The Morning After: DK Metcalf, Seahawks defense dominate Eagles in 23-17 victory
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The basic plot of the movie Jurassic World is that scientists have gene spliced a super dinosaur into existence, the Indominus rex, which has lived its entire life in captivity until it breaks out and wreaks havoc on everything in its path. Chris Pratt’s character, a dinosaur trainer (it’s a movie, folks), makes an observation as they watch in horror at the carnage, “She is learning where she fits on the food chain and I’m not sure you want her to figure that out.” He might as well have been talking about DK Metcalf. The seemingly optimized human is roaming NFL secondaries looking for his equal. In his wake is a series of mangled bodies and butt hurt defenders muttering half-hearted affirmations to themselves in the mirror to recover whatever dignity might remain.
Metcalf dominated Darius Slay and the Eagles to the tune of 177 yards and 10 receptions to account for over half of the Seahawks 301 yards on offense. What may have been the biggest development was the combination of two less obvious factors that bode well for the future:
Russell Wilson showed a willingness to target Metcalf even against a top-tier corner like Slay
The coaching staff and Wilson made Metcalf a focal point with 13 targets
Metcalf has been targeted 10 or more times three times this season:
11 targets 6 receptions 93 yards 2 TDs vs MIN
15 targets 12 receptions 161 yards 2 TDs vs SF
13 targets 10 receptions 177 yards 0 TDs vs PHI
There is no excuse for exiting a game without targeting Metcalf 8-10 times. This idea that Jalen Ramsey shut Metcalf down is not quite as overblown and foolish as the idea that Patrick Peterson shut him down in the first matchup against the Cardinals, but it is certainly misleading. There were plays to be made against Ramsey but Wilson was unwilling to test him. Metcalf wasn’t even targeted until the third quarter of that game. That can never happen. Even if Tyler Lockett is going off, Metcalf needs to be fed.
He was unguardable all night against Philadelphia. As gaudy as his numbers were, they could have been much greater. Metcalf dropped an easy touchdown (that makes three in two games, and four if you go back to the fumble at the one-inch line earlier in the year) and appeared to slow down on a go route after getting two steps behind Slay to start the second half. Make those two plays and you might be talking about 300 yards receiving and 2 TDs.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime player. His ceiling is not set, and his floor is already being one of the best receivers in the league. He can do things no receiver has ever been able to do. Coaches should be redefining their playbook around him. History will judge them by how creative they were in maximizing his demigod-like gifts.
Metcalf had company in securing this victory for Seattle. The once catastrophic Seahawks defense appears to be finding its footing. They set a season best in points allowed for the third straight game, and should have held their first opponent under 10 points.
People will dismiss the performance as meaningless due to the weakness of the opponent. That would be a mistake. The Eagles offense is terrible, but it is not even the worst in the league. This Seahawks defense was headed toward being the worst in the history of the sport. Nobody would have been shocked if the storyline coming out of this game was that Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense finally found their footing against a pitiful Seahawks defense.
If not for the aggravating final drive and hail mary touchdown, this would have been the lowest total yards gained by the Eagles all season. Still, the 250 yards were the second-fewest. This offense gained 363 yards against the Rams, 336 yards against the Steelers, 265 yards against the Football Team, and 364 yards against the Ravens. Those are some of the best defenses in the game. Seattle did better than all of them.
In fact, if you look at how the Seahawks defense is performing relative to opponent offense the past few weeks, the results reinforce the notion that there is more than just inept offense at play here. Look at how the Seahawks have done over the course of the season in terms of points allowed to a specific opponent, how that compared to the opponent’s scoring average and to the team’s season low in points scored at the time. The blue bar being higher than the green bar is good. The opposite is bad.
Seattle has held their last three opponents below their average points scored heading into the game. They have held their last two opponents to season lows in points scored. There are more numbers to validate the defense is finding a new level.
