It’s so nice to see you here again. This hallowed ground, the NFL playoffs, used to be a place where we as fans rarely trod. Lately, however, it’s become something of a birthright. For the 7th time in Russell Wilson’s 8 years, and the 8th time in Pete Carroll’s 10, the Seattle Seahawks find themselves in the postseason. And while Seattle’s heartbreaking loss against the 49ers cost them a home game in the first round, it did mean that they’d draw the weakest team in the NFC playoffs: the Philadelphia Eagles.
It’s not that they Eagles suck (they kinda do), it’s just that they’re one of the most banged-up teams in modern playoff history. Like, just so injured. Still, this is a squad that beat 9 NFL teams this season and we’ve seen the Seahawks play down to worse. I had a feeling that this game was gonna be one of those grimy low-scoring affairs and boy oh boy, was it ever.
The Seahawks received the opening kick and started their first drive with a quick slant to DK Metcalf for 9 yards— a harbinger of things to come. Travis Homer was swallowed up for a loss of 3 on the very next play and on third down, Wilson stood in a collapsing pocket before lobbing one out to Tyler Lockett in the flat. Lockett caught it momentarily and appeared to have a first down but Eagles CB Cre’Von LeBlanc snaked a hand in to tip it away at the last moment. From there, Michael Dickson hit a line drive punt to Philly’s 21. It was sort of comforting in a way, after all nothing settles you in for Seahawks football like a quick three-and-out on the initial possession.
The Eagles weren’t able to do anything with their first drive either, punting it back after three snaps netted two yards. While receiving the kick, David Moore got tackled despite signaling fair catch and the resultant 15 yards put Seattle’s offense back in play around midfield. After a short Homer run, Wilson dropped back and found no one open. Instead of forcing the issue, he tucked the ball under his stubby little arm and sprinted upfield for 22 huge yards while Philly’s defense scrambled to locate him. The scamper put Seattle at Philadelphia’s 30 and was followed by a 10-yard toss to Homer that got the ‘Hawks down to the 20. That, however, was where the drive would stall, as a 1-yard Marshawn Lynch run was sandwiched between two Wilson incompletions, including one where he was forced to throw earlier than he wanted and missed an open Metcalf in the corner.
On 4th down, and with the winds howling, Jason Myers came on to attempt a 35-yard kick. The good news is that the wind didn’t affect this particular kick; the bad news is that it never had a chance to. On this short attempt, Myers pulled driver when a lob wedge would’ve been just fine. The low line-drive was blocked by Vinny Curry and the score stayed 0-0. Sigh.
On the Eagles’ next drive, it appeared as though Seattle would hold them to another three-and-out but a defensive holding call against Bradley McDougald kept the possession alive. No worries, as the next defensive series for Seattle was really impressive. On 1st down, McDougald atoned for his sin by blowing Miles Sanders up in the backfield on a beautifully executed run blitz. On 2nd down, coverage was so good that Went was unable to find anyone open despite more than 4 seconds in the pocket. He eventually tried getting it to Sanders but he was impressively covered the entire time by Cody barton, who deftly batted it away. On 3rd down, Wentz felt pressure from Ezekiel Ansah and Jadeveon Clowney, running forward for a few yards to set up another punt. On that play, Wentz took a hit to the back of the head from Clowney that knocked him out of the game and forced Josh McCown into it.
With the ball back in their hands, Seattle started converting 3rd downs at an impressive rate. On the first one, a 3rd & 4, Wilson hit on an out route to Tyler Lockett for 7 then went to DK on a scramble drill for 24 on the next 3rd down. That one was particularly impressive, requiring a hell of a throw from Russ on the run and a masterful job of using size and strength to control a contested ball by DK. After the requisite false start by Germain Ifedi, Wilson stepped into a firm throw to Lockett for 13 yards. It would lead to another 3rd down, this one needing 3 to gain. On that play, a hard count from Wilson drew Malcolm Jenkins across the line but the refs missed on the obvious offsides. Wilson’s pass was batted away and the Seahawks settled for a long field goal attempt. This time, Myers got it up and over the line, knuckling it through from 49 yards out for a 3-0 lead. Pretty damn impressive kick, all things considered.
With McCown at the helm, the Eagles would net their first organic first down on their next possession when Sanders shook free for 12 yards but the Seattle defense shut their shit down immediately afterwards. They’d stuff the shifty RB on the next play, then record their second sack of the game when Barton chased McCown down from behind. On 3rd down, McDougald came charging through the line again and again blew Sanders up in the backfield for a loss.
