To review the game and look ahead to what’s next for the Seahawks, here is our weekly Four Downs series with Seattle Times Seahawks beat writers Bob Condotta and Adam Jude:
1. DK Metcalf had yet another breakout game. Is he the NFL’s best receiver?
Condotta: The absolute best? I don’t think we can say that until he gets more consistent catching the ball — he has eight drops this year on 86 targets, via Pro Football Focus. That includes three in the past two weeks. PFF gave him just one against the Eagles, though some might say there were two he let get away. But boy is Metcalf doing damage, with a 1,000-yard season already — he’s on pace for 1,511 yards, which would shatter Steve Largent’s team record of 1,287 in 1985 — five 100-yard games and 92 or more yards in eight of 11 games. He’s certainly in the discussion, and that in itself is a significant step for his second NFL season.
Jude: He is, at the very least, the NFL’s most intimidating receiver. Tyreek Hill is scary because he can blow by anyone. Davante Adams always seems to be open. And DeAndre Hopkins can beat you in a multitude of ways. But what makes Metcalf unique is he can do all that and physically manhandle any defensive back who dares square him up. There are one or two plays almost every game in which a safety will crash down to *try* to lay a hit on Metcalf on a slant route, only for Metcalf to knock that safety back the other way. The Eagles’ Rodney McLeod was that victim in the first quarter Monday night. Metcalf is the most physical receiver in the game — no debate needed there — and he’s on his way to being the best.
2. The Seahawks had six sacks Monday. Are you now ready to call the pass rush a strength?
Jude: That we can even entertain that question about the pass rush is a credit to the Seahawks’ turnaround in that area. Yes, it is a strength now — they have 19 sacks the four games since Carlos Dunlap’s acquisition. That’s elite-level production. There is one worry, and it’s unclear just how much of a worry: Dunlap injured a foot Monday night and was scheduled to have an MRI on Tuesday morning. His presence has changed the complexion of this defense, and if he’s out for any extended period it’s fair to wonder if this sudden strength might become a weakness again.
Condotta: I’d still say the strength of the defense is the play and leadership of linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. Of course, they play into the pass rush in both their ability to get to the passer on blitzes and setting up the defense. But the pass rush is certainly becoming a consistent weapon, which obviously coincided with the acquisition of Carlos Dunlap and return to health of Jamal Adams. The encouraging thing Monday, though, was that it was pretty much a team effort with seven players getting at least a half-sack. Linemen Poona Ford, Benson Mayowa and Rasheem Green had one each, with Reed and Dunlap each getting a half-sack. Philly has a bad and banged-up offensive line. But at least Seattle continued to make it look bad and banged up.
3. Coach Pete Carroll called this Jamal Adams’ best game as a Seahawk. Was it?
Condotta: I’ll go with yes. He had a team-high nine tackles, including six solo, a sack and a quarterback hit. His season high in tackles came at Atlanta when he had 12, including a sack. But there were more breakdowns in the back end of the secondary against Atlanta. There weren’t breakdowns against the Eagles, as Philly had only one pass play of longer than 20 yards until the fluky touchdown in the final seconds. Granted, the Eagles don’t have the offense that Atlanta does, so some context is necessary. But it felt like the only way the Seahawks would lose this game was by making mistakes, and they didn’t.
Jude: I might go with the Atlanta game as his best — you felt him more in that game, when you know he wanted to make an immediate impression on his new team. But Monday night was another significant step forward for Adams, who acknowledged he’s feeling healthier and more comfortable in the Seattle system. In Monday’s postgame news conference, Adams was also playfully chippy with a reporter who had questioned his pass-coverage skills, an indication that (much like Metcalf taking umbrage with Jim Schwartz’s comments) Adams isn’t letting go of any perceived slight and that he’s eager to prove doubters wrong. Especially with the Jets game looming Dec. 13, it’s fair to expect the best is yet to come from Adams.
4. The Seahawks are alone atop the NFC West. Will they win the West, and what must happen to secure the NFC’s No. 1 seed?
Jude: They will win the NFC West, yes. The Seahawks (8-3) are, at least, in the best position to win the West, in large part because of their marshmallow-soft remaining schedule, with games against the Giants, Jets and Washington Football Team (who are a combined 8-25) over the next three weeks. The Rams (7-4) have two games vs. Arizona and out-of-conference matchups with the Patriots and Jets. The Seahawks-Rams Dec. 27 rematch in Seattle could decide the division, but there’s a chance the Rams slip up again before then, which would give the Seahawks more wiggle room. As for the NFC’s No. 1 seed, two pivotal games to keep in mind: Saints vs. Chiefs (Dec. 20) and Packers vs. Titans (Dec. 27). Even if the Seahawks close out the season with five more wins, a lot of tiebreaker scenarios could come into play. But the most direct path to the No. 1 seed is for the Seahawks to hope the Saints and Packers falter along the way.
Condotta: Yes, they will win the West. Seattle should win its next three games with relative ease, though the matchup at Washington on Dec. 20 looks a little tougher than it did a few weeks ago. Though Seattle plays the Giants and Jets the next two weekends, the Rams play at Arizona and host still-dangerous New England. The Rams still must come to Seattle on Dec. 27 and play Arizona again on Jan. 3. The way quarterback Jared Goff has looked of late, it’s hard to envision the Rams not losing at least one game aside from the visit to Seattle. So I’ll call it now that the Seahawks will finish ahead of the Rams (and they are already two ahead of Arizona) in the West. The NFC is trickier. The Saints are 9-2 and have a pretty favorable schedule the rest of the way. But the Seahawks can’t count on any tiebreaker edges at the moment, so they may have to run the table and may need New Orleans to lose two of its final five games to have a shot at the No. 1 seed.