BY Art Thiel 01:32AM 12/01/2020

Thiel: Eagles pick a fight with the wrong dude

The plan was to bait DK Metcalf into distraction and misplay. Didn’t work. What did work in the Seahawks’ 23-17 win was the defense, whose renaissance continues.

DK Metcalf hauls in a sideline catch over CB Darius Slay Monday in Philadephia. / Corey Sipkin, Seattle Seahawks

After he destroyed them in the playoffs in January with nine catches and an NFL rookie record 160 yards, the Eagles had to come up with a plan for DK Metcalf Monday night in Philadelphia. Part of it included a trade for CB Darius Slay, one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks. Another part of the plan was to piss off Metcalf.

It was a plan. Just a dumb one.

Before the game, Metcalf said Eagles defensive coordinator and former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz came up to him and said of perennial All-Pro wideout Calvin Johnson, “I was in Detroit with Megatron, but you’re not there yet.”

Oopsies.

“It kind of made me mad,” Metcalf said. “I’m not trying to be Megatron. I’m trying to be me. I had a little chip on my shoulder the whole game.”

Early on in a game heavy on trash talk, Slay took exception to an aggressive block by Metcalf, and a shoving match ensued. But it was Slay who drew the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. A few moments later came another shoving match, this with a lineman.

“I’m not gonna back out from nothin’,” Metcalf said. “DBs, linebackers, D-linemen.”

Instead of being drawn into distraction and mayhem as would a typical 22-year-old, Metcalf responded like the veteran gunslinger in the saloon, beating every varmint to the draw — 10 catches and 177 yards, most of them over and around Slay.

The Eagles plan didn’t work, but in the wake of the 23-17 triumph (box) that put the 8-3 Seahawks atop the NFC West, QB Russell Wilson understood it.

“Gotta try something,” he said, smiling.

Having had the game of his rookie season at Lincoln Financial Field, Metcalf was already feeling good upon the return.

“It’s kind of like coming home,” he said. “You know, a place that had a chance to draft me, but they didn’t, so I got to make them pay.”

That’s hardly select company. Every team in 2019 passed on drafting Metcalf at least once, many twice. Just not the Seahawks, in the final pick of the second round. At the moment, no one rues the choice more than a shattered Slay, who said afterward that it was the worst game of his career.

“I lost every 50/50 ball today,” he said. “I am usually on the other side of that. I let the team down. I told the defense, that game was on me.

“I have never been that. But I say props to him. He played his ass off today, and I have to get better.”

Trying to bait the youngster into misplay or ejection was just fine by Pete Carroll.

“I hope they keep trying,” he said. “He’s very poised, very in command of what’s going on. He handled that situation beautifully.

“I think he had a pretty aggressive block on the play. DK’s doing his thing. He’s making it known that he’s not just out there catching a football.  He’s doing the whole game.”

Speaking of the whole game, the national spotlight show was as much or more about the Seattle defense as it was Metcalf and his enabler, Wilson (22 for 31 for 239 yards and no turnovers for the second game in a row).

Forcing five consecutive three-and-outs to start the game, sacking the fading Carson Wentz six times and hitting him a dozen times, and getting two fourth-down stops in the fourth quarter, the defense is continuing the uptick begun in the second half of the loss to the Rams and through the Arizona victory 11 days ago.

The 3-7-1 Eagles had only 250 yards of offense, a low for a Seattle foe this season, and would have had a season-low nine points except for a Hail Mary touchdown in the final seconds, and a two-point conversion.

Carroll covered for his defenders all season, saying a return to health for several veterans would make the defense a regular NFL unit instead of a mortal embarrassment. And just in time to cover Carroll’s moments of mortal embarrassment.

Twice in the red zone in the first quarter, Carroll went for it on fourth-and-short with plays that weren’t close. The Eagles have a very good defensive line, but . . .

Let Carroll tell it.

“I had a terrible first quarter,” he said. “I thought I should kick my own butt. Golly, we didn’t handle the fourth-down situations like we needed to. Felt like I took the momentum away, and so I was disappointed. I didn’t play that much better later in the game either, to tell you the truth, but started lousy. Anyway, sometimes you can screw it up.

“Neither one of them worked. We lost all of whatever momentum we could have had in the first quarter by not getting scores.”

Years of success have taught Carroll that owning up in moments of failure is the best way to get through them quickly.

It also helps to have Wilson, the human eraser.

After a barren, brutal first quarter for both teams, Wilson, on a third-and-13 play, pulled the trigger on a 52-yard beauty to Metcalf over Slay to the Philly 1-yard line. A touchdown two plays later finally broke the torpor.

“They brought pressure, and DK’s always a great option racing down the field,” he said.
“To be able to have all the answers in every circumstances is really key, especially on this third down situations.”

