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Seahawks show ability to adapt on offense, unlike in last year’s playoffs

Jan 6, 2020, 10:29 AM | Updated: Oct 29, 2020, 11:01 pm
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson...
The Seahawks unleashed Russell Wilson and the passing game early in Philadelphia. (AP)
(AP)

If someone were to tell you that the Seahawks were going to rack up 114 yards in penalties, average 2.5 yards per rush and lose the time of possession battle against the Eagles, would you have predicted a win? Probably not, but the team’s unrelenting resilience led the way to victory yet again, and the Russell Wilson-DK Metcalf connection was the deciding factor.

Wait, what?

Gallant: Why did Metcalf fall to Hawks in draft? Everybody was wrong

Yes, you read that right. The Seahawks had trouble establishing the run in a first-round playoff game and went away from it just enough (baby steps) to allow Wilson to control the game. More on that later, but first Metcalf’s performance needs to be properly applauded. Metcalf’s 160-yard day broke the playoff receiving yardage record for a rookie, and he did that on just seven catches while also adding an impressive touchdown. Wilson spoke very highly of his rookie wide receiver after the game.

“His preparation, how he’s come in and prepared week in and week out, even since the offseason. You know, throwing at 5:20 in the morning in the summer time. That’s what greatness looks like, and he’s done it,” Wilson said.

It’s meaningful when you draw that kind of praise for your work ethic from someone who is known for theirs, and it appears to have helped the duo develop quite the chemistry. Metcalf credits his later-than-expected draft day position (being selected by Seattle at pick No. 64) for helping foster that dedication, something he let 710 ESPN Seattle’s Bob, Dave and Moore in on back in October.

“I’m kind of excited and glad I didn’t get drafted in the top 10 because I probably wouldn’t have the same work ethic that I have,” Metcalf said. “Now that I see that I got drafted in almost the third round, it means that I have to work that much harder just to make them pay and just to make them see what they’re missing out on.”

Metcalf did just that on Sunday as the Eagles, who drafted fellow rookie wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside ahead of Metcalf at 57th overall, got a long, hard look at what they were missing out on.

There is another unsung hero in Sunday’s game and it is offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Glancing at Twitter, this appears to be a fairly unpopular opinion, but there is something to be said for growth. We all know that a Pete Carroll-coached offense is always going to be run-first, but the Seahawks have shifted things a bit this year, passing on 51.8 percent of plays. Last year that number was 44.4 percent. Schottenheimer explained back in training camp that Wilson has become extremely well-versed in this offense in year two.

“The things that he does at the line of scrimmage are unbelievable,” Schottenheimer said. “It doesn’t get probably talked about enough. He solves so many problems at the line of scrimmage with protection changes, run checks, things like that. That’s the first element that we kind of dove into going back a year. Year two helps.”

So, while the Seahawks are never going to completely unleash Wilson and let him air it out like Patrick Mahomes, there was a little more room for it in year two of the Schottenheimer offense.

That being said, it seemed that most of us still expected the Seahawks to repeat what they did in the Dallas playoff game last year on Sunday against the Eagles – live by the run, die by the run – but they were more creative to start the game and it made a big difference. The complaint in the loss to the Cowboys was that the Seahawks were too stubborn in sticking to the run game early on, and by the time they let Wilson loose, it was too late.

On Sunday against a stingy Eagles run defense, the Seahawks changed it up a bit.

The total passing attempts were almost exactly the same, with Russell going 18 for 27 in the Dallas game and 18 for 30 on Sunday, but the Seahawks let him get to work earlier this time. It paid off big, with Wilson throwing for almost 100 more yards than he did against the Cowboys last year (325 against Philadelphia, 233 against Dallas). The Seahawks threw on 63 percent of their plays in the first half against the Eagles, compared to last year when they almost broke even with the rush at 52 percent.

Seattle came into this game missing both its starting left guard and left tackle, and the Eagles had sacked Wilson six times in their last meeting in Week 12. And yet the Seahawks managed to win it through the air. Sure, Marshawn Lynch went Beast Mode for a touchdown, but Metcalf had a monster game, Wilson made magic happen, and the banged-up offensive line allowed just one sack. But perhaps the most important thing that happened was the coaching staff’s willingness to shift the offensive philosophy ever so slightly.

It was a hard-fought game and there are those that are still unhappy with the level of commitment to the run, but the Seahawks ultimately put the game in Russell’s hands, and he did not disappoint.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Maura Dooley on Twitter.

More Seahawks coverage

By the Numbers: Hawks’ pass rush revived in playoff win over Eagles
Seahawks Instant Reaction: 710 ESPN Seattle on playoff win over Eagles
Seahawks 3 Stars: Metcalf shatters NFL record to lead Seattle to victory
O’Neil: DK Metcalf, star of Seahawks’ playoff win, blows past expectations
Seahawks to play Packers in 2nd round, could still host NFC title game

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