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The Morning After: Seahawks Control League's Top Team from Start to Finish, Beat Eagles 24-10
Offense
Defense
Special Teams
4.1Game Rating
Reader Rating: (41 Votes)

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The thin line between confidence and arrogance trips many into pratfalls. The bloviations of the masses on social media are like helium filling a balloon that can lift the unsuspecting off the ground and away from reality. Eagles fans floated into Seattle this week certain that their one-loss team was going to easily beat the Seahawks. Sports talk in Philadelphia was not about whether the Eagles would win, but by how much and whether it would be better if they had a tough fight or just blew Seattle out. Their team had feasted on a row of cupcakes headed into this game, and had started to blow a little hot air of their own about a Seahawks defense that was, “nothing special.” Their pain this morning is severe. The Seahawks came equipped with needles, popping Philadelphia’s inflated expectations and sense of self. The fall was precipitous. They may tell themselves stories of unfair laterals and questionable coaching decisions to soothe their aching egos, but reality pierces their illusions. They are not the toughest team. They are not invincible. They are not safe. No team, no city, no fan can rest easy when this Seahawks team has their backs against the wall. They are the thing that goes bump in the night, and they just cracked the door to NFL bedrooms across the league.

Whether you woke this morning a traumatized Eagles fan or delighted Seahawks fan, you likely have the same two questions: how and why did this happen? As I mentioned in my game preview, there were some intangible factors that pointed to the potential for this outcome.

The Seahawks were getting healthy at some key positions

Luke Joeckel played his first game last week against the 49ers, and teamed with Duane Brown on the left side of the offensive line to help shore up the Seahawks pass protection and improve their run game. Brown was now also three weeks removed from an ankle injury suffered in Arizona that has hampered him severely. Mike Davis was returning at running back and had shown a glimpse of the spark plug he could be in the Falcons game. Finally, Shaquill Griffin was returning from a concussion at cornerback. Each of these players had a hand in the victory.

 

Philadelphia had feasted on the weak

 

You play the schedule the league gives you and should never apologize for winning. The Eagles were not just winning, they were demolishing teams. There is an undeniable and unavoidable challenge, though, that comes with rolling over the meek for long periods of time. Playing talented and tough teams becomes an adjustment. Similar to shifting gears on a bike or increasing the incline on your treadmill, the same amount of effort gets lesser results.

 

Seattle thrives on disrespect

Michael Gervais, the Seahawks team performance psychologist, has helped John Schneider and Pete Carroll assemble a team with a nearly uniform psychological profile of gritty underdog. They are at their best when overlooked or doubted. It is if they run on nuclear fusion. Extreme pressure causes them to unite and release remarkable bursts of energy. Schneider gathers the particles. Carroll knows how to harness them. It can be difficult to sustain, and sometimes destructive, but there are few that can withstand its force when properly directed.

 

The Eagles thrive on turnovers and the Seahawks protect the rock

Russell Wilson had some unsightly interceptions the past two weeks, but has made a career of making wise choices with the football. Only one team had gone an entire game without giving the Eagles a turnover. That was the one game they had lost.

 

All of these factors played out in the game. Some of them are temporal and would not have the same effect in a rematch or even in the Seahawks next game. Others are specific to this matchup, and would not apply to other opponents the Seahawks play. That is why each week in the NFL is unique. The variables shift. Constants are what you are searching for; things that you can rely on regardless of opponent. Seattle may have found a few in this game that could bode well for the rest of the year and beyond.

 

 

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Davis appears to be part of the answer at running back. Eddie Lacy was announced as the starter when they did introductions, but it was Davis who got nearly all the snaps. Thank goodness. Davis’ willingness to run physically and definitively helped lead to just two negative rushes in his 16 attempts. The team does not need a lot from the run game to be effective. They mainly need to avoid losing yardage. Davis finished with 64 yards on the ground. Hardly a total that will get fantasy football players excited, but it was the most by a Seahawks running back since Chris Carson had 93 yards against the 49ers in the second week of the season.

