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Healthy, intense LOB has Seahawks eyeing Super Bowl run

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RENTON, Wash. — Simply put, any doubt that the Seattle Seahawks have the ability to repeat as Super Bowl champions vanished in the darkness of Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.

Playing against one of the hottest teams and offenses in the NFL, the Seattle defense turned in one of its best performances ever, holding the Eagles to 139 total yards in dealing Philadelphia a 24-14 defeat.

It was the sixth win in the last seven games for the Seahawks and improved their record to 9-4. And while the Seahawks remained a game behind the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West, they also feel as if anything is possible now.

“We feel like when we play our ball and be who we are, we’re hard to beat,” said left tackle Russell Okung.

That was the general tenor in the locker room after what was Seattle’s third straight impressive win. Seattle beat Arizona and the San Francisco 49ers by identical 19-3 scores before the win over the Eagles.

Seattle allowed a touchdown early after a dropped punt snap led to a 14-yard drive. Another touchdown came after a long kickoff return and a pass interference penalty.

Otherwise, the Seahawks simply dominated an Eagles offense that had been averaging 416 yards per game for the season and had averaged 31.5 points in its previous four games.

Seattle held the ball for a franchise-record 41:56 in taking control of the game from the beginning in the trenches.

A little sloppiness on offense and special teams prevented Seattle from separating early on the scoreboard — the Seahawks led 10-7 at halftime.

But two touchdown passes by quarterback Russell Wilson in the third quarter put the Seahawks in command for good as Seattle held an opponent to the fewest yards since limiting the 49ers to 113 in 2005.

The game continued a defensive resurgence that began three games ago and coincided with the return to health of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and strong safety Kam Chancellor.

Coach Pete Carroll said it’s the way the players are playing, and not what the coaches are calling, that has made the difference.

“We played our football,” Carroll said. “We have not changed for the last few years about how we do it. We can play our stuff really well and that’s one aspect of it. It’s the guys playing it and playing it with the intensity and the energy that they’re playing with that makes it work. It’s not just the scheme at all.”

Indeed, players have talked about the relative simplicity of what Seattle has done the past few weeks, and there have been few real personnel shuffles, and less rotating on the defense than earlier in the season.

“We expect to dominate every time we play,” safety Earl Thomas said after the game, a comment indicative of the growing confidence in the locker room.

Right now, they look more than capable.

NOTES: CB Jeremy Lane was again inactive with a glute injury that also held him out of the win over the 49ers on Nov. 27. It’s turning into something of a lost season for the third-year cornerback who earlier missed eight games with a groin injury that put him on the short-term disabled list. Carroll said Monday that Lane was healthy enough to play but was held out after not practicing all week and should be fine for Sunday’s game against the 49ers. … TE Cooper Helfet was inactive and missed his second straight game due to a sprained ankle suffered against Arizona Nov. 23. Carroll said Helfet has a chance to return against the 49ers. … C Max Unger may be able to return this week after having missed the last three games with ankle and knee injuries suffered in the loss at Kansas City on Nov. 16. Carroll said he will give it a shot to play against the 49ers, but did not offer a definite prognosis. … DL Demarcus Dobbs was carted off in the first quarter after suffering a sprained ankle. Carroll said it “a legit” ankle sprain, which likely means he will be out for a while. … CB Tharold Simon dislocated a finger late against the Eagles, but Simon said he would play with it and Carroll reiterated that Monday.

REPORT CARD VS. EAGLES

PASSING OFFENSE: B — It wasn’t necessarily a spectacular performance as Russell Wilson threw for 263 yards, completing 22 of 37 passes. But it was the most attempts of the season and second-most yards as the Seahawks thought they could get the ball downfield against the Eagles and tried more than in any game this season.

Seattle had issues with protection throughout as Wilson was often called on to evade oncoming rushers. But when he had time, or made time, Wilson was able to connect or some big plays, such as a 23-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin when the Seahawks caught the Eagles in an all-out blitz. Wilson missed a couple throws and twice needed to throw the ball away earlier than he wanted to, moving Seattle out of potential field goal range. But he also went without an interception for the third straight game and has just five for the season.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus — The Eagles seemed determined to contain Marshawn Lynch and make Wilson and the passing game beat them, and there were long stretches where it seemed Lynch had little room to run. But when the game ended he had a pretty typical looking line — 86 yards on 23 carries with a long of 21. Wilson also turned in some big runs at key times, notably a 26-yard touchdown that came on a zone-read against a blitz. Second-year back Christine Michael also had one of his best games with 32 yards on six carries.

PASS DEFENSE: A — Seattle’s secondary is playing again like the best in the NFL. The Eagles had only one pass longer than 17 yards — that a 35-yarder to tight end Zach Ertz against linebacker K.J. Wright. But the rest of the game the secondary was simply suffocating as quarterback Mark Sanchez was 10-for-20 for 96 yards with an interception. The line chipped in with two sacks and some pretty constant pressure.

But the real key was the Legion of Boom. Richard Sherman has gone three games without allowing a completion and Byron Maxwell – now healthy – filled the nickel back role when he wasn’t playing outside and helped shut down Jordan Matthews. And safety Earl Thomas continues to have a much greater impact than his stats indicate by blanketing the deep middle of the field.

RUSH DEFENSE: A — The Seahawks had surprisingly little trouble containing LeSean McCoy and the Eagles running game. McCoy had just 50 yards on 17 carries and a costly fumble on the first play of the third quarter that turned into seven quick points for the Seahawks. The line got constant penetration to disrupt plays, led by end Michael Bennett, while middle linebacker Bobby Wagner continued to show what the team missed during the five games he was out with a game-high seven solo tackles.

Running plays rarely got far enough for the secondary to have to get involved. Seattle’s gap integrity and tackling has also improved markedly the last few weeks as the Seahawks have allowed just 191 yards rushing to the Cardinals, 49ers and Eagles.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C — This was the one area where the Seahawks were a little off. Punter Jon Ryan simply dropped a snap that led to a 14-yard touchdown drive for the Eagles early in the game. And the return games were an adventure with punt returner Doug Baldwin playing it cautious and letting a couple drop that then bounced for big yards. Seattle also allowed a 46-yard kickoff return that led to the Eagles’ other touchdown. Otherwise, the coverage units were pretty good against some solid Eagles’ returners.

COACHING: A — The Seahawks are playing so well right now that they are eliminating the chance that coach Pete Carroll has to make late-game decisions that have to be questioned much. Instead, Carroll and his staff have the team so prepared that their last three games have all been pretty well in hand heading into the fourth quarter. When Seattle was 6-4 it was hard to know if the Seahawks could even make the playoffs. Now they appear ready for a run at another Super Bowl.


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