BY Art Thiel 09:06PM 01/05/2020

Thiel: Metcalf becomes weapon Seahawks need

Thanks to record night from rookie WR DK Metcalf, the Seahawks advanced to a game in Green Bay next Sunday after grinding past the Eagles, 17-9.

On a third down and 10 play from the Seattle 11-yard line, DK Metcalf hauls in a 36-yard pass with 97 seconds remaining to secure the Seahawks’ win Sunday in Philadelphia. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

PHILADELPHIA — Before engaging in the wailing, lamentations and recriminations about the frequency of homely play Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, let’s have a quick NFL tournament overview.

The New England Patriots are out. The New Orleans Saints are out. The Buffalo Bills are out. The Dallas Cowboys never were in. The Los Angeles Rams never were in.

The Seahawks, however ungainly, awkwardly and fortunately, remain in the NFL’s tournament, grateful they play a sport where no credit, affection or cash is awarded for style.

They are headed to Lambeau Field next Sunday (3:40 p.m., FOX) to play the Green Bay Packers because the Seahawks beat the Philadelphia Eagles 17-9 (box) and don’t give a compost what you think about how they looked.

Now, what were you whining about?

Thank you, crickets, for breaking the silence.

“To get back here and (beat the Eagles) again, there was a lot of talk about how you do that, but we did,” a beaming coach Pete Carroll said. “You talk about surviving . . . Fantastic night for us to get this thing going on the road.”

From the Seahawks perspective, the 11th win this season by eight or fewer points, and the eighth win in nine road games, continued a harrowing, cinematic Mad Max narrative that nevertheless was as beautiful for Seattle fans as a wedding. Here’s how:

Something old: RB Marshawn Lynch, 33. In the second quarter, he scored a five-yard touchdown that was the epitome of short-yardage Beasting, and in the third quarter turned a dump-off pass into a 20-yard gain that helped set up the Seahawks second touchdown.

Something new: WR DK Metcalf, turned 22 three weeks ago. He set a club playoff record and an NFL record for rookie receivers with 160 yards in seven catches, including a 53-yard TD catch/roll/dive two plays after the Lynch reception.  “The night,” Carroll said, “was stolen by DK.”

Something borrowed: The 17-9 score was identical to the teams’ regular season meeting.

Something boo: DE Jadeveon Clowney’s helmet-to-helmet hit knocked Carson Wentz from the game in the eighth play of the QB’s career-first playoff contest. But not only was Clowney not ejected, he wasn’t penalized, enraging the sellout Philly crowd who booed his name at every mention. “Incidental contact,” the top official told a pool reporter afterward. “I don’t even want to look at my phone mentions,” Clowney said. “I was just playing fast and he was running the ball . . . my intention was not to hurt him.”

DK Metcalf stretches the ball into the end zone for a touchdown after a 53-yard reception. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Nevertheless, the game clanked along like doorknobs in a blender, two teams shredded by injuries trying to make do with inexperienced players often playing out of position.

Behind an offensive line with three second-stringers and a fifth-string tight end, Lynch and fellow running back Travis Homer combined to rush for 19 yards on 17 carries. In addition to his passing feats (18 for 30 for 325 yards and 108.3 rating), Wilson led Seattle with 45 yards in nine carries.

The defense was nearly as hard to believe, in a positive way — no touchdowns allowed, thanks in part to seven sacks and a three-for-13 conversion rate on third and fourth downs that kept the Eagles to 162 passing yards.

But the Seahawks could not break away, despite the Eagles playing with 40-year-old QB Josh McCown, in the first postseason game of his 17-year career as what seems like most every team’s favorite backup.

The Seahawks stopped the Eagles on downs inside the 25-yard line twice in the fourth quarter and looked as if they would have to do it a third time. On third-and-10 from their own 11-yard line with 1:47 left, Wilson engaged in a risky drop-back near the goal line and heaved a rainbow toward Metcalf, streaking down the middle against Marcus Epps, a six-foot rookie safety.

The 6-3 Metcalf did what he does best — get hands higher than everyone else. The 36-yard gain for the first down crushed the Eagles and relieved the Seahawks.

“We worked on that play all week,” Carroll said. “We knew they’d be taking some chances on us to try to get the ball back (by blitzing). It gave us an opportunity to go after (Epps) with the coverage they had. We had to pick up the pressure they brought. (Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) said, ‘Do you want that opportunity? Heck, yeah — let’s go. That’s what we’ve been practicing.’

“The belief was there to go ahead and call what would otherwise look like a really risky call. We did it perfectly.”

Metcalf confirmed they had rehearsed the play four or five times during the week.

“Russell laid it out,” he said. “It was in the air for a minute. All year, he has been telling me, don’t let the ball come down. That’s all I was thinking — just attack he ball.

It’s just amazing to me that he believed in me to just throw it up to me in that situation. I just had to go make a play.”

The play not only finished the game but climaxed a storyline that began with his draft in the second round in April. Despite his remarkable measureables and physique, Metcalf had numerous doubters because of injuries and relatively little game action in college.