Here are the Seahawks ranks in various defensive stats over the past three weeks:
Yards per play allowed: 4.8 (7th in the NFL)
Point per game allowed: 20.3 (10th in the NFL)
Yards per game allowed: 317.7 (13th in the NFL)
The numbers back up what my eyes are observing. Coverage is tighter. Pass rush is emerging. Run defense remains stout. Communication seems better. There are fewer blatantly wide open players. There are fewer series where stopping the opponent seems hopeless. Heck, there were whole quarters and halves where that was the case.
The additions of Carlos Dunlap and Jamal Adams appear to be the most obvious factors to the resurgence, but I believe that is overlooking a lot of additional contributors.
Tre Flowers has not been a shutdown corner, but he has been a competent one. He is a drop of water for a secondary that was roaming the desert for weeks. Yes, he still gives up too much cushion, but people are angry about him giving up 5-10 yards plays to guys like DeAndre Hopkins. I will take that every day over 50 yard bombs and 20 yard gashes.
Rasheem Green has quietly been a solid addition to the pass rush. He got his first sack of the season against Philly, but he has been disruptive since returning against Buffalo.
L.J. Collier has stepped forward and made some important plays. He nearly had another sack in this game if Wentz had not fallen a yard past the line of scrimmage.
Jordyn Brooks had what might have been his best game last night. He was a force early on, and appears to be trusting his reads more and flashing his speed. There is more upside there.
Poona Ford has been playing his best ball for weeks now and had another sack against the Eagles.
Quandre Diggs has been better.
And now the team welcomes back Shaquill Griffin. Griffin had a soft landing against a truly awful Eagles receiving corps, but he did his job. He was sticky in coverage and made plays on the football.
There was a lot to be pleased about in this performance on defense. Seattle had 6 more sacks and 12 QB hits. That was the most sacks the Eagles had given up since the first week of the season against Washington. Seattle now has more sacks on the year than they did all of last season. They are averaging nearly three sacks per game (2.8) and rank 7th in the NFL in that category.
Who would have thought?
There is no reason the Seahawks defense should slow down in the coming weeks. Everyone focuses on the next three games against the Giants, Jets, and Football Team, but the Rams and 49ers are not exactly offensive juggernauts either.
It is not a stretch to think there will be a twisted symmetry to the season where the defense leads the team on a win streak to end the season after the offense did it to start. If I had to bet, I would have more confidence in the Seahawks defense holding up their end over the last five games than the Seahawks offense. Of course, the ideal is for both units to finish strong.
The Seattle offense has had very little that felt natural and easy the past few weeks. I would argue it has not looked great since the first half of the first Arizona game.
The onus is on Brian Schottenheimer and Wilson to get that side of the ball righted. They will not reach their goals as a team with the offense being good-but-not-great.
The injury to Brandon Shell had a clear impact on this game. Cedric Ogbuehi is not a capable starter. He was awful on almost every snap. When he wasn’t giving up pressures, he was drawing pointless holding calls that cost the team a touchdown. We have to hope that Mike Solari and the coaching staff will see the light and move Jamarco Jones to right tackle until Shell returns.
The return of Carson was a clear positive, as he reminded people once again why he is head and shoulders above Carlos Hyde and the other backs on the roster. He did not play a lot, and there were a few moments where he seemed to still be limping a bit after a play. The team needs him.
Rashaad Penny returning is more important now because he is a better player with more explosive upside than Hyde. It will be interesting to see if they get him back on the practice field this week.
Tyler Lockett was hurt in the Rams game and heroically played in the Cardinals game. He was barely part of this game, and one has to wonder if he is still hurting. This offense went in a funk last season when he was out.
David Moore was on the injury list this week and played extremely slow. He actually set an NFL record for fewest receiving yards (-6) with a touchdown. Let’s hope he can heal up.
The first game without Greg Olsen was not particularly encouraging. Will Dissly was a non-factor and Jacob Hollister was not much better. The team needs more from that position.
Seattle now turns its attention to the Giants, who likely will be without their starting quarterback. It is a game they should win, but against a team that is playing well and has their eyes on a division title. Their best coverage corner is James Bradberry. He would be advised to consider escaping the island before DK Metcalf finds him. You are about to find out where you fit on the food chain.