Russell Wilson is the NFL MVP. Before Sunday night, he was certainly in the conversation but wasn’t considered the guy, mostly because the Seahawks were 7-5 and on the wrong side of the playoff bubble. Wilson was also competing against Tom Brady and Sunday night’s opponent, Carson Wentz, who have led their respective teams to 10-2 records.
But the expectation ahead of the Week 13 matchup was that the Eagles, as they have done all season, would bring their high-powered offense into Seattle and roll a decimated Seahawks defense that currently features just one healthy member of the Legion of Boom. Seriously, the Eagles came into the game averaging 31.9 points a game in 2017 and 37.2 points a game since Week 7. But it took the NFL‘s highest-scoring team 22 minutes and nine seconds to get on the board and that came via a Jake Elliott field goal. When it was over, Philly managed just seven more points and left CenturyLink Field on the wrong side of a 24-10 final score.
Which brings us to two things. This prescient nugget ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted early Sunday morning:
Here’s six takeaways from the massive Seahawks win.
To reiterate: Russell Wilson is the Seahawks
In years past, this would be hyperbole. But it is not the case in 2017. The Seahawks have 12 players on injured reserve — including defenders Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril, DeShawn Shead and Malik McDowell — and they were without Kam Chancellor against the Eagles. There’s also the matter of a replacement-level offensive line and a non-existent running game … outside of Russell Wilson.
When it was over, Wilson was 20 of 31 for 227 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers. He was sacked twice but avoided approximately a dozen other takedowns behind the line of scrimmage because he’s not human. He also rushed six times for 31 yards, which was just below his 36.5 yard-per-game average.
How good has Wilson been? Through the first 11 games, he accounted for 82 percent of the Seahawks’ offense:
When it was all said and done, he was good for 78 percent of the offense against the Eagles. There is no other quarterback on the planet that is as valuable to his team as Wilson is to the Seahawks.
That said, the defense deserves a lot of credit for shutting down that Eagles’ offense. Which brings us to this …
The game’s turning point came early in the third quarter
The Seahawks limited the Eagles to three first-half points — in fact, it was only the fourth time all season Seattle led at the break — in part because Philly’s offense was uncharacteristically conservative. Wentz was 9 of 13 for 45 yards over the first 30 minutes and was 0 for 3 on passes that traveled more than 11 yards downfield. That changed on the first drive of the third quarter; the Eagles got the ball first and promptly went 69 yards, down to the Seahawks’ 6-yard line. And then Wentz did something he had done only twice all season: He fumbled.
And this time, it was a crucial, game-changing mistake. Because instead of making the score 10-10, Wentz’s fumble went out the back of the end zone for a touchback.
And 11 plays after that, Wilson tossed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett that effectively put the game out of reach. Three plays before the touchdown, however, the Seahawks were facing a third-and-10 from midfield. For reasons that remain a mystery, the Eagles rushed eight — which always seems like a terrible idea when Wilson is the quarterback — and this is what happened:
ESPN analyst and former NFL safety Matt Bowen explained what the rest of us saw with our eyes.
Still, Wentz had his moments — both good and bad
First, the good: This is one of the greatest plays of the season. No, it had no lasting consequence beyond a first down and a subsequent meaningless touchdown, but my heavens how did Wentz make that throw?!
That was on third down, and a few plays later, so was this:
Now the bad: In addition to the goal-line fumble, Wentz also twice misfired in the direction of Nelson Agholor. The first time, the pass was overthrown and fell incomplete. The second time, the pass was underthrown and Agholor had to go to the ground to make the catch, a 32-yard gain.
In both instances, there’s a decent chance Agholor walks into the end zone for a touchdown.
Why didn’t the Eagles challenge this?
With the Seahawks leading 17-10 in the fourth quarter and facing a third-and-9, Russell Wilson did a Russell Wilson thing. This time, it included a lateral to Mike Davis that went for a first down:
But did the ball go forward? We’ll never know where the officials came down on the call, because the Eagles didn’t challenge it. It looked like Wilson’s pitch might have been moving forward, but was that an optical illusion or not?
Again, we have no idea how the NFL would have ruled because Pederson didn’t think it was worth throwing a challenge flag. But had the call been overturned, the Seahawks would’ve faced a third-and-15 from their own 42.
The loss drops the Eagles out of the top spot in the NFC — they’ve been replaced by the Vikings and Case Keenum (!!). Both teams are 10-2 but Minnesota holds the edge thanks to a strength of victory tiebreaker. The loss also means Philly fails to clinch the NFC East for now. Meanwhile, the Seahawks move ahead of the Panthers and are currently the No. 5 seed.
You can view the entire playoff race here.
The Eagles (10-2) will travel to Los Angeles to face the upstart Rams (9-3) in what will be Philly’s most important game of the season. L.A. is currently the third seed in the NFC. The Seahawks (8-4) will be in Jacksonville, where Wilson will match wits with the NFL’s best defense. The Jaguars (8-4) are currently the fifth seed in the AFC.