BY Art Thiel 12:11AM 12/04/2017

Thiel: Seahawks’ trip to the grave has detour

Big buzz in the house, high energy on defense and Russell Wilson . . . oh, my. “Phenomenal,” said coach Pete Carroll, which may have been an understatement.

Eagles QB Carson Wentz was the object of much attention from the Seahawks defense. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The crypt was almost complete: Lots of marble, noble and somber inscriptions, soft organ music. All it was missing was the Seahawks.

“Everybody was sleeping on us,” said LB Bobby Wagner, calmly indignant. “Everybody thought we were going to lose. We expected us to win this game. It’s not a surprise to us.”

Indeed, many in the fan base and in local and national media had shovels full of dirt, ready to bid farewell to the Seahawks’ long, luxurious run at the top of the NFL. Too many injuries, too little salary cap space, bad luck and a running game bought at the blue-light table instead of the top shelf.

Sunday night, they were up against the 10-1 Philadelphia Eagles, the No. 1 offense in the NFL and a six-point favorite despite playing in the most formidable environment in the NFL.

Overlooked were a few things: It was December. It was prime time TV. Most of all, it was Russell Wilson time — to go over the top.

“It was one of his best games,” said coach Pete Carroll. “Phenomenal.”

Good as were the bare numbers — three touchdown passes, no turnovers, 20 of 31 for 227 yards and 31 yards in five runs — they tell a spare story in the 24-10 upset win that had the Clink doing that old-time rock and roll.

It was Wilson’s night at the improv, no moment greater than in the fourth quarter, when, ahead 17-6 but facing third-and-eight at his own 42, he went showtime.

Seeing no open receivers, Wilson burst from the pocket briefly into the open field across the line of scrimmage. But as defenders closed to deny him the first down, Wilson spotted newbie RB Mike Davis steaming along to his right.

He abruptly flipped a knuckleball lateral that Davis snatched and rambled for another 17 yards to the Eagles’ 35-yard line. Safety Corey Graham, shadowing Davis, was stunned.

“I only came off my guy because I knew he was past the line of scrimmage,” Graham said. “All I’m thinking is, ‘How the hell did he throw the ball?’ I didn’t realize he pitched it
backwards.

“He’s a ballplayer, man. He’s scrambling, he’s buying time, he’s making guys miss, he’s spinning. Guys had him in certain situations and he just found ways to make plays. When it’s all said and done, he just made more plays than we did.”

Four plays later, Wilson found RB J.D. McKissic, another of the Seahawks’ legion of the unheralded forced into the crucible, for his third touchdown pass, a 15-yarder. That put the Seahawks up 24-10, ending the Eagles’ nine-game winning streak and sense of invulnerability.

Never one to pass up a chance to praise, Carroll turned it up to 11 on Wilson’s game.

“That was Russell showing you everything he was about,” he said. “From the first play, he was on it. He created. His execution was excellent. We didn’t turn the ball over. Worked the clock; beautiful tempo. Decisions, checks. the big plays were just coming out everywhere.

“I really think he had one of the best games I’ve seen him play.”

The lateral was the premier highlight in a night of bedlam that had the Clink vibrating with the kind of intimidating power that helped render the Eagles’ potent offense largely ineffective.

Rookie CB Shaquill Griffin, stepping in for injured Richard Sherman, bore witness.

The crowd noise was “throwing them off,” he said. “The louder it got, you could see them scramble around and (try to) figure out what’s going on. I’m out there, and I can’t hear anything.

“So if I know that I feel that way, I know the offense is going crazy. We can’t thank the 12s enough.”

The defense did quite well independent of the audio riot, particularly DT Sheldon Richardson, who made the game-turning play.

In the first drive of the third quarter, the Eagles boomed into the red zone, where phenom QB Carson Wentz saw an opportunity to score himself  from the five-yard line.

He nearly made it, until Richardson reached in as Wentz began to fall at the 2-yard line. The rip freed the ball and it ricocheted wildly out of the back of the end zone. Touchback. Seahawks ball.

“He’s a quarterback — he’s not used to being hit down in and down out,” Richardson said. “So protecting the ball is something he’s still a little foreign to. Just stuck my hand in there and ripped it out.”

The turnover also took out a piece of the Eagles’ heart, because scoring opportunities came so rarely against a defense that seemed inspired to dismiss the fears of fans mourning the injury absences in the Legion of Boom.

“We made them one-dimensional,” Wagner said. “We thought if we stopped the run early and put them in passing situations, we would allow our D-line to get after (Wentz).”

Against mostly a straight four-man rush, Wentz was sacked three times, hit on 12 occasions and was errant on a number of passes to open receivers. He also made some brilliant plays, but in his second year and his second time in the Clink madness, he showed his inexperience.

