"Monday Night Football is special," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "The players like it. They know that everybody in the league is watching, all the other players are watching, so you are on a national stage. But as far as flying under the radar, if you will, that's OK." The Seahawks know they were fortunate to outlast the Giants in overtime on Sunday. Without three missed kicks by New York's Jay Feeley, the Seahawks' winning streak would have ended at six games. Then again, Seattle put together an 80-yard, nearly seven-minute touchdown drive to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
"To say that luck doesn't play a little or the ball bounces your way doesn't play a part in this business, you're nuts," Holmgren said. "It happens. We've had a couple in the last couple years that were horrible losses that bounced the other way, so it's nice to go through a season where every once in a while, you know, it kind of goes your way.
"But also, let's give credit where credit is due. I am never going to apologize for a win, ever. I'm just not going to do it. It's too hard to win a game. So if you're in a position to win a game, and everyone is playing on the same field, everyone is playing with the same amount of time, and you win, you win."
The Seahawks have never won against the Eagles since Holmgren became Seattle's coach in 1999. Philadelphia beat the Seahawks at Husky Stadium in 2001 and again at the newly built Qwest Field in 2002. Both times, the Eagles' defense was too much for the Seahawks.
Seattle's offense has reached another level of proficiency since then. QB Matt Hasselbeck was making his second NFL start when the Eagles won that 2001 game by a 27-3 score. He completed only nine of 24 passes for 62 yards. The Eagles sacked him seven times as the Seattle offense managed only 21 net yards passing and 2.6 yards per play.
This season, Hasselbeck has passed for at least 224 yards in nine of 11 games. He has been sacked only 19 times. He directs an offense that leads the league in yards per game. When he isn't dropping back to pass, he is usually handing off to the NFL's leading rusher in RB Shaun Alexander, who has 1,339 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns.
Then as now, the key to beating the Eagles will be handling their pressure. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson can still unleash effective blitzes. Hasselbeck took some hard shots last week against the Giants, who blitzed more than they had shown previously.
Seattle expects the Eagles to come after Hasselbeck, and that could present some problems for Seattle because the team remains without injured WR Darrell Jackson. Without Jackson, the Seahawks have a harder time beating press coverage. They should have some chances Monday night because the Eagles will be without injured CB Lito Sheppard.
"Jim Johnson is one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the NFL," Hasselbeck said. "If you ask a quarterback who is the toughest to prepare for, he is one of those guys. Going in there on Monday night football with their crowd and that kind of thing, it's going to be a tough job for us. We're going to have to work a little bit extra this week and go out and play our best."
SERIES HISTORY: 10th meeting. Eagles lead, 6-3. Philly's Andy Reid is 2-0 against former mentor Mike Holmgren, having beaten the Seahawks in 2001 and 2002, both times in Seattle. The Seahawks won the most recent meeting in Philadelphia, prevailing 38-0 in the 1998 opener. Seahawks defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes was the Eagles' head coach for that game, which marked the return of Ricky Watters to Veterans Stadium.
--Coach Mike Holmgren expressed regret for implying that the league had admitted officiating errors in the Seahawks-Giants game Sunday. The league issued a statement denying any such admissions. Part of the problem stemmed from media reports that misconstrued what Holmgren had said Monday. "I think it's kind of a tempest in a teapot, myself, but I messed up a little bit," Holmgren said Wednesday. "The way I should have responded to the question was, 'Yeah, I talked to the league, but our conversation was confidential.' "
Holmgren's remarks drew more scrutiny than usual because Seattle is 9-2 and the Giants hail from the nation's largest media market. Holmgren faces the possibility of a fine. "Because of the potential fine, my kids won't get Christmas stockings," he joked. "I don't want any of you to feel bad about that."
On Wednesday, NFL Director of Officiating Mike Pereira said that the Shockey catch should not have been ruled a touchdown.
--Seahawks WR D.J. Hackett will be watching the Vancouver Olympics with some interest. His former University of Colorado teammate, Jeremy Bloom, was a punt returner for the Buffaloes. Bloom plans to go from the ski slopes to the 2006 NFL draft. "He's a special athlete," Hackett said. "I just know he was the fastest guy I've ever seen on the field. Maybe not the track speed as fast, but he pulled away from everybody on punt returns." Hackett has also been pulling away from defenders on occasion. His 38-yard reception in overtime helped Seattle move into position for the winning field goal against the Giants.
BY THE NUMBERS: 46 - That's the number of times this season Seattle's offense has faced third-and-10 or longer. The team faced 51 such situations all of last season. Seattle has converted only five of them into first downs in 2005.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's handled it as good as any human being could. And he's one of the quality coaches, and quality human beings. I'm honored to call him a friend of mine." - Coach Mike Holmgren on Eagles coach Andy Reid, his former assistant in Green Bay.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Seahawks released WR Richard Smith from their practice squad. Team president Tim Ruskell isn't afraid to shuttle players through the practice squad for extended tryouts. That's what he did with Smith, a former Chiefs prospect who had spent time in NFL Europe. Another practice-squad player, S Etric Pruitt, used that route to earn a spot on the active roster after Seattle lost starting FS Ken Hamlin and backup FS John Howell to injuries. Pruitt is one step closer to getting some spot duty now that an injury to CB Kelly Herndon could force swing DB Jordan Babineaux into a full-time corner role.
