SEATTLE – The crypt was almost completed: Lots of marble, noble and somber inscriptions, soft organ music. All it was missing was the Seahawks.
“Everybody was sleeping on us,” said linebacker Bobby Wagner, calmly indignant. “Everybody thought we were going to lose. We expected us to win this game. It’s not a surprise to us.”
Indeed, many in the fan base and in local and national media had a shovel full of dirt, ready to bid farewell to the Seahawks’ long, luxurious run at the top of the NFL. Too many injuries, too little salary-cap space, bad luck and a running game bought at the blue-light table instead of the top shelf.
Sunday night, they were up against the 10-1 Philadelphia Eagles, the No. 1 offense in the NFL and a six-point favorite despite playing in the most formidable environment in the NFL.
Overlooked were a few things: It was December. It was prime-time TV. Most of all, it was Russell Wilson time –to go over the top.
“It was one of his best games,” said coach Pete Carroll. “Phenomenal.”
Good as were the bare numbers – three touchdown passes, no turnovers, 20 of 31 for 227 yards and 31 yards in five carries – they tell a spare story in the 24-10 upset win that had the Clink doing that old-time rock and roll.
It was Wilson’s night at the improv, no moment greater than in the fourth quarter, when, ahead 17-6 but facing third-and-8 at his own 42, he went showtime.
Seeing no open receivers, Wilson burst from the pocket briefly into the open field across the line of scrimmage. But as defenders closed to deny him the first down, Wilson spotted newbie running back Mike Davis steaming along to his right.
He abruptly flipped a knuckleball lateral that Davis snatched and rambled for another 17 yards to the Eagles 35-yard line. Four plays later, Wilson found J.D. McKissic, another of the Seahawks’ mass of the unheralded, for a 15-yard touchdown pass. Game all but over.
Bedlam ensued. The drive of the season closed out the Eagles, who, despite their season of accomplishment, weren’t up to the task. Rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin saw the bewilderment.
The crowd noise was “throwing them off,” he said. “The louder it got, you could see them scramble around and (try to) figure out what’s going on. I’m out there and I can’t hear anything.
“So if I know that I feel that way, I know the offense is going crazy. We can’t thank the 12s enough.”
The defense did quite well even without the audio riot, particularly defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. In the first drive of the third quarter, the Eagles boomed into the red zone, where phenom quarterback Carson Wentz saw an opportunity to score himself from the 5-yard line.
He nearly made it, until Richardson reached in for the ball as Wentz began to fall. The rip freed the ball and it ricocheted wildly out of the back of the end zone. Touchback. Seahawks ball.
“He’s a quarterback – he’s not used to being hit down in and down out,”Richardson said. “So taking the ball is still a little foreign to him. Just stuck my head in there and ripped it out.”
He also took a piece of the Eagles’ heart, by helping check down the run game.
“We made them one-dimensional,” Wagner said. “We saw on film they ran and passed well. We thought if we stopped the run early and put them in passing situations, we would allow our D-line to get after them.”
The Seahawks’ offense aided greatly by getting out to a 10-0 first quarter lead.
“It helped a lot,” Wagner said. “Russ was out there killing with his feet, Mike Davis had a helluva game as well. When offense is clicking and special teams too. it’s hard to beat us.”
Especially at home.
“The stadium was ridiculously good,” Carroll said. “The Eagles are an excellent football team, so for us to play our game and really be in command throughout, it was a really great step forward for us.”
Dead men walking? No. Live men playing young.