The next possession went 66 yards, the final 16 coming on a rugged 16-yard run by RB Chris Carson — his first game in a month — for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

The Eagles, who have been savaged by injuries, including needing starts from 12 players on the offensive line, weren’t quite done, but weren’t in control. A terrible fourth quarter end zone interception thrown by Wentz when the receiver went the wrong way pushed to 15 his league-leading total and set up a seventh win in a row by the Seahawks over the Eagles, including their playoff ouster in January.

SS Jamal Adams, finally recovered from a sore shoulder that allowed him to hit with both arms, had a team-high nine tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and two QB hits. He said the last 10 quarters on defense have been transformative.

“The swag is through the roof, man,” he said. “We’re playing with a lot of confidence. We know when we step on the field, we’re going we’re gonna try to take the ball away. We’re gonna get a sack. We’re gonna get a pick. And then we’re gonna invite everybody to the party, man.”

Perhaps they can invite Darius Slay. After his night with Metcalf, he could use a party.

SS Jamal Adams gets to Eagles QB Carson Wentz. / Noah Riffe, Seattle Seahawks

 


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YourThoughts

  • Will Ganschow

    Your column is surprisingly upbeat. I thought the Hawks played down to Philly all evening. BTW is there such a thing as east coast refs?

    • art thiel

      It wasn’t great night for the offense, but Carroll took some responsibility, The D held Philly without a TD until the Hail Mary. And it wasn’t an L, as was the case for the Rams and Cardinals. You’re a hard grader.

      No east coast bias. The crew was bad for both sides.

      • Bruce McDermott

        That phantom sack for the Hawks was bad, and a few calls and non-calls for PI were bad, but the call that Wentz’s throw had made the line of scrimmage was so glaringly awful that it defied further description.

        • Husky73

          Yes, good call on that. It was three yards short. Why is that nor reviewable?

          • art thiel

            It’s not on the list of reviewables probably because no one imagined that such a thing could happen.

        • art thiel

          It’s as if they forgot the rulebook. It wasn’t a PI-like judgment call.

          • Bruce McDermott

            But they didn’t forget the rulebook! Because the ref announced that the pass was beyond the line of scrimmage!! Bizarro World.

          • art thiel

            Thanks for that info. I had my head down tweeting and didn’t catch the Trumpian explainer.

  • 1coolguy

    While attention is rightfully given to DK, I was very disappointed in the O’s performance. With Carson back I was expecting relief for RW and a much better overall performance. The D did a good job and held the Eagles to 250 yards. The Hawks only had 306 yards against one of the worst teams in the league – this does not bode well for playing legit teams, certainly not well for the playoffs.
    So, a few things I saw of concern:
    – Of 22 completions, two (2) were to one TE, Hollister. None were seam routes, which appeared to be open most of the night. Why has Dissly disappeared? Why not more passes to Hollister?
    – In the 4th qtr, an O lineman held, foolishly grabbing a jersey, negating a nice TD run. The next play DK dropped a TD pass in the end zone, in his hands, and we settled for a field goal. On successive plays, poorly played, 4 points were off the board.
    – Granted the Hail Mary pass was with a few seconds left and the Eagles had no chance to win, BUT why do teams, on an OBVIOUS Hail Mary play, not line up with their 8 or 9 non-rushers in the end zone and the 5 or 10 yard line, WITH tall players with hands?
    Why not pull the linebackers and replace them with TALL receivers? TE’s, DK, as an example?
    – 20 – 18: The Hawks & Eagles first downs – How can an offense that had 15 first downs in the first half only gain 5 in the second half? Against such a team as the lowly Eagles?
    23 points against the woeful Eagles is not indicative of a championship team.

    • art thiel

      It wasn’t a great night for the SEA offense, but Philly’s D is solid, especially against the rush. Carson obviously was on a pitch count. Carroll admitted his playcalling messed up two early fourth downs. Dissly isn’t the same guy he was before two season-ending surgeries. And yes, Metcalf dropped a TD pass. If the game’s outcome depended on the Hail Mary defense, you probably would have seen Metcalf in the end zone.

      Stop clutching your pearls. I thought you were a tough guy.

      • Bruce McDermott

        Hmmm. Interested in your declarative statement that Dissly isn’t what he once was. When he’s gotten the ball, at least, I have not seen evidence of that…

        • 1coolguy

          2019 Dissly had 23 receptions in his 6 games, 4 per game.
          Through 11 games in 2020, he has 14, 1 per game, while:
          Olsen: 23, Hollister: 16, RB’s Carson 24 and Dallas 15.
          So yes, he must not have healed completely from his injuries the past 2 years.

        • art thiel

          My analogy is Tyler Lockett, in his first year back from a serious leg injury. He wasn’t where he was, but now he is. Recovery to elite form for skill-position football athletes with leg surgeries takes time beyond merely returning to play.

    • Husky73

      306…I like that number!