Seattle’s response was to move the ball right back across midfield with the bulk of the damage being done on a spectacular back-pedaling sideline grab by Lockett that was initially ruled incomplete. Pete Carroll wisely challenged and replay showed that Lockett did in fact get toes from both feet down in bounds. Just a tremendous effort from Lockett in tight coverage and another insanely accurate throw from Wilson. Sadly, the drive would go backwards from there thanks to a holding penalty against DJ Fluker and Seattle getting their weekly delay of game penalty after not getting out of the huddle until there were :07 left on the play clock*. Alas, another punt.
*One of the most baffling and frustrating aspects of this team is how fucking slow they are to get ready on offense.
Philly finally got their asses in gear on their next drive, stringing first downs together with their first semblance of a passing game all night and McCown improbably scrambling for two first downs. They’d eventually bog down because they’re the Eagles and it’s Josh McCown but they got close enough to tie it up with a 46-yard FG.
With the score 3-3 and just three minutes left in the half, Lockett took a short kickoff out to the 18, where he was clubbed to the turf like a baby seal. He hopped right back up but Seattle, who’d been unable to finish any drives thus far despite some pretty good field position, found themselves with 82 yards to go. Their first two plays would net just 6 yards, setting up their 7th 3rd down of the first half. That’s when Metcalf, who was slotted to the left, would lose himself in traffic on a short crossing route before popping out the other side with nothing but space around him. Wilson hit him in stride and DK’s binky bounced all the way out to the 50 for a huge first down.
A defensive holding and two incompletions later, Seattle found themselves facing yet another 3rd down. On this one, Wilson took a shotgun snap and settled into a pocket with no one open. As the walls closed in around him, he slithered through the pressure and drifted out to the right. With doom approaching, he found David Moore on a comeback, well short of the first down. The thing is, for all his unrefined aspects as a WR, he is very big and strong and fast. He broke a tackle and then sprinted to the right and upfield. He picked up the first down before letting a convoy of blockers pave a path down to the 5 yard line. 38 yards on 3rd & desperate.
It was the biggest play of the game and would remain so for two more plays. That’s when Marshawn took a pitch to the left and got stopped up at the 3. Or so it seemed. Lynch lowered his head like a rhino and gored the first defender to hit him. That felled opponent was joined by another, and then another, as they tried haplessly to wrestle Lynch to the ground. Marshawn, however, was fed up with the bullshit and kept wriggling and writhing until he shed those tacklers like dead snakeskin, falling into the endzone for the game’s first TD. 10-3; handshakes all around.
The Eagles final drive of the first half would end when Quinton Jefferson snagged Seattle’s third sack and the teams headed to the locker room with the hosts down by 7 and hurting. Fortunately for the home team, they received the second half kick and wasted no time moving right down the field. A series of completions to their TEs Dallas Goeddert and Zach Ertz, as well as couple of fine runs from Sanders and Scott, got the ball down to Seattle’s 5 yard line. The Seahawks defense, which had been outstanding in the first half, immediately bowed up, using three stops and a false start to force another short field goal. On the last play, Bobby Wagner shot through the line to deck Scott to the turf on a slip screen— a huge play from Seattle’s most important defender. 10-6.
The next possession saw a couple short gains on 1st and 2nd down, leaving Seattle with a 3rd & 2. As per the yoozh on big plays, the ‘Hawks were late getting out of the huddle and had to burn a timeout. At least they made it count. Brian Schottenheimer cooked up a beauty of a call during that unnecessary delay by lining Lynch up behind a heavy set. It looked for all the world like an old-school, my guy-vs-your-guy short-yardage showdown. Instead, they faked the handoff to Beast Mode and slid him out into the flat on the other side of the melee. Wilson lobbed the ball to him and Lynch turned upfield with nothing but space in front of him. Now, Marshawn hasn’t outrun anyone in 10 years but on this one, he didn’t need to. Instead, he trundled for 20 yards until the defenders caught up and pushed him out of bounds. As he stepped out, Lynch made sure to let the defense know exactly who the fuck he still is, grabbing one defender by the chest and flinging him into the bench with one arm like a frisbee.
With everyone buzzing, Schotty followed it up with a kill shot. Metcalf lined up to Wilson’s left, and the QB dropped back with glory on the brain. Bursting off the line like an Olympic sprinter, DeKaylin got even with the defender before incinerating him in the heat of his afterburners. Wilson’s high-arcing throw was gorgeous but about a foot further than perfect, causing Metcalf to lunge in order to catch it. As Metcalf impressively corralled the ball, he tumbled to the turf. Still he had put so much space between him and every defender on the field that he had time to somersault back to his feet and charge into the endzone to make it 17-6. The play covered 53 yards and served as an absolutely marvelous display of every superlative attribute he brings to the game.
