Richard Sherman turned his back on the field, where another Seahawks’ defensive domination was well underway. He took a bow toward fans behind the Seattle bench that weren’t exactly spewing brotherly love.
Sherman then posed and put his hand to his ear, as if seeking more noise.
“You enjoy the hostility,” said Sherman, who traded taunts with the San Francisco 49ers’ crowd on Thanksgiving — and said he had a glass bottle thrown at him. “It kind of motivates you during the game, to send them home.”
His wasn’t the only way in which Seattle humbled Philadelphia on Sunday.
Russell Wilson threw for 263 yards with touchdowns to Doug Baldwin and Marshawn Lynch. He also ran for 48 yards and another score in his latest day of remarkable improvisation and escape. Meanwhile Sherman, stellar Byron Maxwell, Bobby Wagner and the rest of the Seahawks’ rejuvenated defense turned Philadelphia’s go-go offense into goo in Seattle’s 24-14 victory over the NFC East-leading Eagles on Sunday at angry Lincoln Financial Field.
“This,” coach Pete Carroll said, “is the way we want to play.”
It was thudding. It was convincing. It was for the third time 15 days.
The Arizona Cardinals also won, 17-14 over the Kansas City Chiefs. So the Seahawks (9-4) remain one game behind the Cardinals atop the NFC West with three regular-season games remaining — including Dec. 21 at Arizona, which Seattle beat 19-3 two weeks ago.
Philadelphia, the league’s No. 4 offense at 31.3 points and 416 yards per game coming in, gained just 139 on a mere 45 plays. That’s the fewest yards allowed by the Seahawks since Dec. 11, 2005, when San Francisco managed just 118 in a 41-3 loss at Seattle. The 49ers had eight first downs that day; Philadelphia had nine Sunday.
Linebacker K.J. Wright said the Seahawks held the Eagles to so many short drives that guys on defense were complaining they weren’t playing enough.
“They would have presented a challenge for us,” Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said, “if we didn’t prepare.”
The Seahawks won their third in a row by holding the Eagles (9-4) to the fewest yards Chip Kelly has produced in his head-coaching/offensive-guru career. The previous low was 152yards, when Kelly’s Oregon Ducks lost at Boise State, 19-8, to begin the 2009 college season.
Kelly’s Eagles had been averaging 5.7 yards per play this season. They got 3.1 Sunday.
Asked if he could have envisioned that, Kelly said: “Obviously, no. … They did a hell of a job on defense and played better than us.”
Wagner again led the Seahawks with seven tackles. In his third game since his return from a torn ligament and broken bone in his foot, the middle linebacker was flying from sideline to sideline with friends in white and blue.
He wasn’t surprised by so thoroughly dominating the Eagles in their home nest.
“I expected it, yeah,” Wagner said. “Watching film we could see that we are the fastest defense that they’ve played.
“We were just having fun out there, flying around making plays. When we are doing that, there aren’t that many teams that can beat us.”
The Seahawks have allowed 20 total points and 407 yards combined in consecutive wins over Arizona, San Francisco and Philadelphia. That has the defending Super Bowl champions looking like they did in 2013. They’ve won six of their past seven games since their 3-3 start.
Sherman said the Seahawks “didn’t expect to give up that many points” to the Eagles Sunday, “but some unfortunate series of events led to that.”
Indeed, the only Eagles points on a windy, chilly day south of downtown Philadelphia came after Seahawks punter Jon Ryan inexplicably dropped a snap for a lost fumble at his own 14 in the first quarter, then in the third quarter following a 46-yard return of a kickoff to midfield by Philadelphia’s Josh Huff, who played at Oregon. That was the only time in the game the Eagles drove from their own end into Seahawks territory.
The league leaders in hurry-up with an average of73 snaps per game ran just 45 against Seattle. Philadelphia had four three-and-out drives that netted a total of seven yards.
It had two more drives of one play. One came on the fumble Wright forced with a hit on throttled Eagles runner LeSean McCoy. Thomas recovered at the Philadelphia 19 on the first play of the third quarter. Wilson then rolled right and threw back to Marshawn Lynch, who was all alone on the left side. The 15-yard touchdown made it 17-7 Seahawks.
