Is the Eagles DL Up for the Challenge to Stop Marshawn Lynch?
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Their last challenge was the NFL's leading rusher, Dallas running back DeMarco Murray.
This week it's the NFL's leading rushing team, the Seattle Seahawks.
The Philadelphia Eagles' run defense, which has gotten better each week, faces another tough test when it hosts the Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch on Sunday.
"That just motivates us," Eagles defensive end Cedric Thornton said after Tuesday's practice. "This week it's a different motivation. Against Dallas it was the offensive line and Murray. This week it's the same kind of an offensive line and an even better back."
Murray, who was held to 73 yards on 20 carries by the Eagles for his lowest output and lowest yards per carry of the season on Thanksgiving Day, still leads the league in rushing with 1,427 yards. Lynch is fifth at 956 yards, but the big back is dangerous and the Eagles know it.
"Nobody runs the ball harder," Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis said of Lynch. "He comes downhill every play. He runs angry. He's a talented back, and he looks for contact. He's going to get his yardage. He gets the hard yards and he gets exactly what's there every down.
"Both of those guys are big, look-for-contact guys. DeMarco will put his shoulder down and run you over, too. So it's nice that we're facing those two big downhill runners back to back. We know what it's about. It takes a swarm tackle. You can't arm tackle Marshawn Lynch. It's got to be a full body swarm with all the effort to the ball."
The Eagles' run defense has steadily improved this season. Over the last three weeks it has gone from 19th in the league to 16th to 12th. After getting gashed by Indianapolis for 169 yards in Week 2 and for 218 by San Francisco in Week 4, the Eagles have not allowed more than 125 yards rushing in a game since. They have held six opponents to less than 100 yards rushing this year.
In Davis' 28 games as defensive coordinator, only two backs have gained over 100 yards in a game: Oakland's Rashad Jennings in a 49-20 Eagles win in 2013, and San Francisco's Frank Gore this year.
So outside of games played in the Bay Area, no back has gained 100 yards against Davis' defense.
"I think it's a collective effort that starts with the defensive line in the way they put their hands on people," Davis said. "They strike with their hands. They've got a great understanding of controlling blocks and then shedding blocks.
"So when that front wall is built properly, like ours have really been built properly most of the year, then the rest of the guys fit into place after that. I think we've done a lot of work on the tackling aspect. When we first got here we really had to amp that up and we put a lot of focus on it, and usually what you focus on is what you get."
NOTES: Backup tight end Trey Burton and kick returner/running back Chris Polk did not practice Tuesday. Burton suffered a hamstring injury near the end of the Dallas game. Polk has been bothered by a hamstring injury on and off all season.
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