PHILADELPHIA — The 2019 NFL season has been the Russell Wilson show for the Seattle Seahawks. But on Sunday, the Seahawks turned in a performance that hearkened back to their dominating defensive days of yore.
With the offense just a tad out of sync, Seattle’s defense lowered the boom as the Seahawks defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 17-9 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Seattle has built a 9-2 record largely on the shoulders of Wilson, its MVP-candidate quarterback, while the defense continued to recede from its Legion of Boom peak, when the Seahawks led the league in scoring defense four straight years (2013-16).
But Sunday’s game was a throwback to Seattle’s defensive best as the Seahawks forced five turnovers and managed to get consistent pressure on Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, despite the absence of top pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who was held out after undergoing treatment for a hip injury. Philadelphia was limited to three points until scoring a consolation touchdown with 20 seconds remaining to make the game appear closer than it was.
The Seahawks harried Wentz into four turnovers himself, two on fumbles — Rasheem Green had a strip sack that was recovered by Al Woods in the first quarter, Quinton Jefferson recovered a botched handoff in the third — and two on interceptions — Bradley McDougald made a diving pick in front of the receiver in the second, and Tre Flowers was the beneficiary of a poor decision by Wentz in the fourth quarter. Seattle added a forced fumble by Shaquill Griffin and recovery by Quandre Diggs in the fourth quarter.
It was the second straight standout performance by Seattle’s defense, which was the primary reason the Seahawks handed the San Francisco 49ers their first loss two weeks ago, prior to Seattle’s bye week.
“We’ve taken a big jump forward,” Seahawks coach Peter Carroll said of the play of his defense.
“As we always say (turnovers) always come in bunches, and today was a beautiful day of getting that football,” Carroll added. “It’s the most important thing we do in our game, it’s the center of our philosophy. For us to have a day like that, to have five of them, it’s huge.”
On offense the Seahawks missed out on opportunities to put the game out of reach, particularly during the first half when the windy conditions appeared to affect the flight of the ball. However, Rashaad Penny stepped up at just the right time. Penny, the much-maligned former first-round draft pick who’s found himself behind Chris Carson in the pecking order, rushed for a career-high 129 yards on 14 carries in relief of Carson, and it was his 58-yard lightning scamper that made it 17-3 early in the fourth quarter, effectively icing the game.
”I’ve just been patient and waiting my turn and trying to prove I can play,” Penny said. “We have a great running back in front of me in Chris, he shows it week in and week out. It gets kind of hard for me, but then again, being the guy I am, I stay poised and wait for my turn and my opportunity and I just make the most of it.”
Wilson finished with solid, if not spectacular, numbers. He was 13-for-25 for 200 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He had one bad miss when he floated a pass over the head of a wide-open Jacob Hollister in the second quarter, forcing the Seahawks to settle for a field goal that made it 10-3. But he also survived an Eagles defense that was playing lights out coming into the game and sacked Wilson six times.
The victory improved Seattle to an astounding 6-0 on the road this season. That includes four long flights to the Eastern time zone in which the Seahawks emerged victorious despite playing what for them was a morning contest.
“I think it’s our unwavering belief,” Wilson said about why the team is 6-0 on the road for the first time in franchise history. “We believe in each other, we believe in our system, we believe in what we’re doing. All these wins, it’s a great thing to be 9-2 and fighting for first place in our division and the NFC. The great thing is we’re playing great football, but we can play even better. That’s the scary part for the NFL and a great thing for us.”
Wentz, who was handcuffed by the absence of his top three receivers — Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and DeSean Jackson — as well as leading rusher Jordan Howard because of injury, finished the game 33-for-45 for 256 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Eagles, trying desperately to stay in the playoff hunt, fell to 5-6.
The Seahawks used trickery to grab an early lead. Seattle trailed 3-0 following an early Philadelphia field goal, but the Seahawks dialed up a throwback pass, with Wilson getting the ball back from Carson and throwing a perfect 31-yard touchdown strike to Malik Turner — the first TD reception of Turner’s NFL career — to give Seattle a 7-3 lead.
The Seahawks should have padded the lead on multiple occasions. First came Wilson’s miss of Hollister. Then late in the quarter Wilson looked like he’d found DK Metcalf for a 38-yard touchdown pass, but Metcalf adjusted awkwardly to the ball and couldn’t hold on.
It felt like Seattle was in control of the game, yet it remained a one-score game until, early in the fourth quarter, Penny burst through a big hole on the right side of the offensive line, sped past the linebackers, then caromed off the final tackler for a 58-yard TD that finally gave the Seahawks the scoreboard advantage they deserved.
Seattle’s defense did the job after that, as Philadelphia’s next three possessions consisted of a lost fumble, a turnover on downs and an interception, which effectively killed the clock and prevented any chance of a comeback.