BY Art Thiel 08:47PM 12/07/2014

Thiel: Seahawks defense is destroyer of worlds

The only people not stunned by the smothering of the Philadelphia Eagles offense were the Seahawks defenders, who saw it coming — as they did in February.

Cliff Avril and his his defensive teammates thrashed the Eagles in Philadelphia Sunday. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest file

Coach Chip Kelly will be thrilled to get back to practice next week in Philadelphia. His Eagles will have a chance to re-familiarize themselves with the football, which they hardly had a chance to fondle Sunday.

For a team averaging a league-high 73 plays a game, having only 45 plays, and for a total of 18 minutes — fewest in Seahawks history — and 139 yards, Sunday qualifies as an estrangement, if not a divorce.

Never have the Seahawks had a more overwhelming game on defense, which is saying something even over the last three weeks, when they held the Arizona Cardinals to 204 yards and the 49ers in Santa Clara to 164.

Sunday, they reached inside the Eagles and destroyed their football souls. The 139 yards were the fewest by a Chip Kelly offense in his six seasons as an NFL and NCAA head coach. He may not have expected it, but the Seahawks, with a little extra prep time thanks to a break after the Thanksgiving game, did.

“We expect to dominate every time out,” FS Earl Thomas told reporters after the game. “We’re not really worried about (the opponent). It’s about us.

“It was just like practice.  We are really connected right now. We’re in sync.”

Boy, are they in sync.

“We take a lot of out this because it was a very good football team in a very difficult setting,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “We played the way we hoped we’d play. We kept the ball and kept (the Eagles) offense out of there.

“I never thought we’d hold them under 50 plays.”

Kelly seemed a little stunned too.

“You go into the game with a game plan, thinking you can execute,” he told reporters. “I’ll give them credit. They did a hell of a job on defense. They played better than us today.

“We tried to establish the run. I thought we could do a better job up front. Obviously, we didn’t get that started. They did a good job.”

When the NFL schedule was released, a game in Philadelphia in December against the Eagles’ Ducks-inspired offense looked formidable. And it was — for a half. The Seahawks had a 10-7 intermission lead that seemed tenuous against an offense with many weapons.

Then the Seahawks forced two turnovers and swarmed QB Mark Sanchez, a valiant but over-matched backup pressed by injury into the starting job. Carroll’s former USC protege completed 10 of 20 passes for 82 yards, as only three of the Eagles’ 12 possessions went beyond 20 yards. The feared RB LeSean McCoy rushed for 50 yards on 17 carries.

Meanwhile the Seahawks offense, which backed itself out of range of three field goals with penalties or misplays, nevertheless converted on touchdown plays so pretty they might have set a record for bamboozle-ment: Three scores in which the scorer went in untouched.

First was a second-quarter read option for 26 yards by QB Russell Wilson, who had the entire Philly defense suckered into following a fake handoff to RB Marshawn Lynch. In the third quarter, Wilson again faked Lynch into the line, but this time Lynch maneuvered into the left flat after Wilson rolled out right, lofting a 15-yard pass. Again, virginal.

The heartbreaker came with nine minutes left in a game still competitive at 17-14. Wilson arced a perfectly aimed and timed pass from 23 yards that WR Doug Baldwin (five catches, 97 yards) caught in full stride at the goal line.

The clinical smoothness of the scores overshadowed errors, a Lynch fumble, some Wilson inaccuracy and suspect pass protection that prevented a Seattle blowout. But Wilson (22 of 37 for 252 yards and no turnovers) navigated the maelstrom, as he usually does.

“I thought he played phenomenal in the first half,” Carroll said. “Somebody said, ‘What are we going to do to get him going?’ His completion percentage maybe wasn’t much, but getting up and down the field was good. Russell played a terrific game, as did the guys around him.

“Marshawn ran like he was a wild man.”

Lynch went for 86 rushing yards on 23 carries, leading a ground game that had 188 clock-eating yards. The pattern has worked for three consecutive wins over top-tier NFC opponents, two on the road, making the Seahawks, with three games left, look like insiders for the playoffs with a decent shot at repeating an NFC West division title.

“I definitely think our identity is showing up,” Wilson said. “We are high in confidence because of the work we put it every week.

“To come to Philadelphia, a well-known place where they haven’t lost this season, to step up and make play after play . . .  I thought we were relentless.”

With home games left against wounded San Francisco Sunday and a season-ender against revived St. Louis, plus a road game against first-place Arizona, much work remains. But they did the hardest scheduled deed Sunday by being what Wilson said: Relentless.

That’s the one and only approach that an NFL stretch drive requires.


YourThoughts

  • PokeyPuffy

    The D was great but huge credit to Wilson and the offense for tapdancing through 70% of the game clock! Great to see their sense of urgency in moving the chains and scoring

    • art thiel

      Have a new story posted on the progress of the offense in the second half.

