Five things to watch: Eagles-Seahawks

December, 1, 2011
12/01/11
10:01
AM ET
The Philadelphia Eagles are 4-7, all but out of the playoff hunt in a year that carried the highest of hopes and expectations. It is the worst record the team has had after 11 games since they started 3-8 in Andy Reid's first season as their coach. They are, for the third week in a row, without their starting quarterback and top wide receiver. It has been just four days since they were completely dismantled at home by the New England Patriots. And on Thursday night, they will attempt to beat the Seahawks in Seattle to keep alive their chances of at least having a winning season. Let's look at what they need to do to make that happen.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
Dale Zanine/US PresswireRunning back LeSean McCoy had only 10 carries in the Eagles' loss to New England.
Run the ball with LeSean McCoy. In McCoy, the Eagles have the league's leading rusher. And yet, to the frustration of their fans, they seem determined to gear each week's game plan around the pass. That hasn't stopped since Vince Young took over at quarterback for the injured Michael Vick, and in Sunday's loss to the Patriots the Eagles ran the ball just 17 times. ESPN Stats & Information informs us that the Eagles are 0-6-1 in the last seven games in which they did not have at least 20 rushing attempts. Now, you'll chicken-and-egg me on this, pointing out that teams that are behind don't run the ball as much and generally lose. But I would put it to you that the Washington Redskins, just four days ago in this same building against these same Seahawks, stuck with the run even though they were behind and managed to come back and win once their determination to stick with the run paid off. If Roy Helu can do it, then so can McCoy.

Wrap up Marshawn Lynch. The Seahawks' running back is on a roll, having rushed for more than 100 yards in three of his past four games and scored a touchdown in each of his last seven. During those past four games, Stats & Info says, Lynch has amassed a league-leading 212 rush yards after contact. He is big and forceful and tough to bring down, but the Eagles must make a commitment to doing that, or else he's capable of busting a big one. Philadelphia should be able to commit all of its energy to stopping Lynch, since Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is (a) banged up, (b) Tarvaris Jackson and (c) without his best receiver, Sidney Rice, who's out for the year because of a concussion.

Get DeSean Jackson's mind right. Here's a recap of Jackson's past three games: Week 10, listed as inactive and told to stay home from the Arizona game after missing a team meeting the day before; Week 11, played well but mixed in an inexcusable post-catch taunting penalty that cost him a 50-yard reception; Week 12, dropped two touchdown passes, including a short one on which he appeared to pull up short because he was afraid of getting hit, and was benched in the fourth quarter for poor performance. We all know Jackson's unhappy about and distracted by his contract situation. He's admitted it. But he and the Eagles need to find a way to get his head in the game. Without the injured Jeremy Maclin, Jackson is absolutely vital to the downfield passing game. And as important as it is for them to use McCoy, they are going to get some shots downfield against that Seattle secondary. Jackson needs to cash them in.

Rattle the Hawks. The Eagles were super-feisty two weeks ago, getting in the faces of Giants players, trash-talking before and after plays and baiting some of the Giants into foolish retaliation penalties. They like to do that against the Giants, since they believe they've been able to get into the Giants' heads over the past couple of years and beat them as a result. They might want to take a page out of that playbook against the Seahawks, who lead the league with 129 penalties and can be baited as well. Of course, the Eagles will have to watch their own penalties, particularly false starts in one of the loudest outdoor stadiums in the league.

Get along! Assistant coaches Marty Mornhinweg and Jim Washburn got into a visible spat on the sideline Sunday against the Patriots. Everybody says it's all copacetic at this point, but the Eagles need to stick together if they're going to figure out a way to win games down the stretch. Save it for the locker room, fellas!

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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