PHILADELPHIA — The prevailing reason the Philadelphia Eagles were even playing on Sunday — why they won their last four games, why they clinched the N.F.C. East title, why they hosted a playoff game — clashed with what has become their standard operating procedure come January: Their quarterback was healthy.
Instead of starting a backup quarterback, the Eagles fielded a backup offense. But at least they had Carson Wentz, who, after watching the last two postseasons unspool without him, commanded a group teeming with misfits and castoffs and molded it into a functioning unit.
Wentz waited four seasons for his playoff debut. It lasted two drives. Once he departed, with what was announced as a head injury, the Seattle Seahawks’ advantage at quarterback widened. Russell Wilson, Seattle’s starter, dipped and darted, extending plays with his legs before tormenting the Eagles with his right arm.
The fifth-seeded Seahawks outlasted the fourth-seeded Eagles by 17-9 — the same score, and the same result, as the teams’ November meeting at Lincoln Financial Field — after twice stopping Philadelphia deep in their territory in the fourth quarter. The first time, Miles Sanders could not corral a low pass from Wentz’s replacement, Josh McCown. The second, with just under 2 minutes remaining, McCown was sacked at the Seattle 10-yard line by Jadeveon Clowney, whose unpenalized helmet-to-helmet hit had knocked Wentz from the game in the first quarter.
Seattle, which had lost the N.F.C. West last week by a few inches, advanced and will play No. 2 Green Bay next Sunday night at Lambeau Field. Wilson completed 18 of 30 passes for 325 yards and a touchdown, a 53-yarder to DK Metcalf midway through the third quarter that swelled the Seahawks’ lead to 17-6.
The Eagles could not retain their Super Bowl savior from two years ago, Nick Foles, so they lured McCown out of retirement in August to join his ninth team. Thrust into action replacing Wentz before halftime, McCown, 40, who hadn’t played since Week 6 at Minnesota or thrown a pass since Week 2 in Atlanta, took the first playoff snaps of his career Sunday, leading the Eagles to three Jake Elliott field goals but no more.
Under Coach Doug Pederson, the Eagles have specialized in many things come playoff time — winning, mainly — but also in eliciting sentences about them that begin with the same word: Somehow.
Somehow two years ago, the Eagles, led by a backup quarterback in Foles, won their first Super Bowl. Somehow last year, they ended with three consecutive victories, then defeated a division champion on the road, before nearly ousting the conference’s top seed. Somehow on Sunday, they stayed competitive with Seattle despite missing six offensive starters from their season opener — and then losing Wentz.