The Seahawks offense aided the defense greatly by getting out to a 10-0 first quarter lead, a rare burst of efficiency that has eluded the unit until this game.

“It helped a lot,” Wagner said. “Russ was out there killing with his feet, Mike Davis had a helluva game as well. When offense is clicking and special teams too, it’s hard to beat us.”

Especially at home, where they ended an uncharacteristic two-game losing streak.

“The stadium was ridiculously good,” Carroll said. “The Eagles are an excellent football team, so for us to play our game and really be in command throughout, it was a really great step forward for us.”

Dead men walking? No. Live men, playing young, fast and smart.


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YourThoughts

  • ll9956

    Well done, Art. You nailed it.

    By now the Eagles know that the Hawks got away with a forward lateral, as shown by the replays in slow motion. I expect they will point this out to the NFL. I suspect the NFL’s response will be to acknowledge the officials’ error, and will probably point out that the Eagles could have challenged the call, a challenge that they would have won.

    In the past the Hawks were stung by questionable/erroneous calls, but today they got one back.

    • Matt712

      And yet, the Seahawks played a complete enough game to take the eventual 7 points of that drive off the scoreboard and still win.

      • art thiel

        Losing the lateral play would have changed a lot of field strategy thereafter.

    • art thiel

      In the pressbox I had time for one look at the replay and thought the lateral was OK. Pederson afterward said he was reluctant to potentially burn another TO after squandering a previous one on a challenge on a spot.

      • ll9956

        I was going to say in my earlier post that I marveled at the Seahawks’ preparation for this game. They seemed highly motivated–even more than usual, especially on defense–and disciplined. I’m not sure if this was due to burning the midnight oil in thought on the part of PC and all his assistants, or if it mostly came from the players themselves, who were braced for a massive onslaught by the Eagles. Doesn’t really matter, I give a tip o’ the hat to them all.

        • art thiel

          The game plan was to deny the run and dare Wentz to go deep. The four-man rush worked to well enough to sack him three times and hit him 12 more. Wentz is good, but not top-shelf just yet.

      • John M

        The lateral seemed to look different from different cameras, Art. Whatever, they got some luck and bounces back. Until the 4thQ I think the game was closer than the score implied, the Eagles could have exploded if the Hawks had made a couple obvious mistakes. Besides the amazing Wilson, all those new guys syncing up and looking so disciplined and intense was a great thing to watch . . .

        • art thiel

          Sure, the game was taut, but there were reasons to believe the Eagles had capacity for a blowout. Their 7 pens really hurt.

      • Chris Alexander

        Don’t know if you saw this tweet: https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/938155412347588610, but evidently there’s actually a scientific term for what would appear, by rule, to be an illegal lateral, but, to the naked eye, looked entirely legit “in real time.”

  • DJ

    The alphabet soup that you ate as a child has served you well, Art.
    Nicely done!

    The Eagles are obviously a really good team, but not against the Seahawks and their fans at their best.

    Thanks!

    • art thiel

      Alphabet soup? Was that it? I was always hoping it was ice cream, because of the volume consumed.

  • Matt712

    This was the kind of win coaches love the most: disciplined assignment-correct, almost mistake-free football where everyone played hard but still within themselves. Russ set the example. I don’t think he forced a single throw. On defense, it was Bobby Wagner. Again. As usual.

    • art thiel

      Good point, including only five pens. LT Duane Brown has cleaned up a lot of O-line sins.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Great win. Don’t see Goff and L.A. winning against that kind of hellacious noise wave. The old leprachaun has not yet left the building. Maybe there’s room for a parquet floor somewhere. Home field advantage for the first playoff game is now likely.

    • art thiel

      House rocked with the best Beast Mode days.

  • I think we need to see Russell Wilson’s birth certificate. He may not be legal to play quarterback. I don’t think he was born on this planet and I’m pretty sure that’s a requirement. This calls for an investigation.

    • art thiel

      I keep meaning to ask Wilson if he knew Mork.

  • Will Ganschow

    Eagles were schooled yesterday. I’m wondering if the next generation isn’t beginning to mature, if the newbies aren’t beginning to find their place, exploit their role. The early Pete Carroll Hawks had a lot of bailing wire and chewing gum

    • art thiel

      Carroll has always said by December, no fulltime players are rookies anymore.

  • Diamond Mask

    I really felt that the Seahawks experience was going to be the difference in this game. Never underestimate old and wily!

    • art thiel

      Fair point. Wentz was rattled. Getting vets like Richardson, McDougald and Brown has been large.

  • tor5

    This win didn’t make any sense. Except to us crazy 12s. The time, the place, the situation all said “take it up a notch.” And the Hawks responded, to a man, it seemed. Through my crazy, blue-hued lenses, it was pure logic.

