PHILADELPHIA – In the midst of a low-scoring physical slugfest eerily similar to their first matchup in Week 12, the Seahawks needed a lift on offense to take care of business against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
With Seattle’s normally effective rushing attack stifled by defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and a talented defensive front, dynamic rookie receiver DK Metcalf took the honors on the game’s biggest stage.
Making his chiseled 6-foot-4, 230-pound presence felt in his playoff debut, the 22-year-old Metcalf torched the Eagles, finishing with seven receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown. Averaging nearly 23 yards per catch, he established an NFL record for receiving yards by a rookie in a playoff game.
“He just had a phenomenal night,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Showed you what he’s capable of looking like. He’s had a great season in his rookie year, but to have a night like that first chance ever in the playoffs, that was spectacular.”
Seattle wasted little time getting Metcalf involved, as quarterback Russell Wilson connected with the rookie on a slant for a nine-yard gain on the first offensive play from scrimmage.
Later in the first quarter, Wilson bought himself time in the pocket before bailing to his right and stepping toward the line of scrimmage, eventually throwing a dart to Metcalf for a 24-yard gain to move the chains on third-and-11. Though the drive sputtered to the Eagles’ 30-yard line, Jason Myers split the uprights from 49 yards to give the Seahawks an early 3-0 lead.
By halftime, Metcalf already had caught five out of six targets for 71 yards to lead the Seahawks, but he was just getting started on this chilly January night in Philadelphia.
Nursing a slim 10-6 lead after the Eagles marched down the field for a field goal to open the third quarter, Wilson found Marshawn Lynch out of the backfield in the flats on third down. The bruising back rumbled down the sideline and finished the 20-yard reception with a vicious stiff arm as he went out of bounds.
Two plays later, the Seahawks dialed up a play-action shot for Wilson. With tons of time in the pocket, he launched a bomb to Metcalf running a post route, and the receiver toppled to the ground as he made the catch with his arms fully extended.
Showing off excellent awareness and effort, Metcalf got up and dragged cornerback Avonte Maddox into the end zone. Maddox didn’t touch him while he was on the ground and the officials awarded him with a 53-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 17-6.
“[Russell] laid it out. I look up, I saw it was in front of me, so I stretched out and caught the ball,” Metcalf said. “I didn’t feel like I got touched, so I just got up and stretched for the end zone.”
Only moments later following another Philadelphia field goal, