which would be tied for sixth.
In other words, the Eagles might not be as easy to consistently run against as the total yardage numbers — also inflated by a few games in which opponents who were ahead ran the ball late to put the game away — suggest. And not that anyone would consider it easy against an Eagles line featuring standout tackle Fletcher Cox and end Brandon Graham, both ranked in the top 25% at their position by Pro Football Focus.
That could mean the Seahawks might let quarterback Russell Wilson work in the kitchen a little more.
Like much about their 3-6-1 season, the Eagles’ pass-defense numbers are somewhat confusing.
The Eagles are second in the NFL with 34 sacks. But so much for the idea that pressure on the quarterback automatically means a team will get more turnovers — Philly has just three interceptions this season, tied for the second-fewest in the league.
And when the Seahawks last saw the Eagles — during a wild-card playoff game in January — it was through the air with which they finally broke through.
Of course, they sort of had to, as Carson and Rashaad Penny were out because of injuries. Seattle got a combined 19 rushing yards on 17 carries from Travis Homer and Marshawn Lynch in that game.
That left Wilson to carry the offense, completing 18 of 30 passes for 325 yards, with DK Metcalf setting an NFL rookie playoff record with 160 yards receiving on seven receptions, including a 53-yard touchdown that gave Seattle breathing room in a 17-9 win.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has said several times in the past few weeks that he’s hoping for more balance out of Seattle’s offense as the running-back position gets healthier.
And the Seahawks had, in terms of yards, their most balanced attack of any game this season in last Thursday’s 28-21 win over Arizona. With Carlos Hyde back after missing three games, Seattle gained 165 yards rushing on 31 attempts to 197 yards passing on 28 attempts (though the rushing-attempt numbers are somewhat skewed by 10 Wilson rushes for 42 yards, seven of which were designated as scrambles off called passes and another that was a kneel-down).
The total yards were the second-most of the season, and the net passing yards of 182 were the lowest.
But speaking to the media Wednesday via Zoom, Wilson made it clear he hopes the Seahawks will continue to let him sling the ball around the way he did the first half of the season, when he was on pace to break the NFL record for passing touchdowns in a season of 55 by Peyton Manning in 2013 (Wilson has 30, on pace for 48).
“I think balance is always great, but I think that we’ve got to do whatever it takes to win,” Wilson said. “I think that’s the reality. Obviously we won a lot of games early on and were doing a lot of special things throwing the ball and things that have never been done before.
“In the running game we’ve done some great things, too. and to have our running backs healthy, we want to have everybody out there. We want to have all our best players out there and get the ball facilitated whether it’s running it, throwing it, all that stuff we want to be able to do. And so it makes us very versatile, which we love. And so I think when we can have an offense where you can hit from all cylinders, I think that’s a great thing.”
In other words, balance, but within reason.