    • Diamond Mask

      and Pratt was great!

    • art thiel

      It was a rare night at the yard, even by Seahawks standards.

    • Will Ganschow

      There was a look in Russel Wilson’s eyes yesterday,” Man on a mission.” I’m willing to put a few bucks on a Superbowl for the Seahawks.

  • 1coolguy

    Good to see teh Hawks play 4 quarters of offense. THIS is what everyone has been waiting for, the Hawks playing offense from the start. Was Bevell on vacation? Surely he was not there calling plays.

    • art thiel

      Bevell called an aggressive, smart game, as he often does. My guess is you were on a years-long vacation during those periods.

      • 1coolguy

        Art, I will take a pass on what I think of your answer, but I will ask that you agree with what is a non-partial assessment of coaches, including OC’s: Let’s call a truce on Bevell – you think he is quite good, I think the opposite, so let’s do this: Let’s see how many teams make Bevell offers in the off season. That will tell the story: Deal?

        • art thiel

          I’d make that deal, except that we’ll likely not know if he declines to be interviewed. I’m sure he wants to be a head coach in the NFL or in college, but his OC gig in Seattle is better than some of the vacancies.

          And what if he interviews and doesn’t get the job? That makes him lousy, right?

          Sometimes OC mistakes are obvious, many times they’re not. Same with successful plays. Fans and media usually don’t have enough information to make an informed observation. The simple failure of a play is not indicative of a bad choice.

          I do know one guy who knows stuff: Pete Carroll. He trusts Bevell.

  • WestCoastBias79

    That was the best 1st quarter they played all year. Mike Davis did just enough for the play action to work early. You could see the left side of the line with Brown and Joekel actually looking like an NFL line, and even the walking holding call known as Ifedi had only one false start. No holding penalties on Wilson scrambles. If they can sustain this, there may be a January run in the cards.

    • art thiel

      Brown’s arrival and level of play cannot be overstated. If he stays healthy, Seahawks have fixed their No. 1 vulnerability.

  • Chris Alexander

    I don’t recall right now what the score was at the time but Russell’s “improv” couldn’t have occurred when the score was 17-6 because the score was never 17-6. I believe it was 17-10 at the time but, if not, it was 17-3.

    • Bayview Herb

      I think 17-3

  • Bayview Herb

    Everyone is raving about the game Wilson had, but little is being emphasized regarding the role that the defense had, holding Philly tojust 10 points.

    • art thiel

      I don’t think anyone I’ve read or heard has overlooked that point, Herb.

  • Steed

    Davis. Davis? I guess the coaches showed us what they think of the other running backs. Nobody else got a touch until Davis had his best run, then they had to give him a breather.

    I noticed Earl delivered the “Thomas Chop” on that goal line fumble. This time the chop hit Wentz’s helmet. Richardson got the ball out, but don’t forget the Chop. And, it’s a good thing the ball went out of bounds on its own, because the Seahawk that was standing by it didn’t seem to know what to do.

    What a great performance by the defense. The pass rush was impressive. They stuffed the run. Maxwell and the other 2 replacements did a great job in the secondary. Fantastic. And, how about Wright and Wagner? Great job by those guys, just like every game.

    And Wilson, that sad little little person. Just a game manager. Just a running Quarterback. He should practice being taller. I’m not sure how such a non elite QB has thrown for more TD passes over his first 6 seasons than any QB in NFL history, but it was probably the defense that did that for him. He did manage the game pretty well though. Not bad for a gimmick QB.

    Also, did anybody notice the Eagles using the read option? It’s a play that is here to stay, obviously. It’s not an entire offense, but it’s also not a gimmick that has vanished from the league, as predicted by so many.

    • art thiel

      Variations of the read option have been around for years, but it became trendy in the NFL when Cam Newton and RGIII were kids. Defenses geared up and the option’s uses went down. But for running QBs, there’s no reason not to show it’s in the arsenal every game.

  • It took 13 weeks to see the team we hoped to see at beginning of season. Welcome to the party.

    • art thiel

      Still a lot of new people in new positions, but nearly every NFL team has the same problems. Only one of them has beaten Philly in the past two months.

      • I heard Philly has only bearen one team with a winning record this season!

  • PokeyPuff

    Awesome win, and i hope this turns the corner on the season! That said the game had many un-Seahawk-ian traits that would make the casual observer see it as an outlier; consistency through 4 quarters, low incidence of penalties, success in the red zone and on 3rd down conversions, Given that i’m a bit weary that we’ll be able to replicate this going forward. I’m reminded of last year’s win at New England which was also a complete game and great emotional win but Hawks were not able to build on that and limped down the stretch. Hope this year is different!