The crypt was almost complete: Lots of marble, noble and somber inscriptions, soft organ music. All it was missing was the Seahawks.
“Everybody was sleeping on us,” said LB 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 shovels 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 runs — 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-eight 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 RB 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. Safety Corey Graham, shadowing Davis, was stunned.
“I only came off my guy because I knew he was past the line of scrimmage,” Graham said. “All I’m thinking is, ‘How the hell did he throw the ball?’ I didn’t realize he pitched it
“He’s a ballplayer, man. He’s scrambling, he’s buying time, he’s making guys miss, he’s spinning. Guys had him in certain situations and he just found ways to make plays. When it’s all said and done, he just made more plays than we did.”
Four plays later, Wilson found RB J.D. McKissic, another of the Seahawks’ legion of the unheralded forced into the crucible, for his third touchdown pass, a 15-yarder. That put the Seahawks up 24-10, ending the Eagles’ nine-game winning streak and sense of invulnerability.
Never one to pass up a chance to praise, Carroll turned it up to 11 on Wilson’s game.
“That was Russell showing you everything he was about,” he said. “From the first play, he was on it. He created. His execution was excellent. We didn’t turn the ball over. Worked the clock; beautiful tempo. Decisions, checks. the big plays were just coming out everywhere.
“I really think he had one of the best games I’ve seen him play.”
The lateral was the premier highlight in a night of bedlam that had the Clink vibrating with the kind of intimidating power that helped render the Eagles’ potent offense largely ineffective.
Rookie CB Shaquill Griffin, stepping in for injured Richard Sherman, bore witness.
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 independent of the audio riot, particularly DT Sheldon Richardson, who made the game-turning play.
In the first drive of the third quarter, the Eagles boomed into the red zone, where phenom QB Carson Wentz saw an opportunity to score himself from the five-yard line.
He nearly made it, until Richardson reached in as Wentz began to fall at the 2-yard line. 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 protecting the ball is something he’s still a little foreign to. Just stuck my hand in there and ripped it out.”
The turnover also took out a piece of the Eagles’ heart, because scoring opportunities came so rarely against a defense that seemed inspired to dismiss the fears of fans mourning the injury absences in the Legion of Boom.
“We made them one-dimensional,” Wagner said. “We thought if we stopped the run early and put them in passing situations, we would allow our D-line to get after (Wentz).”
Against mostly a straight four-man rush, Wentz was sacked three times, hit on 12 occasions and was errant on a number of passes to open receivers. He also made some brilliant plays, but in his second year and his second time in the Clink madness, he showed his inexperience.
The Seahawks offense aided the defense greatly by getting out to a 10-0 first quarter lead, a rare burst of efficiency that has eluded the unit until this game.
“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, where they ended an uncharacteristic two-game losing streak.
“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, fast and smart.