No Masterpiece – Three Takeaways From Seattle Seahawks’ Win

The Seattle Seahawks beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Wildcard game on Sunday, 17-9, to move on to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

It was an exciting game with the usual twists and turns a playoff game brings.

But this game was different than the typical early-January one. This one was just plain ugly.

Playoff games normally bring high-quality football when both teams are supposedly peaking this time a year as they begin their quest for the Super Bowl. They know their schemes, have fine-tuned all three phases of their games, and are ready to compete.

Sunday…not so much.

Here are my three takeaways from this pillow fight.

Injuries: Both teams came into the game with key players out with injuries or playing hurt. It showed.

Neither team could get anything going on offense and relied on their defense to keep them in the game. That translates into a lot of punts (7), field goals (4), and penalties (18). Ugh!

But the injury that turned the game in Seattle’s favor was when Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz went down with a head injury in the first quarter and never returned.

The heart of their offense, Wentz left after throwing just three passes.

The injury itself is up for debate. Wentz went down after scrambling out of the pocket, got tripped up, and was forced into the ground from a questionable hit to the back of the helmet from Seahawks’ end Jadeveon Clowney.

Eagles’ fans argue it was a late hit and involved helmet-to-helmet contact that should have been flagged. The Seahawks say it was a football play with two players pushing hard and getting after it with an unintentional and unfortunate hit.

Slowing down any view with slow-motion replays can make any hit look egregious. To me, in real time, it looked like Wentz was diving for extra yards, and Clowney put him in the dirt as any defensive player would do. If the quarterback is not sliding, he’s fair game. Just because he is a quarterback and the play, unfortunately, resulted in an injury, it is not anyone’s fault.

Referee Shawn Smith told a pool reporter: “He was a runner and he did not give himself up. We saw incidental helmet contact, and in our judgment, we didn’t rule it a foul.”

Russell Wilson got hit late—time and time again—even after getting rid of the ball or sliding for safety. So Eagles’ fans have nothing to complain about.

Josh McCown resurrection: Once Wentz left, there was no Nick Foles to the rescue. Foles led the Eagles to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title two years ago, and with Wentz out with a back injury last year, he led the team to a wild-card win in Chicago.

So that left 40-year old Josh McCown as the backup. Not to be deterred, he dusted off his helmet and entered the game as the Eagles’ only hope. In August he was a studio commentator for ESPN and a coach of high school football. A training camp injury led to a call from the Eagles to back up Wentz for the season.

As they say, all backups are one injury away from the field. Sunday was a prime example. Enter McCown.

As the Seahawks tend to do, they made McCown look like an All-Pro, completing 18 passes for 174 yards and managing the game well. He consistently found open receivers with an up-tempo attack that left the Seahawks’ defense scrambling.

Luckily for the Hawks, they were able to come up with some timely defensive stops when they needed them most and held the Eagles to just field goals. Giving up touchdowns in those incidents would have been a death sentence.

Despite putting little pressure on McCown, the defensive line, especially Clowney, did just enough to force mistakes on two critical fourth-down plays to get the very tired defense off the field instead of letting them in the end zone.

But if the Seahawks are able to get past Green Bay next week and possibly Minnesota/San Francisco in the NFC Championship, they are going to need a lot more consistency on the defensive front.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers has to be licking his chops watching that game. Give him time in the pocket, and Seattle could be in trouble.

Russell being Russell: All season, Russell Wilson has saved the day when all looked lost. Sunday he did it again. This time, though, he had the help of receiver DK Metcalf. The rookie wide-out from Ole Miss rewarded Seahawk management for gambling on him with a second-round draft pick. As he did most of the season, he came up with crucial receptions at critical times, one for the game-winning touchdown and another to seal the game.

But Wilson deserves the game MVP. Having lost three of their last four games, the team needed a boost on the road in this game. Wilson delivered.

Just like McCown, he completed just 18 passes but gained 325 yards. He also led the team in rushing with 45 yards.

His one touchdown, a 53-yard strike to Metcalf with eight minutes left in the third, pushed the lead to 17-6 and was a dagger the team needed to hold on to the lead.

Wilson’s final act of heroism was yet another third-down pass to Metcalf with 1:47 left, right when everyone on the planet thought they would run the ball and, in all likelihood, give the ball back to the Eagles for one last shot to tie the game.


Metcalf makes a leaping, sticky-hands snag for a 36-yard gain.

Game over.

Final thoughts: This game was far from pretty and, at times, tough to watch for Hawks’ fans. There is a lot to improve on for next week:

1.     Run, Forrest, Run! They have to get the running game back on track. Despite being on their fourth-string running back, they will need to run the ball. They showed against the 49ers in the last game of the season that Travis Homer and Beast Mode Marshawn Lynch can do the trick. 

2.     Get healthy. Hopefully, offensive linemen Duane Brown and Michael Iupati will be back for the Green Bay game. Defensive linemen Ziggy Ansah went down with a neck stinger in this game, so his status is in question. He will be needed.

3.     Limit mistakes. Eleven penalties are brutal. Holding penalties and false starts consistently derailed the offense. They forced the team into long third-down conversions that ultimately led to punts and put the defense back on the field.

The Seahawks will face a rested Green Bay team at home next Sunday, and that will be a challenge. It is never easy going into Cheesehead land on what will surely be a frigid day.

In my opinion, if the Hawks play like they did against the Eagles, they are in trouble. 

However, the one glimmer of hope? The Seahawks know how to win ugly.

About John D. Hunter 55 Articles
John D. Hunter is Montana native but grew up in the Tacoma/Seattle area and proudly attended Washington State University. He is a former morning show producer on KJR SportsRadio in Seattle. For 7 years he produced ‘Knight in the Morning’ with Michael Knight and New York Vinnie. From there he moved to where he spent another 7 years as an Interactive Editor and Soccer reporter/writer. He has covered 3 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, 1998 World Cup in France and many more sporting events.