The Seattle Seahawks proved that they are the new gold standard in the NFL by pounding the favored Denver Broncos 43-8 in Sunday’s Super Bowl. That’s the standard all teams must reach now, including your friendly, neighborhood Eagles.
Which brings us to the obvious question: How do the Eagles get there? What do they have to do to challenge the Seahawks in the NFC? It’s clear the road to the Super Bowl now goes through Seattle and the Eagles and everyone else in the conference must find a way to cope with a young, talented team that will only get better.
And the answer is that the Eagles can’t get there, at least not right now. There’s no way they can draft and/or sign that many smart, fast, tough athletic defensive players in just one year or even two. It took the Seahawks four years to build the dynamo we saw on Sunday night and even if the Eagles make all the right moves this offseason it will still take time for everything to come together.
The Seahawks didn’t just beat the Broncos on Sunday, they also bullied them. They hounded quarterback Peyton Manning and smacked the receivers hard if they caught the ball and after a while neither Manning nor his receivers wanted anything to do with Seattle’s swarming, stifling – and smart — defense. The Seahawks delivered a lot of crushing blows and all of them were clean and it’s not easy to really clobber somebody in the open field and not get flagged for it in today’s NFL.
The Seahawks had much more than great defense going for them, of course. Quarterback Russell Wilson quietly had a terrific game and his quick feet got him out of trouble – and picked up several key first downs – all night as he and the Seahawks’ offense did what they were supposed to do, which was control the ball, don’t make mistakes and score some points.
The Seahawks also had terrific special teams play against the Broncos. That was highlighted by Percy Harvin’s 87-yard yard return for a touchdown with the kickoff that opened the second half, a play that pushed Seattle’s lead to 29-0 and, perhaps more than any other play, was the one that made it clear who were the bullies and who were the bullied. But the Seahawks’ coverage of kicks and punts was also impressive — the Seattle players not only got to the Broncos’s returners quickly, the also got there with authority, just another example of a bigger, stronger team inflicting its will on another.
And that’s really what this game was about, especially on the Seahawks’ defensive side of the ball. Not only did Seattle completely shut down Manning and the Broncos’ record-setting offense, they also scored a touchdown on a 69-yardinterception return by the eventual game MVP, linebacker Malcolm Smith. But more than the statistics, it was the look on the faces of Manning and his teammates that told the story.
Defense is obviously where the Eagles will put most of their focus this offseason, whether it’s in free agency or the draft, and the Eagles’ draft will almost certainly be all about improving that side of the ball. And they need help everywhere on defense, so they truly can go with the best (defensive) athlete available. But there’s no way they can get enough of them that quickly.
The Eagles surprised just about everybody by winning 10 games and the NFC East title in Chip Kelly’s first season as coach. Kelly, of course, is an offensive guy and the 2013 Eagles proved that as they had one of the most potent attacks in the league. The Eagles sputtered at times on offense last season, but there were also times when they were as explosive on offense as any team in the league. Plus they were a lot of fun to watch.
Their defense improved throughout the season, but watching Sunday night’s Super Bowl gave you a good indication of how far they still have to go and how long it might take.
Contact Kevin Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org.