The Eagles could have folded up shop right then and frankly I don’t think anyone would’ve blamed them. With all the injuries, being out-gained nearly 3:1, and relying on a quadragenarian backup QB, the 11-point deficit seemed insurmountable. But attempt to surmount they did nonetheless, cobbling together an 11-play, 55-yard drive that saw McCown complete all 3 of his passes, making him 8-8 in the second half.
Those completions, combined with a sprinkling of short-to-mid-distance runs, got the Eagles down to the Seattle 24. Curiously, Philadelphia chose that moment to abandon the pass, opting instead for three consecutive runs, the last of which was a stretch play to Scott that got flushed down the drain by McDougald and Poona Ford. Another short field goal. 17-9.
Now that DK got his first taste of postseason blood, you could tell he was hungry for more. On the very first play of Seattle’s next drive, Metcalf buried his defender knee-deep in the dirt with a staggering double move. As the cornerback tried to re-locate his lower leg joints, Metcalf bounded down the sideline. Wilson picked him up immediately, but his throw was knocked a-kilter when backside pressure made contact with him during the throw. The pass sailed behind Metcalf and out of bounds. Otherwise, that would’ve likely resulted in a two-play stretch from DK totaling 128 yards and two TDs. Seattle would actually get a couple of first downs on the drive but had to punt eventually. It was a useful possession in that it took five and a half minutes off of a waning clock but they were thisclose to ending the fight with a sledgehammer.
From there, it was hang-on time for Seattle, as the Eagles continued to squawk. Starting from their own 12, Philly proceeded to march towards a chance of evening up the score. The Eagles got double-digit yardage on their first 3 plays, yielding 18 on a Sanders run up the middle, 16 on an in route to Greg Ward, and 12 more to Zach Ertz’s lacerated kidney. They were not only not going quietly into that good night, they were raging against the dying of the light. From there it was three straight runs for 11 yards, putting Philly on Seattle’s 30, down 8, with under 9 minutes to go.
A sweep to Sanders was chopped down by McDougald at the line of scrimmage, then Quinton Jefferson bagged his second QB kill of the day. That created 3rd & long which ended 4 yards short of the first after great coverage forced McCown to dump it off underneath. Okay, 4th & 4. Here we go. McCown took the high-leverage snap and looked to his left as Sanders swung into the flat. It looked for all the world like it would be an easy first down completion, but pressure off the left edge rushed the throw and McCown ended up firing it at Sanders’ knees. Miles was unable to reel the pass in, a crushing failure to convert in a big moment.
Seattle went three-and-out on their next drive, giving Philadelphia one last chance to save their season. A 17-yard hookup to Goeddert put McCown and Co back in business. Two plays later, the Eagles’ fill-in QB launched one deep down the left side, drawing a pass interference call against Tre Flowers that gave them 1st & 10 inside the 15. Just like that, the two teams found themselves with one series to decide their respective seasons.
1st down: Rasheem Green weaves through blockers to record a 4-yard sack
2nd down: Draw play to Miles Sanders for -1, with KJ Wright lassoing him from behind and roping him up like a rodeo calf
3rd down: Dump-off to Sanders to get 6 yards back
On this play, the one representing an ultimatum for the Eagles’ season, McCown slunk back and surveyed the field. No one open. Moving up in the pocket, his blocks started to crumble. Clowney had ripped through his man and pushed him into the rear edge of McCown’s drop back, forcing the elderly QB to step forward. That’s when Seattle’s übermensch DE spun off his blocker and into McCown’s legs. His sack, the seventh of the game for the Seahawks, was the last play of the Eagles’ offensive season.
Seattle needed one more first down to make things official, and Russell Wilson went straight for the heart. Well, not straight for it. With less than two minutes left, and the Eagles holding all three timeouts, Seattle forced them to burn two with back-to-back runs that gained no yards. This brought up 3rd & 10 and I steeled myself for a draw play to squeeze the last TO out of Doug Pederson. Instead, the Seahawks let their balls swing.
Wilson dropped back on that 3rd down and, without considering any other option, fired a deep ball towards Metcalf. DK skied over two defenders to make a secure two-handed grab over his head, crashing to the turf and sending his team screaming into the divisional round.
~From 1976 through 2011, the Seattle Seahawks had 8 total postseason wins. Since then, Russell Wilson has 9. He was marvelous today, completing 18 of 30 passes (60%) for 325 yards (10.8 Y/A), a TD, and no turnovers while adding 45 yards rushing. He was decisive, open to running and throwing his passes with conviction. He stood strong in the pocket all day, taking no sacks and getting more than 10 yards per attempt.
