PHILADELPHIA – It was a win fitting of the host city’s reputation — a tough, gritty battle that called for overcoming a 17-mph wind and 31-degree wind chill.
The 2019 Seahawks are proving they can win in any and all conditions, as they did again Sunday with a 17-9 victory over the Eagles. The defense forced a season-high five turnovers and allowed its lowest point total of the year while the offense made just enough big plays.
For the second consecutive game, the Seahawks’ defense pulled its share of the load after mostly resting on the offense’s shoulders the first half of the season.
The way the defense has played the past two weeks — holding the 49ers to 24 points in an overtime victory and the Eagles without a touchdown until 20 seconds left in the game — had the Seahawks feeling especially jubilant afterward. Their locker room again featured the usual trappings of victory: booming music and veteran players crowing over getting to ride home in first class, exchanging seats with coaches — a perk started a few years ago whenever the Seahawks win a road game.
“The great thing is we are playing great, but the greater thing is we can play even better,’’ quarterback Russell Wilson said. “That’s the scary part. That’s the scary part for the NFL and a great thing for us. We’re ready to roll and we’re ready to keep getting better.’’
That might have seemed like an especially boisterous quote for Seattle’s usually say-the-right-things quarterback. But it was reflective of the general mood of a team that is now 9-2 overall, 6-0 on the road, and already has tied the team record for most road victories in a season.
The Seahawks felt the margin could have been far greater had Wilson not missed a wide open Jacob Hollister in the end zone for a sure touchdown in the second quarter, or DK Metcalf not dropped a certain touchdown later in that same quarter.
“I think we have a ton of potential,’’ middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “I think on the defensive side we’re starting to see what we’re capable of and the offensive side has been amazing all year. When all those things come together I think we can really do some amazing things.’’
Indeed, Seattle stayed within striking distance of the NFC’s No. 1 seed and secured its second consecutive victory in a stretch of games — four of five on the road against teams that had winning records at the beginning of November — that figured to define the season.
“We’re going up right now,’’ safety Bradley McDougald said. “We’re coming together. This is one of the tightest groups I’ve ever been part of. Off the field we all have each other’s backs. We want to see each other succeed. There’s no egos in this room. There’s no superstar in this room. Everyone is out here playing for each other.’’
Well, there is one superstar — Wilson — who proved far superior to his Eagles counterpart, Carson Wentz. The Philadelphia quarterback threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles.
On a day when the conditions dictated a relatively conservative game plan, Wilson made most of the plays he could, aside from the misfire to Hollister, of which he said, “Sometimes you miss a layup. … I can’t even explain it. But what I do know is 99 out of 100 we are going to hit those.’’
But the rest of McDougald’s quote about there being no real superstars rung true.
Wilson threw his only touchdown pass to second-year receiver Malik Turner on a flea-flicker in the first quarter that gave Seattle a 7-3 lead it would never relinquish. It was the first touchdown of Turner’s career.
“The double-pass thing was just perfect,’’ Seattle coach Pete Carroll said of the play in which Wilson handed the ball to Chris Carson, who then threw it back to Wilson, while Turner pretended to block for Carson before breaking into the open. “Such a tough catch, and Malik made it look easy.’’
Seattle’s only other touchdown came from second-year running back Rashaad Penny, who had just three snaps in the victory over the 49ers but Sunday rebounded to gain a career-high 129 yards, including a 58-yard score early in the fourth quarter that sealed the outcome.
“He looked like he was shot out of a cannon,’’ Carroll said of Penny’s touchdown run, in which Penny delivered a final, fateful stiff arm to Eagles safety Ronald Darby on his way into the end zone.
Penny, Seattle’s first-round draft choice in 2018, had just 36 carries this season before Sunday, when he had 14, and later happily talked of how he feels slimmer and faster than when he played at his rookie weight of 238 pounds — he’s now listed at 230.
“It’s all about the opportunities,’’ Penny said of his breakout day.
The same could be said for a defense that thrived even without injured Jadeveon Clowney, who sat out with a hip/core muscle injury that proved to be the only real downside to the weekend (along with defensive tackle Jarran Reed’s sprained ankle).
Clowney’s otherworldly performance was largely credited for the Seahawks’ breakthrough game against the 49ers. But Sunday, everyone contributed — Ziggy Ansah, consigned to just 14 snaps against the 49ers, had a team-high 1½ sacks (also an individual season high) and a forced fumble.
Rasheem Green, who saw more time with Clowney out, also had a forced fumble.
So too did second-year linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who again saw significant playing time as a pass rusher and also had a pass defensed.
McDougald, who seems more comfortable playing strong safety alongside Quandre Diggs than at any time in his Seattle career, and Tre Flowers chipped in with interceptions off the beleaguered Wentz.
“We’re just better than we have been,’’ Carroll said of the defense. “We have taken a big jump forward.’’
A leap that Sunday looked like it could propel the Seahawks to the greatest heights the team, or its fans, could have imagined.
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