Davis is extremely effective as a receiver out of the backfield as well. He had four catches for 37 yards, giving him 101 yards total from scrimmage. That was the most from a Seahawks runner all year, and he did it against the top-ranked rush defense in the league. His superb cuts on the 22-yard scamper along the sideline and his instant chemistry with Wilson hinted at greater upside. This offense looks far more reliable and dangerous when he is on the field.

The offensive line continues to take steps forward. There was just one false start and no holding calls. They have had just three false starts and no holding calls in the two weeks this line has been on the field. That has a massive impact on the offense. Instead of fighting back from 1st and 15 or 2nd and 20, the team is able to succeed or fail based on the execution of the play. That helped the Seahawks to commit a season-low five penalties in the game after setting a season-low in penalty yards last week.

Philadelphia has a powerful and fierce defensive line. Seattle held up pretty darn well. The Eagles finished with just two sacks, and one came late when Wilson willingly went down to keep the clock running instead of throwing the ball away. They had eight hits on the quarterback. Nobody should be saying this line is dominant, but to deny their progress and contributions to victory is just pig-headed. Tom Cable has earned heavy criticism at times, but deserves praise for the work he has done to transform this group outside of Brown.

Darrell Bevell deserves a ton of praise for his game plan and play-calling last night. He appeared to have the Eagles guessing wrong throughout the game. Seattle had players running open into space, and Wilson was finding them within the framework of the offense. Third down was a thing of beauty. Take your pick from the 47-yard strike to Doug Baldwin on 3rd and 10, the 1-yard touchdown to a wide open Tyler Lockett on 3rd and goal, or the myriad of other conversions on 3rd and long. Seattle finished 6/12 on 3rd downs against an Eagles defense that came into the game ranked second in the NFL in getting off the field on that down.

My favorite part of Bevell’s night was his breaking from typical patterns. We saw passes on 2nd and 10, and consecutive runs even when the first one was unproductive. The plays do not always need to result in big gains to be successful. Shifting tactics make it harder for the defense to play with confident aggression, and can lead to better results later.

Bevell has helped to develop another constant. Jimmy Graham scored another touchdown. He now has 9 touchdowns in the past 8 games. He has at least one in four straight. He is tied with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara for the most touchdowns in the NFL since week five, and is tied for third overall for the full season. The play call to get Graham his latest touchdown was nice in that it happened from further out in the red zone. Graham was in the slot and looped around the outside receiver to set up basically the same fade route they have been running, but from a different set and distance. That was the first touchdown the Eagles had surrendered in the first quarter all season.

Meanwhile, Kris Richard was calling perhaps his best game as a Seahawks defensive coordinator. He chose perfect moments to send pressure from unlikely sources. K.J. Wright blitzed Carson Wentz on a crucial fourth down that led to an incompletion. Justin Coleman blitzed from his nickel spot and pulled down Wentz for one of the team’s three sacks on the day. They finished with 12 hits on Wentz, and got contributions all across the defense.

Bobby Wagner had another terrific game, making tackles everywhere on the field. Frank Clark was a beast and had a couple of sacks. Sheldon Richardson made one of the games great plays when he stripped Wentz at the goal line. Griffin and Byron Maxwell both had multiple pass breakups. Bradley McDougald is looking every bit the starting safety the Seahawks thought they were getting when they signed him late in free agency. Earl Thomas was his normal badass self.

In all, this defense held the top scoring offense to just 10 points. That makes the second time they have faced the top scoring offense in the league and held them to 10 points. The first was against the Rams in Los Angeles. They did this without Kam Chancellor or Richard Sherman. In the three games they have played without those two All-Pros, they have allowed 19 points per game. They were allowing 18.3 points per game prior to their injuries. That is far less of a dropoff than I was anticipating. Consider that 7 of those points came on a Wilson fumble returned for touchdown, and another 7 came on the final play against the 49ers when starters like Thomas were sitting.

Remember when the Seahawks run defense was of grave concern? The Eagles were averaging 197 yards rushing over the past three games, and had only been held under 100 yards on the ground once this season. Make that twice. Their three-headed monster at running back was held below 4.0 yards per carry. Their only explosive run was 12 yards by Wentz. Seattle has now held opponents below 100 yards rushing in five straight games, and six of the past seven. That bodes well for the trials that remain.