Would it have been nice to see more than 17 points from this team? Of course, but I would submit that their performance was better than that point total would suggest and it had everything to do with Russ. With absolutely no rushing game to think of, Wilson still led his team to a 16 first downs while converting 8 third downs.
~Why was the run game so bad? Well, Fletcher Cox for one. The Eagles’ DT completely dominated Joey Hunt and DJ Fluker today and was the #1 reason Seattle’s RBs never got going. There weren’t a lot of rushing lanes but honestly, neither Marshawn Lynch nor Travis Homer exploited the ones that were there. In fact, almost every run went exactly as far as it was blocked and no further— which is to say, not far at all.
Marshawn Lynch: 6 carries for 7 yards (1.2 YPC)
Travis Homer: 11 carries for 12 yards (1.1 YPC)
Yuck. To Carroll and Schottenheimer’s credit, they didn’t try and force it. They leaned into Russell Wilson and their All Pro QB rewarded them. Lynch’s TD was super impressive, with that and the screen play to him representing the only two good plays by Seahawks running backs today. I think I can honestly say this was the worst performance by Seattle RBs that I can remember.
~The Seattle receivers had a great game, getting big-time catches from a number of guys in the corps. The main takeaway, however, is that DK Metcalf is undeniable. His numbers (7 catches for 160 yards and a TD on 9 targets) popped in a major way but it was the way he produced that was so impressive. He won on every route in the tree today and was two Wilson misses from having nearly 250 yards and 3 TDs. As it stands, the electrifying rookie’s 160 yards set an NFL record for the most in a player’s first postseason game.
His development is happening so much faster than I ever imagined. I was hoping that we’d be seeing this type of play from him by Year 3— to have it in the playoffs of Year 1, when he’s half a dozen games deeper than he’s ever gone in a season, is insane. More importantly, Russell Wilson trusts him implicitly, even with the game on the line. They didn’t limp to the finish line with a bunch of flaccid runs on that final drive. Nope, the superstar QB entrusted the outcome of this playoff game to his autobot rookie, and the stud receiver came through. Everything about that man is beautiful.
Despite the record-setting performance from Metcalf, Tyler Lockett is still the guy in that receivers group. He received 8 targets of his own, catching 4 of them for 62 yards. The numbers aren’t overly impressive on their own, but those receptions were about the only offense Seattle had in the first half. DK took over the game late but what little production they enjoyed prior to that is due largely to Lockett’s ability to get open. Every one of his catches gained a first down and that can’t be overstated in a game that saw just 26 points.
David Moore is a really fun player who’s about as consistent as a kindergartner. He only had two catches today, but they were both enormous. His 38-yarder saved the Seahawks’ first TD drive and his 19-yarder imoved the chains on their FG drive. A pretty big impact for having such a small impact.
Jacob Hollister has been a really important player for the Seahawks this season but he really struggled today. His 4 targets resulted in just 2 catches for 16 yards and he got flagged for two false starts. Seattle is gonna need a lot more from him next week if this season is to continue.
~The offensive line was pretty good, at least in the pass game, for the second straight week. Now, they were absolute butt when run-blocking, with Hunt and Fluker getting mauled all day long by Cox. Other than that, they were pretty sharp. They only allowed one sack and Wilson had plenty of time on a lot of his drop backs. On the plays where he didn’t the OL was at least able to provide an escape route for him.
I love Hunt’s heart but he is just completely overmatched by NFL DTs on a weekly basis. Oh well, not much we can do about it this year. Fluker, for his part, really struggled. Cox is a maven to be sure, but this was an absolute beatdown. Fluker’s been very up-and-down this season and he’ll have his hands full again next week. Hope he’s better than he was today.
I thought George Fant and Jamarco Jones did great. I mean, they definitely weren’t pancaking dudes or even opening up big avenues for their backs, but they gave Wilson space to operate and that’s literally the most valuable thing you can do. Germain Ifedi was okay, I guess. He didn’t get whipped like we’ve seen before but he wasn’t consistently winning either. Whatever, I’ll take it. Even with the false start.
~I thought the defense was outstanding today. I know a lot of y’all will see the first downs that Philly got with McCown, or his middling line of 18/24 for 174 yards, and say “oh, the defense wasn’t really that good.” And yes, there are the obvious caveats with the Eagles missing a bunch of receivers and Carson Wentz getting hurt, but with Wentz in there, Philadelphia gained just 33 yards on 14 plays. In fact, the Eagles’ first 7 pass plays netted a remarkable -5 yards, including two sacks.