But persistence in work with Wilson and tutelage from WR Tyler Lockett and the coaches have done great things for his technique and confidence. Wilson said he has scouting reports prepared on opponents, shares them with his offensive teammates and quizzes them throughout the practice week.

“He knows everything from the protections, who the DBs are, to the linebackers, to what they did last time (or) four years ago,” Wilson said. “I quiz him. Every time. Every week. He knows them really well. His mind is what’s helping him accelerate. Just him believing that and all of the things he needs to know.

“I’m just getting started with that.”

The connection between the two was critical Sunday, not just because it was a do-or-die game, but because the Seahawks were without WRs Jaron Brown Malik Turner, both injured. Seattle had only four receivers active, and of course, Lynch is a fourth-string back.

They leaned heavily on Metcalf against a short-handed secondary and big dividends were paid.

“He’s always picked things up,” Carroll said. “He’s never stumbled or staggered his way through it. He takes his work very seriously. He stays late all the time. If anything has shifted, would be his confidence is really there.

“He knows he can play this game at his level and he wants to be in the middle of it all.”

The middle doesn’t get much bigger than the NFL post-season. The stunning production Sunday will give Packers defenders pause in their game planning against the Seahawks.

The 13-3 Packers are certainly an uptick from 9-8 Eagles, especially with a week’s rest. But the Seahawks have established that they are a bit more than Wilson’s pretty face, and as unpleasantly relentless as a toothache.

 

 


YourThoughts

  • BB46

    Great game for the Hawks. But now we have to on the road and play a very rested team with a QB as good as ours and there isn’t many of those in the league. The well rested Packers worry me. We won’t be able to make many mistakes of any kind.

    • art thiel

      The Seahawks are four-point ‘dogs. I thought it might have been six. I wonder if Rodgers is over the NFC Championship.

      • Husky73

        I wonder how Rodgers feels about Mike McCarthy taking the Dallas job? They were never best pals.

    • Lightninbug

      I confess that the snowy late season and playoff games against Green Bay in the past that have taken us out of contention began to trickle through my mind as other wild card losses removed SF from our immediate future while our victory against the Eagles altered the expected location of our Divisional game.

      I cannot recall another year in which we have unexpectedly done so well on the road and the sheer determination of this team in finding a way to win still nurtures a hope that this season might see us in a home game against the Vikings in the NFC Championship after they beat the 9ers. I know I am dreaming here, but hey, what else would a Seahawk fan be doing at this point.

      • Chris Alexander

        Just because a 5-seed has never hosted a 6-seed in the NFL playoffs doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen. Would LOVE to see it happen this year. Although …. 5 vs 6 would mean the home team lost the first 4 games in the conference playoffs so there’s that to consider.

        • art thiel

          And the Seahawks were 4-4 at home this year. What’s up with that, 12s? You’ve become a bunch of brie-eating dilletantes like Bay Area fans.

          • Howard Wells

            Pray for a niner victory so we can play on the road. No hope for a home victory. Seahawks are too comfortable with home cooking and warm beds.

      • art thiel

        The 7-1 oad mark was a franchise record, so there’s a real reason you can’t recall.

        I don’t dismiss the Vikings chance for an upset at all. But SF is getting some players healthy, like Ford.

  • Winning ugly is just fine. Seahawks had a couple of beautiful plays and Wilson carried the offense like only he can. D looked solid esp stopping all three fourth down tries. Packers offense will be much better, obviously. But ugly only matters in superficial romance. We 12s love our mud beds.

    • art thiel

      Good analysis of romance. Notes taken for future stealing.

  • Williec

    Art, love how it took you five hours or so to post this article, getting the quirkiness and confoundedness just right. Thanks again for paying attention to the history and the language.

    • art thiel

      Thanks for noticing, Willie. Absent a print deadline, I hope the extra bit of time spent thinking a bit is worth it to readers.

      • Williec

        Yay so…

      • DB

        Definitely! Thanks for all of your wonderful commentary in 2019, Art!

  • PokeyPuff

    f ugly game for sure, doorknobs in a blender is very well put : ) so many starters out on both sides, but a gutsy and resourceful performance by both teams and ….we survived. hopefully we get Brown back next week?

  • Chris Alexander

    The embedded tweet by Mr. Gowton is a bit annoying. The first play, Wentz definitely dove and, per the referees “gave himself up.” The second one, Wentz gets tripped up / tackled by #30. BIG difference. I’m not saying that I agree with the call on the first play; I think he was clearly diving for the end zone and NOT giving himself up. But the 2 plays are NOTHING alike.

    Gritty game and a big win for the Seahawks. Diggs being back was HUGE and the D, as a whole, deserves a game ball. Seven sacks. Multiple stops when the game hung in the balance. Heckuva win.

    On to Green Bay … GO HAWKS !!!

    • art thiel

      You’re right about Diggs, and Barton wasn’t quite as lost. Clowney had his most active day since getting hurt.

