The Seahawks’ defense was so dominant — again — that the offense didn’t need many plays.
But when it did in Sunday’s 24-14 win at Philadelphia, Russell Wilson went to Doug Baldwin.
Even though he wasn’t supposed to.
Philadelphia had closed to within 17-14 in the third quarter of a game Seattle had been thoroughly controlling after Eagles tight end Zach Ertz beat linebacker K.J. Wright down the sideline. Seattle was backed up to its own 21 after yet another sputtering kickoff return by rookie Paul Richardson. The crowd at Lincoln Financial Field was loud for one of the only times on a brisk, windy evening.
On first down Wilson rolled to his right away from what was constant pressure from the Eagles’ pass rush. Baldwin, not the target of the shorter play call, rather leisurely ran a clear-out route down the right sideline.
“I’m actually not even a read on that play,” Baldwin said. “I’m clearing it out for somebody else.”
But for one of the relatively few times this season Wilson let it fly deep, 40 yards downfield to Baldwin.
“I’m trusting Doug to go up and get the plays,” Wilson said afterward.
He got this one — by being crafty.
As the ball was in flight, he engaged Bradley Fletcher in a grabbing contest. Baldwin reached in on the Eagles cornerback. Fletcher retaliated by grabbing Baldwin around his torso with both hands. Baldwin pushed back.
As the pass sailed over the heads of both of the preoccupied players incomplete, officials flagged Fletcher. The 44-yard pass-interference penalty put the ball at the Eagles 35. Marshawn Lynch had a 1-yard catch and 7-yard run before Wilson threw for a first down in the flat to 285-pound fullback and part-time defensive end Will Tukuafu. On the next play, Baldwin got free down the right hash marks for a 23-yard touchdown. His third score of the season was the biggest play of his five-reception, 97-yard game.
It made the score 24-14, and the Eagles never challenged after that.
“When I saw the ball in the air and I saw the defender looking back at me, I just wanted to run into him to try to create contact and try to create a penalty situation,” Baldwin revealed.
“It just happens like that sometimes.”
SHERMAN HAS MORE FUN WITH THESE FANS
Last week Richard Sherman got into it with both the 49ers’ sidelines and the San Francisco/Santa Clara crowd with taunting and, uh, playful banter. That resulted in the Seahawks’ All-Pro cornerback saying he was the target of a glass bottle thrown from the stands after the game. Sherman called 49ers fans “mediocre.”
Even though he was bowing and jokingly putting his hand to his ear at the Eagles crowd during the third quarter Sunday, Sherman was far more complimentary of Philadelphia fans.
“They are great fans … They are passionate. There’s nothing wrong with it,” he said. “They weren’t saying craziness. They were just being passionate for their team. You appreciate that. It gives you a little extra edge.”
Not that the excitable Sherman needs many more of those.
On the field, the NFL’s leader with 23 interceptions the last four seasons was primarily assigned to blanket Jeremy Maclin. He did. Philadelphia’s top receiver entered with 71 catches, 1,088 yards and nine touchdowns, the latter third most in the league. Sherman and Seattle limited Maclin to three receptions for 21 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown catch on a bubble screen.
Facing fourth-and-9 at the Seattle 38, Seahawks punter Jon Ryan took an accurate snap from punt snapper Clint Gresham and simply bobbled it off both hands. Swarmed by Eagles defenders, Ryan lost the ball. It was recovered by Philadelphia tight end Zach Ertz at the Seattle 14.
“I just dropped it,” Ryan said. “The wind was blocking down there, but it wasn’t an excuse. It was just one of those things that happens.”
“I don’t know how that happened,” Coach Pete Carroll said. “I said, ‘Hey, Jon, you caught a million of (snaps). The next one that’s going to happen. It’ll be 10 years from now — so I don’t have to worry about it.”
The Seahawks left Bryan Walters inactive. That made Baldwin the primary punt returner and, in Carroll’s words, put more players in familiar spots on other special-teams units.
Baldwin let a couple punts bounce on Carroll’s advisement because a 20-mile-per-hour wind. That resulted in 10-plus yards of lost field position.
“The wind was pretty tricky,” Carroll said. “It hurt us a few yards, but I didn’t care. It was better than forcing the issue.”
The rest of Seattle’s inactives were not a surprise: Injured nickel back Jeremy Lane, reserve LB Allen Bradford, injured C Max Unger (who may be back next Sunday against the 49ers), reserve DT Travian Robertson, injured TE Cooper Helfet and reserve TE RaShaun Allen. … The only injury Carroll noted was CB Tharold Simon’s dislocated finger. LG James Carpenter went out for one play in the first half while a team doctor tested his left arm/shoulder/pectoral muscle, then returned and played the rest of the game.