All of these players and coaches are deserving of the accolades. The game we saw from Wilson, though, was on another plane of existence. He came out in full command of the offense and decisive in his reads. He was accurate from the first snap, and mixed his off-script splendor with on-script precision. That is when he is at his most lethal. That is when he is the most valuable player in football. This team can beat the best teams in football when he plays to that level because they are the best team in football in those moments.

You could see the exasperation of Eagles defenders as he extended plays. They were exhausted. His lateral to Davis may very well have been a forward pass. It was also so brilliant that nobody in the stadium, including Eagles coaches, could see clearly for a few moments. He was a lethal weapon Sunday night, and has a very real shot at being the Seahawks second league MVP if he sustains this level of play the rest of the way.

The season does not get any easier from here. Jacksonville has the best defense in football. The Rams are arguably the most balanced team across all three phases of any team in the league. Dallas will have Ezekiel Elliott back just in time to face Seattle. The Seahawks used up all their extra lives earlier in the season. They are on their last quarter, and must play with supreme focus the rest of the way to realize their goals. This victory simply cancels out one of the Seahawks disappointing losses. They have proven they are capable of beating the unbeatable. Their new challenge is to prove this was not the peak of their season, but simply basecamp for a new ascent. Grab your oxygen masks and take a deep breath. Here we go.

 

16 Responses

  1. Uncle Bob

    My gut was wrong and my heart won out……….the Seahawks changed up how they played a game and it paid off!

    See guys…………taking the lead at the beginning of a game is a good thing……..don’t forget it! We’ve noted how the Hawks beat themselves before; turning the Red Zone into the Dead Zone, killing drives with penalties, insanely hoping a pitiful run game will be fixed by starting a game trying to establish the run, ceding time of possession by repeating 3 and out series. All that was pushed aside last night………and it worked! Let’s see more of that.

    Eagle fans will likely bemoan how their guys seemed out of character at the game beginning. How the officials allowed the Hawks to get away with an illegal “forward pass “(aka lateral), all that alibiing. I’d guess it was a very good, rising team unprepared for the crowd and opposing team experience more so. If they figure out how to fix the few things they did “wrong” the Rams may be in for a real beating next week.

    But credit the Seahawks for fixing what needed to be fixed. It wasn’t the blow out that some are claiming, but it was a good, solid earned win. The Richardson caused fumble at the goal line was awesome, and well timed. Did you see Clark working on perfecting the Freeney spin move? McDougald stepped up big. Wagz……………….an animal…………in a good way, and KJ right there with him. A very good defensive performance despite the injuries. The only weakness is that soft middle that Wentz finally started to exploit too late.

    The offense didn’t hurt itself much. The line still leaks too much, and the running attack isn’t deadly, but it was good enough………thank you Mike Davis.
    Let’s hope they don’t revert at Jacksonville and beyond…………score early………….score often……….give the defense some support.

    Reply
    • Andy

      It was a nice win, but we still have a long way to go. At least, I think we’ve found a running back. The guy ran w/ a purpose. OL is the OL. Brian thinks it is getting “better”, but the rate of improvement is not good enough to compete in the playoffs. Don’t know if D. Brown’s injury is still bothering him but he got beat a few times that would concern me a great deal going forward. Ifedi is going to cost us big time, sooner or later. I held my breath when RW got that one big hit. Regarding the defense, we were solid, but Philly missed a few crucial plays that would have made the game more interesting. Maxwell can’t cover little receivers so I hope they don’t stick to their gun by changing the coverage scheme, let your best man covers their best receiver.
      Going to Jacksonville will be another challenge for the OL. IMO, they are probably the second-best defensive team behind the Vikings. Calais Campbell has always been an issue for us in the past along w/ Aaron Donald. We’ll see how our interior line will hold up. Their corners are exceptional. Need a big game from JG. We are not very good on grass as opposes to the turf. Not much history, one game, but RW did pretty well against them. It will come down to RW or bust. If he plays like he always does in December, then we’ll have a great chance.