--DT Chuck Darby missed practice Wednesday. He is probable with a knee injury. Darby's toughness has already impressed teammates. The knee has bothered him much of the season. Darby re-injured it Sunday and limped badly as he left the field. He sat out two plays and returned to the field without seeking the approval of trainers. On his first play back, Darby split a double-team block by the Giants' center and left guard, breaking through to pressure QB Eli Manning into a crucial interception. Seattle converted the turnover into a touchdown and a 14-13 lead.
--DE Bryce Fisher missed practice Wednesday. He is questionable with foot injury.
--LB D.D. Lewis missed practice Wednesday. He is probable with a knee injury. The team has been resting Lewis during the week so he can play in the games.
--WR Darrell Jackson has not tested his surgically repaired right knee. The team is waiting to get the go-ahead from Jackson's orthopedist in Florida. The orthopedist is reviewing results of the latest MRIs before making a decision on when Jackson can return. The team hopes Jackson can return for its Dec. 11 game against San Francisco. Jackson has missed the last seven games. Seattle is 7-0 during that time but the passing game has suffered for his absence.
--CB Kelly Herndon is out with a knee injury. He could miss two or three games, coach Mike Holmgren said.
GAME PLAN: Seattle RB Shaun Alexander should get lots of carries under the bright lights of Monday night, where he has a chance to audition for the free-agent suitors who could be lining up after the season. The Seahawks generally like to set up the run with the pass. If they can do that against the Eagles, they'll be fine. If not, they need to force-feed the ground game until the Eagles soften up. Philadelphia remains among the top six NFL teams in third-down defense, so it's crucial for the Seahawks to get into third-and-short situations. Alexander has converted 19-of-20 chances on third-and-5 or shorter, but QB Matt Hasselbeck is completing only 50 percent on third down.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Seahawks RT Sean Locklear, who needed help last week against Giants DLE Michael Strahan, vs. Eagles DE Jevon Kearse, who ranks among the Eagles' leaders in sacks. Locklear is a solid young starter who has held up reasonably well against tough competition. Strahan was by far his toughest test. Kearse is no longer putting up freakish numbers, but he does have 6.5 sacks.
Seahawks WR Joe Jurevicius, coming off a two-TD game against the Giants, vs. Eagles CB Roderick Hood, who has stepped in for injured All-Pro CB Lito Sheppard. Jurevicius won't scare anyone with his speed or quickness, but his 6-foot-5 frame can give DBs problems. Jurevicius is also a tough player who puts his 230-pound body to good use, casting aside would-be tacklers with a wicked stiff-arm. Hood picked off Packers QB Brett Favre to secure the Eagles' victory last week. Hood is 5-11 and close to 200 pounds.
INJURY IMPACT: The Seahawks expected to have DT Marcus Tubbs back last week and they missed his presence against the run when he was ruled out as a game-time decision. Tubbs is practicing this week and will definitely play. The continued absence of WR Darrell Jackson presents some problems against man-to-man coverage because his replacements lack the same level of speed, quickness and overall shiftiness. Seattle's pass rush could suffer if DE Bryce Fisher is limited or does not play, a real possibility.
Brian Westbrook is entering uncharted territory. The 5-foot-9, 200-pound running back has racked up 95 touches in the past four games, including a season-high 27 in last week's 19-14 win over the Green Bay Packers. Since selecting him in the third round of the 2002 draft, the Eagles always have been reluctant to overuse Westbrook because of durability issues.
But with Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb gone and the 5-6 Eagles' playoff hopes on life support, coach Andy Reid knows he needs to put the ball in Westbrook's hands as often as possible, ankle sprains, hip pointers and bruised knees be damned.
Westbrook had a season-high 21 carries against the Packers, using them to notch just the third 100-yard rushing performance of his career. He also had four receptions (for just 11 yards) and returned two punts. "You try to monitor (his touches)," offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. "But when you have a hot hand, you go with it. He's not turning away from any carries. Plus, we had a longer week to get ready (for Monday night's game against Seattle). You've got to go to your playmaker, and he's one of them."
Since joining the Eagles, Westbrook's greatest value has been as a receiver. He had 73 receptions last season and leads the team with 56 this year. But with McNabb out for the season and three new faces on the offensive line, the Eagles have put their pass-happy ways on ice and are running the ball more.
Last week, for the first time all season, they ran the ball more than they threw it. In the past 18 quarters, they've thrown the ball just 22 more times than they've run it (157-135). In the first 26 quarters, they threw the ball 388 times and ran it just 109 times. But it remains to be seen how much of a between-the-tackles licking Westbrook can take and still keep on ticking. Which is why you probably won't see him carry the ball 20-plus times again Monday night.