McCoy was the NFL’s third-leading rusher with 1,018 yards entering Sunday, including 130 and 159 in Philadelphia’s past two games, wins over the Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys. But “Shady” went dark against Seattle: 17 carries, 50 yards.
Philadelphia’s other one-play drive was an interception by Tharold Simon of a deep jump ball thrown by Mark Sanchez on a desperate Eagles drive in the scoreless fourth quarter.
It was Sanchez’s ninth turnover in six games since replacing injured Nick Foles as Philadelphia’s starter. So ended the Eagles’ 10-game winning streak at home.
Those were the fifth and sixth takeaways in the past three games for the Seahawks. They have 15 in their past seven games. The only loss in that time, at Kansas City, came when the offense failed to capitalize on a plus-2 turnover margin.
Maxwell made five plays on third downs in his new role as injured Jeremy Lane’s replacement inside as the nickel back in passing situations, which was most of Sunday for the Eagles. The starting cornerback had two pass breakups and three passes defensed to end Philadelphia drives, part of a festival of three-and-outs the Seahawks forced.
Through two quarters this game was just like the Seahawks’ previous two wins: The smothering, smacking defense controlling the game; the offense squandering chances and leading only 10-7. The Seahawks had 242 yards to Philadelphia's 67. They had 14 first downs to the Eagles’ five.
The recipe was the same. Kam Chancellor and Maxwell led a Seahawks secondary that was all over Philadelphia’s receivers. Chancellor and Wagner ran up hard against the run, throttling McCoy and forcing Sanchez to win the game.
He couldn’t. He finished just 10 of 20 for 96 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The Seahawks sacked him three times, by Michael Bennett then by Jordan Hill and Marcus Burley on the same, desperate drive late.
Sanchez was hit about at least a half-dozen more times. And he looked bewildered many more times than that.
The former starter for Carroll at USC was plenty impressed by his old coach’s current guys.
“They have great players in every spot,” Sanchez said of Seattle’s defense.
The Seahawks’ offense ran 85 plays, thoroughly controlling field position and the game. It was the reverse of their September loss at San Diego when they couldn’t get the ball. That’s how far the Seahawks have soared in three months.
Wilson was sacked twice and was hit at least eight other times. But he escaped nine more sacks with plays off scrambles for first downs. His third-and-15 spin, turn, run away from another sack and throw to Baldwin for 20 yards with less than a minute left in the first half got Seattle in position for Steven Hauschka’s go-ahead field goal.
After the Eagles closed within 17-14 when Zach Ertz beat Wright down the Seahawks’ sideline on a wheel route for a 35-yard touchdown in the third quarter, Baldwin created the final Seahawks’ score. It was on a play he wasn’t even a primary receiver. Wilson scrambled yet again then heaved a rare deep ball, later saying he knew Baldwin would make a play one way or another. Baldwin did. He coaxed a debatable, 44-yard defensive pass-interference penalty on Bradley Fletcher by engaging the Eagles cornerback in a grabbing contest while the ball was in the air.
Four plays later Wilson found Baldwin running free down the seam. His pass hit Baldwin in stride at the goal line for a 23-yard touchdown and the 24-14 lead.
The rest was 86 yards on 23 carries from Lynch, part of Seattle’s 188 yards from the league’s No. 1 rushing offense.
A dominant defense. A punishing running game. Six wins in seven games. Peaking in December.
Sounds a lot like a proven, championship recipe.
“This is the way we want to play,” Carroll said. “We gave the ball up one time today on a phenomenal hit by their guy (on Lynch after a third-quarter catch), but we are taking care of the ball in great fashion. The defense continues to find the football a few times a game, which is huge. When you play the defense that we’re playing — and we ran for 188 yards again — that’s how we play.
“It hasn’t been that way all season long. But it has seemed to come together here. We’re going to see if we can ride this.”
Then he smiled.
“It’s not how you start,” he said. “It’s how you finish.”