DK Metcalf and a revitalized pass rush carried the Seahawks to a 23-17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.
Metcalf caught 10 passes for a career-high 177 yards and the defense sacked Carson Wentz six times as the Seahawks allowed their fewest points of the season for a third consecutive game.
Seattle had two offensive drive stall with failed first downs in the first quarter that weren't ideal by any stretch. A late touchdown drive in garbage time also made the final score look closer than it actually way. But all Seattle really needed to do was get out of Philadelphia with a victory and get back home as quickly and as healthy as possible.
With the Los Angeles Rams losing to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, the Seahawks now firmly command their path in the NFC West race with game against the New York Giants and New York Jets at home over the next two weeks.
Here are the takeaways from Seattle's victory over the Eagles:
-- Don't make DK Metcalf angry. You won't like him when he's angry.
Metcalf had another career game against the Eagles on Monday night.
In January, Metcalf caught seven passes for a then career-high 160 yards and a touchdown in a 17-9 playoff victory over the Eagles in Philadelphia. He followed that up with Monday's dominant performance against cornerback Darius Slay.
“I think it was just at the right time, right place,” Metcalf said Monday night after the game. “It’s kind of like coming home. You know, place that had a chance to draft me but they didn’t and so I got to make them pay.”
Metcalf was selected with the 64th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Eagles had the 57th overall pick and needed a wide receiver. They took J.J. Arcega-Whiteside out of Stanford instead as Metcalf fell to Seattle seven picks later. Metcalf could have easily been in Philadelphia instead of Seattle given the circumstances.
Metcalf has more catches and yards in his last two games against the Eagles than Arcega-Whiteside has in his two seasons with the team.
But the draft slight wasn't the only thing Metcalf used as motivation. He said Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz came up to him before the game and said something to him that fueled him further.
“One of the defensive coaches came up to me and kind of made me mad. He was like ‘I was in Detroit with Megatron (Calvin Johnson) but you’re not there yet.’ In my mind, I’m not trying to be Megatron. I’m trying to be me. I had a little chip on my shoulder the whole game (after that).”
Metcalf's night could have been even more productive. He dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone and Russell Wilson just overthrew him on a bomb that could have gone for a score as well. Schwartz told Philadelphia reporters that he had been praising Metcalf's play and that he “may not be Calvin yet but you’re on your way."
Metcalf retweeted that comment on his Twitter account with a meme of Michael Jordan from The Last Dance saying "... and I took that personally."
Metcalf's big night allowed him to surpass 1,000 yards on the season in just 11 games played. He is the first receiver in franchise history with more than 900 yards through the first 11 games of the year. Steve Largent had 880 yards over the same span in 1985 enroute to a franchise record 1,287 yards that year.
Metcalf is just 248 yards away from that team record with five games left to play. He's on pace for 1,511 yards on the season.
"In my opinion, he's unmatchable. He can just do everything," Wilson said.
-- The Seahawks have a pass rush again.
The six sacks by the defense on Monday night move them into a tie with the Denver Broncos for seventh most in the NFL with 31. Through the first eight games of the season, the Seahawks were in the bottom third of the league with just 12 sacks through the first six seven weeks of the season. Since then, they've racked up 19 sacks over the last five games and had at least three sacks each game they've played since then.
"Everybody's hitting it, you know," Carroll said. "Kenny is doing a really nice job of mixing the calls and utilizing the personnel and keeping them off-balance and it's great that everybody is benefitting."
The resurgent pass rush has helped aid the Seahawks in getting much more performance out of their defense as a whole. Over the last three games, the Rams scored just 23 points against Seattle three games ago, the Cardinals just 21 points last Thursday and the 17 points by the Eagles were the new benchmark low of the year for the Seahawks.
Carson Wentz was held to just 215 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception. Seattle held Philadelphia to just 180 net passing yards after allowing an average of 343.7 yards per game entering the night. Statistically, the Seahawks remain the worst pass defense in the NFL through 12 weeks of the season. However, the way they've played over the last few weeks doesn't resemble anything near the calamity of some of the showings early in the year.
"Defense did a fantastic job all night long really. started fast, stayed with it," Carroll said. "I don't know the numbers other than the six sacks but we were in control and it was a great sign to see our guys play like that and play consistently again like last week. ... We've taken a real nice step forward and I'm hoping we can just keep building on it."