  • Husky73

    This game reminded me of a baseball term — a grinder. As the baseball season moves towards the playoffs, teams play grinders…each game is a grind…players are tired, hurting and the stakes are high. The first quarter last night was grinding, as was the last five minutes. Grinders may not be pretty, or entertaining, but it was a win in game #11. More grinding is ahead.

    • art thiel

      Most football games are grinders. Seattle’s pass-heavy first five games were deviations from the norm, and many fans were complaining that the game-ending tension was too much.

      • Husky73

        OK, I giggled at that.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Not much to be gained from mulling this game. The Hawks won a trap game against Philly on the road when Philly’s defense came to play. The Eagles ‘offensive’ offense, however, makes for clouds in the morning coffee. Not sure about the takeaway. Those 11 players were decisively degenerate. Just get Wentz out. Let him command again in August when they might have rebuilt their line, have a back or two who can catch an outlet pass, and let the QB backup run like hell from now till the end of the season.

    • art thiel

      Because of injuries, Wentz has had 12 O-linemen starting in front of him this season. The Eagles have been among the teams most blasted by injuries. Those are reasons, not excuses. Not saying his game hasn’t slipped, but his long-term contract extension means they’ve got to help him get out of his own head, not throw him away.

  • Warren Gibbons

    …“It’s kind of like coming home,” he said. “You know, a place that had a chance to draft me, but they didn’t, so I got to make them pay.”

    While it may be tempting for Mr. Metcalf have a chip on his shoulder, perhaps he should rejoice in the fact that he’s paired with Mr. Lockett and Mr. Wilson; creating a trio of excellence that is obvious. There are few combos in the NFL that are this accurate and precise.

    BTW, isn’t today “Giving Tuesday?” Would it be inappropriate for me to suggest that we all consider financially supporting Art and his efforts? My guess is that he does not have a money tree in his backyard. I will also go out on a limb (no pun intended) to suggest that we all can put a value on his journalism. In my mind much of what he produces goes beyond sports and highlights our collective humanity.

    • Williec

      Whoa, this is really good. I’m on the team of this terrific journalism and humanity.

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        Thanks, Willie.

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    • art thiel

      Metcalf has often cited his good fortune to end up where he did. As with Michael Jordan and other elite athletes, he likes to make up grudges and slights to gain the slightest edge.

      Thank you for your kind words. As with many businesses not named Amazon, the economic crisis hits hard. With so many in peril, I encourage all readers who can to donate/subscribe/invest in local/regional journalism that is fundamental to an informed democracy.

  • ll9956

    I guess a win is a win, but this was one of the more sloppy offensive efforts I can remember. Again, another TD nullified by a holding penalty by an offensive lineman (name withheld out of sympathy). Fortunately Russell and Metcalf and Carson were among the bright lights. And Myers extended his string of successful field goals. Six sacks by the D didn’t hurt the cause.

    Can’t help but wonder if Carroll will make a stink to the NFL about the horrible call, falsely charging Russell with intentional grounding. Seems like there should be some accountability. The refs should hear a stern rebuke and maybe not be invited to the post season. Under different circumstances this could have been game-changing.

    • art thiel

      Fans often want throttlings of weaker foes, but the Eagles defense has been good for three games in a row against the Seahawks. Doesn’t that count for something? And all Metcalf had to do was catch the TD pass in his hands, and all one DB had to do was bat down the Hail Mary, and the game would have been 30-9.

      Good enough for you?

  • Chris Alexander

    Holding the Eagles to 9 points would have been nice. The 17 they scored was still a season-low though.

    And their defense IS improving. It’s obvious from just “the eye test” but points tell a story too.

    Over the first 8 games, Seattle was allowing an average of 30.4 points per game with every team scoring at least 23. Over the last 3, they’ve given up 23 to the Rams (which matched their previous season low vs. Miami), 21 to the Cardinals, and 17 to the Eagles. That’s an average of just 20.33 per game over that span.

    Of course, on the flip side of the ball, Seattle’s offense has regressed. We all know what happened during the 4 game stretch that followed the bye, turnover-wise. But Seattle was still scoring 30+ per game even with both Carson and Hyde sidelined and RW3 throwing INTs and coughing up fumbles. Through 8 games, Seattle was averaging 34 points per game with a low of 27 (against the Vikings).

    Fortunately, Russ appears to have gotten the turnovers under control. But the offense remains “challenged” – both on the field an on the scoreboard.

    On Monday, they could have “easily” dropped 40-50 points on the Eagles, but they didn’t. And it continued a trend with 2 of their last 3 games resulting in the season’s 2 worst outputs, points-wise. They scored a season-low 16 against the Rams in Week 10; 28 in the rematch with the Cardinals in Week 11; and 23 against the Eagles. That’s an average of 22.3 points over the last 3 games.

    SIGH.

    Whether it’s our offense or our defense playing well in any given game, Seattle sure seems DETERMINED to play nothing but 1-score games whenever and wherever possible.