      Reply
      • Hawkman

        Ifiedi is a BUST ! Brown got beat a few times , once RW ran right into it because he couldn’t move forward do to the inside collapsing. The left side from center over is OK at least now but the right is whoa-fully inept!

  2. kurt Z

    Nice bit of ecstatic writing.

    I’m not sure if I am all in on this team. We had our backs against the wall, we were at home, on national TV. Pete lives for these moments. He gets his teams mentally ready for these big moments. Everyone stepped up.

    Not sure that Phila. was ready. They played conservatively, like a road soccer team, playing for a draw.

    Going to Jacksonville has all the measures of a HUGE trap game.

    Remember we are a cold-weather, turf team that is really not that big. A sloppy grass field really neutralizes our foot speed advantage. Calais campbell has been nearly unblockable.

    What worries me is that we are a middle-aged team on a business trip. We CANT just go through the motions and pull it out in the fourth quarter. Pete isn’t so great at getting these guys rallied on these kind of games.

    Look for the first half letdown. Jax is doing goofy shit with Bortles right now, running the option. We like to play vanilla on both sides of the ball and see what they are doing, then adjust at halftime.

    Look for a low scoring defensive battle, hoping we come out healthy, win or lose.

    Reply
    • Andy

      Agreed. One game does not indicate a trend. But if RW is able to play like he always does in Dec, then I think we’ll be o.k. Philly missed a few crucial plays that would have made the game more interesting. The Jacksonville game reminds me of playing against the Panthers, at their place, in the past. It will be a physical game. Hopefully, RW can pull it off in the end. Lastly, RW finally gets the attention that he deserved, at least from the national media, that he should get for all these years.

      Reply
  3. Rowdy Yates

    Now, that’s more like it! Come out swinging at the bell and move those chains, gang. Get our too-short, game-managing quarterback
    running and making those quick passes early on.

    It’s “Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Only today, not so much. (Pass that O2, already).

    Reply
  4. Mylegacy

    Belichick: “Tom, did you feel that sudden blast of cold air last night?”
    Brady: “Yes master, I did. I too sensed a disturbance in the force.”
    Belichick: Having a slight shiver. “We stole signals, we deflated balls, could this be the start of the Jedi’s revenge?”
    Brady: “I thought we’d killed them all!”
    Belichick: “As had I.”

    The two men looked at each other and both felt a shiver go down their spines.

    Reply
  5. Wigman

    Hawks should sign d.brown asap. And for the love of Pete keep throwing it. Still wondering why Eddie Lacy is on roster. I guess it is about money. But if we can find one Mike Davis we could find the next one also. Go.hawks

    Reply
  6. Doug

    Thank you, Brian, for teaching me a new word: bloviate (“the art of speaking for as long as the occasion warrants, and saying nothing”–love the etymology crediting Warren G Harding).

    At the risk of bloviating, I do feel my faith in the team’s processes has been vindicated by the results last night. The Seahawks remain a very good football team but it was still nice to see them show it on the field vs a quality opponent.

    What more can you say about Russ? The guy is a magician who can lift the team up at any moment to greatness. But he needs Davis, or someone like him (hard not to notice the one run by Rawls that looked fierce; once again I am not sure why he is not getting more attempts late in the game). The threat of a run game (backed by a few good runs) just makes everything else work.

    I noticed some formation shifts at the line that I don’t think I have seen before (or hadn’t noted before) including the pass out of the 3TE set. Nice credit to Bevell for upping his game in both play design and calls–much more aggressive from the start and I hope it continues!

    As I said in another thread here, I would place an even-money bet now for the Hawks to run the table the rest of the way. 12-4 is within sight. Not only will that record win the division, it may even result in a bye one of the top two teams falters.

    The Seahawks have become the team that no one will want to play, either now or in the playoffs, of which we can now speak in something other than hushed voices!

    Reply
    • Hawkman

      100% agree on Rawls – Why on earth he isn’t given a shot to see if he can run now behind Britt ,Joeckel and Brown is beyond me ? Who did he piss off ???

      Reply
  7. EricR

    Loved the game!

    Here’s my concern going forward: Pete didn’t seem himself. Did anyone else notice?