The defense is finally getting time together on the field with most of the core players all working together. Injuries and a non-existent offseason have played a role in the communication across the board on defense being an issue through the first half of the year. With the group coming together again and building confidence off three straight strong showings, it no longer feels anywhere near the liability it was earlier in the schedule.
"Coming together, man," safety Jamal Adams said. "Everybody's getting healthy. We're starting to understand the defense as a whole. We're playing together. We're playing as one. Like I said from the beginning, we knew what we had. We knew what type of talent we had. It was only a matter of time. We understood that you know people outside. There was going to chirp but at the end of the day we knew who we were as a team."
It is notable that Carroll said Carlos Dunlap had some kind of a foot injury in the game that took him out of the game late.
"He's got something in his foot. He's got a sore foot, sprained foot or something like that. Real technical term. Sprained something or other. I don't know," he said.
-- Early handling of fourth down situations and failed drives will eat at Pete Carroll.
The Seahawks took their opening drive of the game straight down the field against the Eagles only to stall out at the Philadelphia 2-yard line when a failed fourth down try turned the ball over on downs.
The Seahawks had another possession into Eagles' territory on their second possession with another decision to go a fourth down that failed and resulted in Philadelphia taking over the ball.
The whole circumstance left Carroll unhappy with his performance.
"I had a terrible first quarter. Golly," Carroll said. "We didn't handle the fourth down situations like we needed to and I just felt like I took the momentum away from us. And so I was disappointed. I didn't play that much better later in the game either to tell you the truth, but I started lousy. Sometimes you can screw it up.
"I didn't like my handling of it, the timing of it down there. I handcuffed the guys a little bit. And neither one of them worked, you know. So, if we worked and converted, it would have been better. But just we lost all of whatever momentum we could have had in the first quarter by not getting scores and converting and just getting completing the sequence. So I just didn't like it, I was pissed at me."
The Seahawks had to take timeouts before each fourth down attempt and both plays failed to convert. A receiver sweep to David Moore got blown up in the backfield when Derek Barnett came through the block of Metcalf. Barnett then sacked Wilson on a fourth-and-2 from the 37-yard line on the next drive as well.
"Well we wanted to talk about it, you know, and think it through," he added about the timeouts. "It was a big play, you know and I just didn't like the whole thing. I told you it was me, I screwed it up. You asked what happened? Me. I messed it up."
It didn't sink the Seahawks against the Eagles because the Eagles are a bad football team. Carroll will absolutely want to have things go differently if they find themselves in similar circumstances again.
-- Still baffling how Carson Wentz's intentional grounding was missed.
Refereeing in the NFL is a tough gig. Seeing everything a official needs to see at the speed they need to see it is a daunting task. But some calls are easier than others. Or should be.
How the officials missed Carson Wentz's intentional grounding late in the second quarter is really tough to understand.
A snap flew over Wentz's head and he retreated over 20 yards to recover the ball and try to throw the ball away with defensive end Carlos Dunlap in pursuit. The ball was caught by a Seahawks staffer on the sideline two yards short of the line of scrimmage. An official planted directly on the line of scrimmage saw the ball land to the wrong side of the line of scrimmage. And yet, the ball was deemed to have reached the line by head referee Brad Allen and negated a massive negative play for the Eagles.
"I don't know if I was obvious or not but I could have been griping any more than I was about that one," Carroll said. "I thought that one and also the one that Russ threw in the corner the other way, those were just situations I thought could have gone the other way. But I haven't seen them, haven't had a good look at them yet. So I'm not griping about the calls, I just wish it would have gone the other way."
Instead of moving the Eagles back across midfield and putting them in a second-and-30-plus circumstance, it was just a second-and-10 from the Seattle 36.
Philadelphia managed to turn the drive into their first points of the game with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Goedert to finish the drive. They got three more points on the opening drive of the third quarter and a game Seattle had firmly controlled now was in far more peril than it should have been.
Officials are going to make mistakes. They're fallible as well. But some calls just shouldn't be missed and the intentional grounding should have been called.
Photo Credit: PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - NOVEMBER 30: DK Metcalf #14 of the Seattle Seahawks is tackled by Darius Slay #24 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on November 30, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)