It was a critical juncture of the Seattle Seahawks’ 17-9 playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
And it was one that had people asking questions in the aftermath.
The Seahawks used a dominating performance by rookie receiver DK Metcalf, more magic from quarterback Russell Wilson, and a defense that didn’t allow a touchdown to beat the Eagles and advance to next Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers.
But one has to think the Eagles losing starting quarterback Carson Wentz to injury in the first quarter had at least some effect on the game.
On the first play of Philadelphia’s second drive, Wentz was brought down by a shoestring tackle by Bradley McDougald, and while Wentz was going down Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney landed on Wentz’s back:
— Kevin Boilard (@247KevinBoilard) January 5, 2020
Wentz stayed in the game and finished out the series, but he was evaluated for a head injury while on the sidelines and never returned. His replacement was 40-year-old, back-from-retirement Josh McCown, who admittedly had his good moments. However, McCown was also a 40-year-old back-up playing in his first ever playoff game, and given all the injuries the Eagles already had on offense, it was probably going to be Wentz who had to win the game for Philadelphia.
There was no penalty called on Clowney. However, the video shows there was helmet-to-helmet contact, with Clowney’s helmet hitting the back of Wentz’s helmet and Wentz’s head subsequently being driven into the ground.
After the game, referee Shawn Smith was asked by the pool reporter about the play, and Smith said it was the correct call not to throw a flag:
“Carson Wentz was a runner and he did not give himself up. We saw incidental helmet contact, and in our judgment, we didn’t rule that to be a foul.” – Referee Shawn Smith#SEAvsPHI pic.twitter.com/8cmSftm3Ts
— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) January 6, 2020
Many in Philadelphia disagreed. Clowney was booed by the home crowd at Lincoln Financial Field the rest of the game, and Eagles left tackle Jason Peters described it as “a dirty play.”
After the game, Clowney said it was a bang-bang play and that he didn’t intend to hurt anybody:
Here's Clowney's response: "It was a bang-bang play. I don’t intend to hurt nobody in this league." pic.twitter.com/wVEdtlcWBW
— Adam Jude (@A_Jude) January 6, 2020
Clowney had a fantastic game for the Seahawks. He finished with five tackles, including two for loss, and a sack, and Seattle finished with seven sacks as a team. Clowney, who’s been dealing with a core muscle injury, looked a shell of himself the previous week in the Seahawks’ loss to San Francisco in their regular-season finale. But he was back to his dominating self again against the Eagles.
Philadelphia fans have made it very clear on the internet what they thought about Clowney’s hit on Wentz. But I’m curious to hear what Seattle fans think. Was it a clean play? Should it have been flagged? Should Clowney have faced measures beyond a penalty? Bear in mind, NFL rules allow for an ejection for helmet-to-helmet contact.
What say you?