  • Kevin Lynch

    I almost got the score right in predicting Seattle 17 and Philly 33 – which would be 3 X 3 or 9 points. Seriously, credit to Wilson (90% of the offense) and Metcalf and a pesky defense. However…they have still only beaten one elite QB this year – Kirk Cousins. They have managed to avoid the following:

    Steelers – no Rothlisburger
    Saints – no Brees
    Falcons – no Ryan
    Panthers – no Newton
    Eagles – no Wentz (playoffs)

    The Seahawks thrive on avoiding starting QB’s and beating 40 year olds. The have played 7 of the 12 lowest rated QB’s this year and won 6 of 7.

    Now they get the Packers with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay in January and the Pack has a defense giving up five points less than Seattle and a daunting history at home. If Seattle can pull this off, assuming Rodgers plays the entire game, this will vault them to a new level in their road playoff history.

    • art thiel

      They can’t help the schedule or the health of opponents. But GB has had lots of close games too and isn’t quite a colossus. They really do need Duane Brown and Mike Iupati back to have the best shot.

  • jafabian

    Now that the bye week is done with…

    I thought the non-call was right with Clowney however there’s many times during the season where helmet-to-helmet contact seems incidental and a penalty is called anyway. IMO the injury to Wentz happened when his helmet hit the ground.

    If you watch Marshawn’s TD closely when he stalled at the line DJ grabs him, spins him around and throws him into the endzone. Obviously he’s been watching video of William Perry when he did the same to Walter Payton. Overall a well balanced game by the Seahawks on both sides of the ball. The defense took advantage of the Eagles patchwork O-Line and got 7 sacks. DK was outstanding. I’d love to hear Steve Largent’s thoughts on his performance.

    Since the inception of the Wild Card round ten teams have advanced to the Super Bowl. Six went on to win it. No reason the Hawks can’t join that exclusive club.

    It’s too bad John Schneider couldn’t have acquired Golden Tate. That would have really messed with Packer Nation. It’d be cool (but won’t happen) if the Hawks could make Matt Hasselbeck an honorary team captain for the coin flip!

    • art thiel

      Good point about Fluker. I didn’t see that the first couple of times.

      You know something highly distinctive happens always seems to happen in this series.

    • Lightninbug

      I got a laugh out of your reference to William Refrigerator Perry. Haven’t thought of that guy in many years but do remember what an entertaining player he was at the time.

      • jafabian

        I remember when Fridge did that to Payton and how everyone was shocked that he actually did that. DJ wasn’t as obvious but no less entertaining.

  • coug73

    The LB’s played well, especially Cody Barton. He looked comfortable playing against the Eagles. Impact plays from the Beast and Wilson played steady. His rushes were big. Metcalf. Metcalf, appears to be ‘the beast in waiting’. Catch and runs make him a hand full. Metcalf, is a hell of a blocker on the Beast catch and run for 20 yards Metcalf buried a DB with a great block.

    • art thiel

      Blocking is what Metcalf had to learn. He’s getting there. His routes and techniques have improved, and his speed, power, and hands were some serious genes.

  • antirepug3

    Hopefully Green Bay will be too busy trying to cover Metcalf, Lockett, Hollister, etc., that they lose one or more of them on any given play especially when having to focus on Lynch while he is in the game. GO HAWKS!

    • art thiel

      GB’s secondary is better than the injury-ravaged Eagles back end. But the Seahawks are going to need a ground game beyond Wilson’s freelancing.

  • Husky73

    Kudos to you, Art. You were onto Metcalf before the draft.

    • art thiel

      Good of you to remember. Hardly brilliant, given his tools, but amazing so many teams passed because he wasn’t yet a complete receiver as a 21 yo jr. Carroll always looks at strengths and plays to them.

  • rosetta_stoned

    the game clanked along like doorknobs in a blender
    That’s a new one. And usable for similar situations.

    • art thiel

      Actually, I dusted that one off for re-use. If I can wear a shirt a few times, nothing wrong with firing up a metaphor again.

      • Stephen Pitell

        Seriously, Art, have you got them all cataloged? What a treasure trove that would be.

        • art thiel

          Jim Murray somehow kept it fresh in his head. I am humbled by his greatness.

  • wabubba67

    Great article, but Lynch us actually the 5th (not 4th) string RB. Carson, Penny, Prosise, Homer…..Lynch.

    • art thiel

      True, Forgot Homer had seniority.

  • 1coolguy

    A lot of good comments here and another excellent column Art (what else is new?).
    I would have preferred Jimmy over Rogers, and being on the West coast. But hey, I was hoping for a 9-7 year, so the Hawks have provided a MUCH better year than expected.
    Only 1 road loss, this team? Are you kidding me??? “if you believe in miracles…..”
    As to GB, they are much better balanced than years past – they now have an excellent run game and a very good D – Rogers doesn’t have to do it all by himself any more. Getting rid of McCarthy has proved an excellent decision.
    Take all into consideration and if Carroll isn’t coach of the year, it’s rigged.

    • art thiel

      Harbaugh has done himself well in BAL. (That’s the good Harbaugh.)

  • Warchild_70

    All the box’s are checked great read Art. DK was off the hook and Clownly couldn’t stop his momentum I M H O. Next stop will be the Cheese Heads and the wild weather at Lambeau hope grows eternal.