    Didn’t see him with hands on knees, eyes focused and mercilessly chomping his gum. No chasing long TD passes a third the way down the field. My wife pointed out he looked ashen and relatively stoic (for PC anyway). He did light up for Graham’s TD, though.

    Hope Pete just had the flu last night.

    Reply
  8. Jackson

    Brian, you’re a terrific writer with great insights (even when I disagree with your assessments/conclusions). Thank you for your work. Go Hawks!

    Reply
  9. Hawkman

    Watch the all 22- as good as the win was without an improvement on the right side it will be a HUGE assignment to do much if and when they make the playoffs with the right side of this O-line. The left side is adequate ( from center over ) albeit certainly not great at least not yet , but the right side is abysmal and Ifiedi is Horrible !!!

    Reply
  10. Jim LeMaster

    Many things to say. I appreciate Brian bringing us delighted 12’s back to reality in his last paragraph. One home victory over a probably overrated Eagles team is only the beginning. The going gets tough. The tough got going last night. My hope is that they will keep it up, because it ain’t getting any easier.

    Second, it is always interesting to listen to national sports programs and pundits on the day after. Yesterday, seemingly out of nowhere, suddenly Russell Wilson should be regarded as a legitimate MVP candidate. Not that I fully disagree. But are these reactions really the result of intensive, season-long observation and research of the Seahawks? Or are these commentators just jumping on the bandwagon? The media are famous for just reacting to “what everybody is suddenly saying.” Let’s be realistic and fair. The Seahawks are now 8 and 4. Plenty of teams are doing better overall than they are. They face an uphill battle, not just in the NFC west, but it is way to early to even conjecture that they will make the playoffs as a wild card. Also, while Russell did have an amazing and fun-filled night, I adjure the national media to also recognize the team contributions. They seem to all say that Wilson is “carrying the team.” Hmmmm. Not exactly. Clark was a monster last night. The defense, as you said, kept the potent Eagles offense limited to 10 points, and oh that’s right, Wilson was not on the field for any of that. I did appreciate one sports commentator who said that in his opinion, Seattle’s front seven may be the strongest in the league. Tough to argue with that. I love the way the Hawks can rotate guys in and out on the D-line, and just keep fast, big, mean guys harrassing the quarterback all through the game. Bobby Wagner is just simply an expert at what he does. KJ Wright, while in my opinion far too slow to be a decent pass defender, is a linebacker most other teams would love to have. Sheldon Richardson has already contributed very significantly in so many games, it makes that deal they made to get him look very very good. Yes, we have a defensive backfield largely made up of duct-tape and chewing gum, but in the end they got the job done. Expect Blake Bortles and Jarred Goff to keep picking on Maxwell and Lane on the left side.

    Now, about that lateral. Even if it was a forward pass, you have to admit it was a thing of beauty. What struck me, and apparently struck Al Michaels, Chris Collinsworth, and probably everybody else in the stadium (except for Mike Davis), was how unexpected it was. We all expected Russell to just slide 5 yards short of the line to gain. Suddenly the ball comes out and Davis doesn’t miss a beat. Wow. Even though I am sure this was Russell improvising, Bevell should be open to doing stuff like this more. It is like Brian said above, “Shifting tactics make it harder for the defense to play with confident aggression, and can lead to better results later.” In my humble opinion, at least half of success in the NFL is deception, keeping the other team off balance. Seattle did that last night. Or perhaps Russell Wilson did that last night. We need to keep doing this. Misdirections, wildcats, tackle-eligibles, hook-and-ladders, fake punts and field goals, etc. Just keep them in your bag, and bring them out every now and then just to place that seed of doubt in the defense’s minds.

    I also applaud Bevell for starting the game with a designed run for Russell. It seems in the past the Hawks were always trying to establlish the running game with a simple handoff to Lacy or Rawls or another running back which basically got them back to the line of scrimmage. Russell’s run was for 7 and put them into a drive that ended in 3 points. Not a bad start. Plus it immediately conveyed the message to Philly: We have an extra running back in the backfield you need to be concerned about.

    As far as I have seen, that was the best effort of the season. With you all, I hope Pete’s adage about “it’s how you finish” will be played out in the next four weeks.

    Reply

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