And while it would’ve been nice to see Seattle force some turnovers, McCown never really gave them the chance. What they did do is record an incredible 7 sacks and notch 11 tackles for loss, all while not allowing a single touchdown. It was the first time all season they had accomplished any of those things, much less all at once. They were great in a big game during a season where they’ve really struggled. Credit where it’s due.
The defensive line looked really good today, owning the point of attack and forcing the Philly QBs off their spots all day long. They won the line of scrimmage more often than they lost it, which isn’t something we’ve seen much of this year. Jadeveon Clowney had pressure throughout, erased a handful of running plays at the LOS, and expertly shut down a reverse in the backfield. He finished with 5 tackles, 2 of which were in the backfield, and the biggest sack of the game. Just a beastly performance from a star player fighting through a brutal core injury in a contract year. Quinton Jefferson was a stalwart and added two more sacks to his ledger, while Jarran Reed found himself in the Eagles backfield a bunch too. Rasheem Green, the team’s leading sack-getter this year and one of the youngest players in the NFL, got one today as well.
Bobby Wagner, the NFL’s leading tackler this season, had 7 more today including one in the backfield and two that kept mid-level gains from being huge ones. His pal KJ Wright had three massive tackles in big moments today, recording 5 tackles while joining the sack party.
This team is just SO much better with Quandre Diggs. He had a quiet game statistically (4 tackles) but it’s obvious how many fewer open receivers there are when he’s in the game. He is the brace that keeps the house from falling over in heavy winds. Ugo Amadi and Shaquill Griffin were sensational in coverage, as nearly all of Philly’s passing yards were limited to RBs and TEs (84% of them, in fact). Tre Flowers didn’t allow much in the way of receptions either but two huge PI calls cost Seattle over 80 yards and set up the Eagles inside the redzone both times.
Despite all that, no one was better today than Bradley McDougald. 11 tackles, including a sack and two TFLs. He was the Visa of safeties in this one, everywhere you wanted him to be. Run up the middle? Boom. Run around the edge? Boom. Dump-off over the middle? Boom. E-ver-y-where.
~I thought the Seahawks brought a really good offensive gameplan into this one. They passed early in series and schemed ways to get both Wilson and his receivers in space. With absolutely no running game to bank on, they were still able to mix up their looks enough to give Russ room to cook. After last season’s wild card loss to an NFC East winner, one in which Seattle stubbornly ran the ball despite meager success until it was too late, I had been emotionally preparing myself for more of the same in this one.
It was such a nice surprise to see them recognize and trust that Russell Wilson is their first, second, and third best option. They let Wilson do his thing, and do his thing he did. Big time. Really glad to see such a Russ-centric script today. Now don’t deviate, fellas!
Today’s win, combined with the Vikings’ upset of the Saints this morning, means that the Seahawks will play next Sunday against the 13-3 Packers in Green Bay. I say bring ‘em on. There’s nothing about that team that scares me too much and, with the Saints eliminated, it’s easy for me to imagine the Seahawks, on their best day, beating every team left in the NFC.
There was plenty left wanting from Seattle’s performance today but even so, it was good enough to win and in the playoffs, that’s all that matters. The conditions are sure to be rough next week, which means we may be in for another low-scoring grinder. That, in turn, means the game will likely come down to which QB (the two highest rated in NFL history, btw) makes the biggest play in the biggest moment. I’m betting on our guy.
We’re officially into contender territory now, my friends. Eight teams left, and the Seahawks have to be feeling good about their prospects moving forward. It’s been a weird season but here they are, with as good a shot as any. Can’t wait for next week. Onward, upward.
Playoff time means smoking a cigar worthy off the occasion. We only get so many of these in a lifetime, after all. So, with that in mind, I plucked a stick from the box of extremely rare Arturo Fuente Gran Reservas that our awesome sponsor hooked up. It’s a phenomenal, complex smoke that seems to change and improve as you work your way through it. I love these things, and it made an excellent dance partner with the Basil Hayden I uncorked.
Once again, I am STOKED about our cigar partnership this year. One of our readers has the plug on some insane stogies has offered them to Cigar Thoughts readers for 20% off. These are high-end sticks, and among the most enjoyable I’ve ever smoked. To get the hookup, just email SeattleCigarConcierge@gmail.com. They are carrying over 70 cigar brands with many rare releases, including Davidoff, OpusX, and Padron. You can also hit him up on Twitter: @SeattleCigars