Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes as he outdueled Carson Wentz, considered by many as the MVP of the league coming into the game.
There was the strip and there was the flip.
And, oh yes, also the chip on their collective shoulder, one that they’ve had forever but that one that grew anew throughout the week as they heard whispers that maybe their time had passed. As they saw that Las Vegas had made them the biggest home underdog they had been in more than five years (six points).
“I felt like everybody was sleeping on us,’’ said middle linebacker Bobby Wagner after the Seahawks’ 24-10 victory over a Philadelphia team that came in with the best record in the NFL. “Everybody didn’t expect us to win this game. But we expected to win this game, so this is not a surprise to us.’’
The Seahawks are 54-29-1 in prime time and 8-2-1 on Sunday Night Football, including a 14-2 record at home in prime time under coach Pete Carroll.
And while there were numerous heroes and almost as many turning points, coach Pete Carroll later pointed specifically to two — Sheldon Richardson’s strip of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz to prevent a touchdown on the first drive of the third quarter that could have tied the score, and Russell Wilson’s extemporaneous flip of the ball 6 yards down field to running back Mike Davis to convert a third down that led to Seattle’s final touchdown.
“You can’t make a bigger play than that,’’ Carroll said of Richardson’s strip that resulted in a touchback. “A spectacular turnaround for us.’’
And Wilson’s flip?
“Extraordinary sense and awareness and all that,’’ Carroll said. “That’s a huge play. It was almost such a good play that it shocked the crowd. I don’t know if they knew how to respond to that thing. It was so beautifully executed.’’
It was the highlight play on a night of many for Wilson, who threw three touchdowns and no interceptions in outdueling Wentz, regarded by many as the MVP of the season so far.
“I really think he had one of his best games I’ve seen him play,’’ Carroll said of Wilson.
Wilson was on from the start in leading Seattle to scores on two of its first three drives. In keeping with the theme of the night, the Seahawks flipped the script on an Eagles team that hadn’t allowed a touchdown all season in the first quarter while scoring an average of 15.3 points of its own.
Seattle, instead, reversed its often slow-starting ways to take a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and 10-3 at halftime.
The Eagles, though, looked primed to tie it as they drove easily to the Seattle 6-yard line to open the second half. On second down, Wentz took the snap and took off running up the middle with a touchdown in his sights.
But Richardson, who said he thought he was being held, lunged and grabbed Wentz and ripped the ball loose with his right hand as safety Earl Thomas also grabbed a hold of Wentz.
“I knew he was a quarterback,’’ Richardson said. “They don’t carry the ball as much. They are not as physical when they carry it. Just put my hand in there and ripped it out.’’
The ball bounced quickly out of the back of the end zone for a touchback and that meant that instead of a 10-10 tie, Seattle had a 10-3 lead and the ball at its own 20.
It was the second time this year Seattle had a well-timed forced fumble to negate a touchdown with the other coming in a 16-10 victory at Los Angeles in October when Thomas chopped the ball out of the hands of Rams’ running back Todd Gurley at the pylon.
“I think that was really the turning point in the game,’’ Carroll said of Richardson’s play.
And a few minutes later, Seattle had a 17-3 lead thanks to a 47-yard completion from Wilson to Doug Baldwin that set up a 1-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett.
The Wilson-Baldwin hookup came on an Eagles’ blitz that left the middle of the secondary wide open — a Cover Zero defense. Baldwin had boasted after a similar play worked for a touchdown earlier this year against the Giants that he didn’t know why opponents try that defense against Seattle.
He wondered again Sunday.
“One day they’ll learn,’’ Baldwin said.
Still, the Eagles kept coming — they had seven consecutive drives at one point reach Seattle territory.
Wentz, who while not as sharp as he has been most of the year, made enough plays to show why the Eagles have had the season they’ve had, threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor with 12:08 left to cut Seattle’s lead to 17-10.
Wilson, whose fourth-quarter heroics this season dominated the NBC story line during the telecast, then scrambled on third-and-eight and appeared as if he might come up short as two Eagles defenders approached.
But 6 yards downfield Wilson flipped the ball to a trailing Davis, who completed a 23-yard gain that took it to the Eagles’ 35.
“I mean you just always have to be aware,’’ Davis said. “Because you never know what Russell will do. Just have to be alive at all times.’’
Wilson called it just making a play like he did as a kid in the backyard.
“I knew I was past the line,’’ he said. “I was going to run for the first down and next thing you know Mike Davis is on my right. … Just gave him a chance.’’
Replays showed it might have been a forward lateral. But the Eagles didn’t challenge with coach Doug Pederson saying that “in real time it looked fine.’’
It set up a Wilson-to-J.D. McKissic touchdown pass of 15 yards with 4:06 left that sealed a victory that felt as good as any the team has had all season.
The Seahawks improved to 8-4 and moved into the fifth spot in the NFC playoff picture while also remaining a game behind the Rams in the NFC West. The Seahawks know, though, they still have control of the division due to the earlier victory over L.A. Now, the showdown comes in two weeks after a game that had the Seahawks again feeling like their old selves.
“It’s December,’’ Wilson said. “It’s time to play. It’s time to be great.’’