  • Vandy

    Great article, Art! Your metaphors of chaste football bliss made me giggle!

    It was interesting throughout the first half, to see Chip Kelly jawing, jawing, and jawing at the refs, and then, as the second half progressed, sensing that he couldn’t influence the outcome of the game in any way with his mouth, seemingly shut up.

    Especially apropos was the interception the Sanchise threw after Lynch’s fumble.Not to brag about it calling it before it happened, but it was predictable, given Sanchez’s history of not coming up clutch in pressure situations.

    One down, three more to go. If the Hawks keep this up, no one can stop them!

    • art thiel

      Sanchez may never surmount the Buttfumble.

  • 1coolguy

    Wow! 139 yards – are you kidding me??? 42 minutes TOP??? What a complete smack down, and coming on the heels of the past 2 games of 204 and 164: This D is the real deal. Wilson is the master, no question. Turnovers are so critical in this game and RW again had none and was able to make up for those that we did give up.
    Player of the Week has to go to Jeanpierre @ center, who until JS called was sitting on his couch at home 3 weeks ago. He stepped into the starters role last week and again this week, not even on the scout team, and has shored up the center position. Unger will be back for the Niners so I hope Jeanpierre is kept on the rest of the year. Maybe he should replace the “Matador” at right tackle, who had enough whiffs this game to remind me of Jay Buhner.

    • art thiel

      Good point about Jeanpierre. He saved some serious Seahawks bacon.

  • Diamond Mask

    The score was close but it never felt close. There was only Sanchez standing between us and victory. Not exactly formidable. Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      Since it was 17-14 with nine minutes left, the Seahawks were a mistake away from grimness. In the NFL, the stats can lie.

      • Diamond Mask

        Sounds like your glass is half full Art. But don’t worry I did plenty of pacing.

  • Jamo57

    Get a copy of the game film to Coach Petersen. That’s how it’s done!

    • dharmabruce

      I can’t tell if you’re making a joke because the last time a Chip Kelly offense was this feeble was against Coach Petersen’s 2009 Boise State team, held to 152 yards, 13 worse than the 139 given up by the Hawks, or…something else. I’m guessing joke, HA!

      • Jamo57

        Yes, it was meant as a joke. And perhaps a better way to convey the thought behind it was to say “Get a copy to the Huskies coaching staff!”, I remember the game of which you speak fondly. LeGarrette Blount’s foray into trying to become a hot dog vendor!

        In any event, get the game film over to Montlake and recruit players who fit the Legion of Boom. ;-)

        • dharmabruce

          Agreed. It seems like Coach Pete had a somewhat tenuous hold on the team but it strengthened throughout the year. I’m hopeful for a good Cactus bowl and better things to come. I don’t know but I wonder if Sark tended to recruit talent over everything while Peterson also requires a solid discipline component to his recruits as well. But it’s probably just different systems that accounts for the dip this year.

          • Jamo57

            Yeah, I’m optimistic. And Coach Pete is still above .500 vs. the Nike Nation. It would have been nice to play them either earlier in the year (when they were missing a few OLs) or later when the team finally jelled. That joke was directed at some past coaching staffs probably more. LOL

          • art thiel

            No matter the calendar, Huskies weren’t ready this year. No Mariota next year.

          • art thiel

            Sark had to start from 0-12. Standards were minimal.

          • Bayview Herb

            He also got a whole bunch of 1st stringers back from injury, which I think made the difference.

        • art thiel

          They had one — Marcus Peters.

        • Bayview Herb

          I still remember Effren Herrera when he did so many innovating onside kicks. Jack Patera was a perfect fit for an expansion team.

      • art thiel

        Good pull Bruce. Now it’s up to Petersen next fall to execute same.

    • art thiel

      When Kelly punted away the last possession in a 10-point game, that was a statement.

  • Gerald Turner

    Earlier this week an Eagle fan said to me, “You Seahawk bandwagon jumpers!” I told him that I could name every coach the team has had, then he said to me; “You looked that up on Wikipedia!” I had no reply, since in thirty years of being a Seahawk fan accusations of bandwagon jumping were something I never had to deal with. I did say all week the same thing I said before the Superbowl. The Hawk defense destroys finesse passing offenses. The only way to match up is to go smash mouth ground and pound. Or have a once in a lifetime P Rivers like passing performance. If Rogers and Payton couldn’t do it was Sanchez going to? I was OK with what Eagle fan said to me, because I caught a glint of fear in his eyes when I mentioned Seahawks. And I remember all the years as a fan when we were the hunted.

    • art thiel

      Good take, Gerald. Here in the heart of beakness, the bandwagon has some newbies, but it groans with the weight of the long suffering.

