The prevailing reason the 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 Wentz, who, after watching the last two postseasons unspool without him, molded misfits and castoffs into a functioning unit.
Wentz had waited four seasons for his playoff debut. It lasted two drives. Once he departed, the Seahawks’ advantage at quarterback widened. Wilson dipped and darted, extending plays with his legs — he led Seattle with 45 rushing yards — before tormenting the Eagles with his right arm.
The Seahawks outlasted the fourth-seeded Eagles — by the same score, with the same result, as in the teams’ November meeting at Lincoln Financial Field, — by twice stopping Philadelphia deep in their territory in the fourth quarter. On the first, Miles Sanders could not corral a low pass from Wentz’s replacement, Josh McCown. On the second, with just under two 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.
“I was trying to get him down,” Clowney said of the hit on Wentz. “It was a bang-bang play. I don’t intend to hurt nobody in this league, let me just put that out there.”
Speaking to a pool reporter afterward, the referee, Shawn Smith, explained the no-call. “He was a runner and he did not give himself up,” Smith said of Wentz. “We saw incidental helmet contact, and in our judgment, we didn’t rule that to be a foul.”
Regardless of his intent, Clowney said he recognized how pivotal Wentz’s absence was.
“When you’ve got to play the backup quarterback,” Clowney said, “there’s only so many plays that they can run.”