It seems like every week — whether the Eagles are coming off a win or a loss the week before — the story always seems to be "things will only get tougher."
After using an impressive defensive and rushing performance to best the high-powered Falcons 24-15 in Week 10, Philly is traveling west to the toughest place to play in football, against the NFC West leading 6-2-1 Seahawks. Seattle is fresh off an impressive win against another division leader in the Patriots.
The Seahawks have a notoriously high-quality defense, some big weapons in Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin, and a winning quarterback in Russell Wilson.
Here are three things Philadelphia must do to earn its sixth win and stay alive in the NFC East:
After a slow start — perhaps due to lingering injuries — Wilson was not putting up the numbers many football fans were used to for the first half of the season. But back-to-back wins against Buffalo and New England saw him throw for five touchdowns, no interceptions and over 600 yards combined in recent weeks. He's rounding into form.
"Every week, Russell Wilson has gotten healthier," Eagles defensive coordinator Jm Schwartz said. "Last week he looked like he was back to himself. I don't know how much his knee injury is still bothering him, but it didn't look like a lot."
Pressuring Wilson will be extremely important Sunday afternoon in the 4:25 p.m. kickoff (on CBS).
"It's not just a matter of beating the offensive linemen," Schwartz continued. "Now it's a matter of chasing the quarterback and getting the quarterback on the ground and holding up in coverage. It puts a lot of pressure on your coverage. The ball is not coming out quick, so we've got to do a good job of covering, and to be able to exploit those kind of matchups."
The Eagles compiled a season-high 208 rushing yards against a Falcons defense very similar to Seattle's in scheme and tendency.
But there are differences — and the Eagles know the Seahawks have been watching their latest victory all week. Finding new ways to run the ball will be really important.
"This group stunts in games and they’re fast; their linebackers are downhill. Safeties are involved. It's still an eight-man box, you know," head coach Doug Pederson said. "You are going to see Kam Chancellor down around the box a lot, and he's an extremely big, physical player. And that's what they do. Then they try to take that run game away from you. They have been successful doing that. That's why they get you into those longer yard situations where you might have to throw the ball. And then they get that pass rush after you. It's a fast group, an aggressive group, little more man coverage too than what we saw this past week."
After moderate success offensively last week — moderate because they still only posted 24 points and squandered potential points near the red zone — Philly needs to give the Seahawks disciplined and mature defense some different looks Sunday. If not, it could end badly.
"They're pretty good, and one of the reasons is everyone knows they play a lot of middle field closed zone, and they're playing more man now than what they used to play when they first started coming on the scene and coming on as a team," Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "But when you play the same zone all the time, there's only so many ways to attack it, so if you're not going to play, for instance, cover two, then when a team plays cover two, there are plays that are designed to be good against cover two. Well, by not playing cover two, they don't have to worry about ever practicing against those plays because we don't run our cover two plays against the Seattle defense. They know how teams attack them, and so the advantage that they try to play is, hey, here's the 20 concepts over the last 10 years the teams run against this defense. If we can identify them quickly, then we can guard against them more effectively. And so that's the advantage that they have."