The Eagles hope to work in Lamar Gordon and rookie Ryan Moats more against the Seahawks and utilize Westbrook more in the passing game. Moats, the club's third-round pick out of Louisiana Tech, has spent most of the season on the inactive list as he struggled to learn the Eagles' complex version of the West Coast offense. But he made enough progress to convince Andy Reid to activate him last week, and he responded with 24 rushing yards on six carries, including an impressive 12-yard run on the Eagles' game-winning, fourth-quarter scoring drive.
"It was a blast," said the 5-9, 210-pound Moats. "It was fun to get out there and contribute. I never went this long without playing in my life. There were times I wondered if I ever was going to get on the field. But I've always just tried to make the situation make sense.
"I kind of figured they were just bringing me along slowly. Me getting mad or throwing a fit wasn't going to help the situation. These people have been in the NFL a lot longer than me, so they have a lot better feel for when I'm ready than I do."
SERIES HISTORY: 10th meeting. The Eagles lead the series 6-3. The Eagles won the last two meetings, including a 27-20 victory in Seattle in '02. This is the first time the Seahawks have been to Philadelphia since Andy Reid become head coach in 1999.
--Mike McMahon will be making his second start at quarterback Monday night, but he's going to need to pick up his play if he wants to hang on to the job. While he's thrown just one interception in 67 attempts and has done some good things running with the football, McMahon has completed just 44 percent of his passes in his two starts. Last week against Green Bay, he completed just four of 12 passes for 27 yards in the first half. The previous week, against the Giants, he completed just five of 15 passes for 81 yards in the first half. He's been getting decent protection. He just hasn't been very accurate. "Right now, it's Mike's position," coach Andy Reid said. "We'll see how he does here. He did some good things (against the Packers). He took a couple of steps forward in the second half. Now we need to get him started a little faster than we have in the last couple of games."
If Reid does bench McMahon at some point, he would replace him with backup Koy Detmer, who doesn't have McMahon's arm strength or mobility but is more accurate and has a better grasp of the offense.
--Donovan McNabb had surgery to repair his sports hernia earlier this week. Reid said the surgery went well, and he fully expects the quarterback to be ready to participate in the club's post-draft minicamp in late April.
--McMahon has rushed for 60 yards in his two starts. That's 5 yards more than McNabb's nine-game rushing total this season.
--Lamar Gordon's first-quarter fumble Sunday against Green Bay was the first lost fumble by an Eagles running back on a rushing attempt in 799 carries over 41 games. The last lost fumble by a running back on a rushing attempt: Correll Buckhalter on October 26, 2003, against the New York Jets.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I have the ability to run routes as well as run the ball. Whatever way I touch the ball, I'm happy. I just want to touch it. But as a running back, you always want to run the ball first." - Brian Westbrook, who had a season-high 21 carries last week against the Packers
BY THE NUMBERS: 21 - Sacks the Eagles have allowed in 474 pass plays. That's an average of just one sack every 22.6 pass plays, which is the best by an Eagles offensive line in 24 years.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Eagles made another punting change this week, releasing Nick Murphy after just one game and replacing him with 43-year-old veteran Sean Landeta.
LG Artis Hicks, who missed last week's game with a knee sprain, may be healthy enough to play this week. But it remains to be seen whether he will. His replacement, second-year man Adrien Clarke, played very well in last week's 19-14 win over Green Bay. Hicks has been inconsistent much of the season.
"We'll see how Artis does here," coach Andy Reid said, "how he's feeling, how much range of motion he has in that leg."
--LG Artis Hicks, who missed last week's game with a sprained knee, is listed as questionable for Monday night's game. The Eagles don't resume practice until Thursday, so it's hard to determine whether he'll be able to play.
--DT Sam Rayburn is listed as questionable after aggravating his shoulder injury last week against Green Bay. Rayburn probably will play, but likely he'll have his snaps reduced.
--G Adrien Clarke probably will get his second straight start Monday night in place of injured Artis Hicks. Clarke played very well last week against the Packers.
--RB Lamar Gordon, who suffered a concussion in last week's game against Green Bay, appears to be OK. He's listed as probable for Monday night's game against Seattle.
--P Sean Landeta was signed by the Eagles on Tuesday and will handle the punting against Seattle. He replaces Nick Murphy, who was cut after just one game.
GAME PLAN: Defensively, the Eagles want to try to neutralize Seattle running back Shaun Alexander, particularly on first down, and put the Seahawks in some obvious passing situations. Offensively, they'll probably continue to run the ball a lot and take the pressure off of quarterback Mike McMahon.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Eagles CB Rod Hood vs. Seahawks WR Joe Jurivicius. Hood is subbing for injured Lito Sheppard. Jurivicius isn't fast, but he will have a 6-inch height advantage.
--Eagles LDE Jevon Kearse vs. Seahawks RT Sean Locklear. Kearse has picked up his play and needs a solid performance against Locklear if Eagles are going to neutralize Seahawks' running game.
LG Artis Hicks may miss his second straight game with a knee injury. But his replacement, Adrien Clarke is playing better than Hicks was.