    • Bayview Herb

      Well, Gerald, I have my ticket stub from 1976 fitst game ever against St. Louis. That will shut them up quickly.

  • tee72

    As it’s clear that they have never been out of this race, but it still rides on a knife edge, especially without the receivers they had in 13′

  • jafabian

    The offense had issues for most of the first half and at times I thought Russell Wilson was channeling his inner Dave Krieg, overthrowing his receivers at times. But he directed a drive to get a FG before the half and that seemed to get things back on track for the rest of the game. The score was what I predicted but I really thought they could have won by more, especially if Jon Ryan didn’t fumble the snap for his punt.

    The second half the team fired up the DeLorean and revisited the 2013 defense. Bobby Wagner is for the defense what Marshawn Lynch is for the offense, at least recently. The defense seems to share that honor among everyone as that Earl Thomas, Cliff Avil, Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor et al have dominated at times. Right now I’m not looking at the Cardinals. Passing them is a given. I’m looking at the Packers. I’d love to face them in the playoffs and have Richard quote Matt Hasselbeck at the coin toss.

    • art thiel

      My story up now talks of the second half offense and how excited Carroll was.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    This was a fun game …reminiscent of the SB. I posted a comment on friday in which i said i felt the Hawks would trounce them. Only one opinion and the score should have been even more lopsided…38~7 or something. The stats sure would have lined up with a score like that. Chip Kelly had that deer in the headlights look.
    They are in the toughest division in Football and we now have 3 ruffians to deal with. Interesting enough I think the one that will give them the most trouble might be that Ram game. The Rams are much better than their record. Still 3~0 could happen. Go Hawks.

    • art thiel

      Rams last two games were shutouts. Yow.

  • Obi-jonKenobi

    The looming question: is the Seattle defense dominant enough to shut down the Packers on their frozen home field during the playoffs???

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      The will only have to worry about half the field since they wont throw to Shermans side….

    • art thiel

      Yes.

  • ll9956

    A great win for sure. The Hawks managed to keep steady and recover from Marshawn’s and Ryan’s fumbles. That is a mark of an elite team. The near-interception of RW’s pass in the fourth (?) quarter was a heart-stopper and could have changed the outcome of the game, as it would have been a sure pick-six and given momentum to the Eagles. Whew!

    I have a slight concern that they could suffer from overconfidence against the Niners, but I’m certain that PC and Co. will preach loud and long that they can’t afford to fall into that trap.

    Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      I don’t see a trap game here. And I don’t expect the Niners to lay down.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Never have the Seahawks had a more overwhelming game on defense, which
    is saying something even over the last three weeks, when they held the
    Arizona Cardinals to 204 yards and the 49ers in Santa Clara to 164. Says it all.

    You would have to be blind not to notice
    that the supercharger was HAMMERED off of the Eagles offensive Engine
    with a stifling defensive effort reminiscent of flattened Bronco.
    Lowest opponents time of possession in
    Hawk history@18:04.The ten
    point difference belies this game with a resounding nature that’s even
    more befuddling when looking at the stats. A home team that was 6~0 and
    the favorite to win….that had never scored under 20 points in any game
    in 2014?They were suddenly wearing one of those Houdini straight jackets with no instructions how to get out.
    Seattle was a Jon Ryan inexplicable fumble from holding the Eagles to a mere 7….Bird of prey?It wasnt the home bird….. its not looking too good for fans of other NFC West teams either cuz the bird of prey smells blood with 2~3 coming to their ecosystem.

    After tearing at raptor flesh and having his fill of Pennsylvania Eagle the predator cast its gaze westward…..Talons ready for the next challenge.

    The Bird of prey then flew the great distance back home to the Pacific
    Northwest…..to prepare for the Santa Clara’s and their dysfunctional
    wagon coming up from California.
    They thought the Raiders were rough on them. Not looking good for the gold panners.

    Go Hawks.

    • art thiel

      Put down the coffee, David. Then step away from the keyboard.

  • Bayview Herb

    I have two issues. I couldn’t remember when the league went to a 17 game format. The other is terminology. The easy one is the Wildcat. 60 years go by and suddenly the single wing is back. Then other terms like a bubble screen. I know what a screen play is. Has it changed? Or is it just another name for the same old thing. I’m not even going to go there with several other obscure terms.What used to be a fly pattern is I guess post, or any others that describe running hell bent for leather toward the end zone. (UCLA was the last college to use the single wing. I could even name the qb if I still had a memory. Please devote a column explaining the inexplicable, new names for old schemes. Also while I’m at it, I wasn’t a medical school student, and I’m betting most of us aren’t so why do these snob announcers use obscure medical terms that none of us can understand regarding injuries. Please publish a dictionary of sports terms so we too will understand what the TV boffins do. When I was a kid we would just say, “go long.”

  • Bayview Herb

    19-3, 19-3, enough said.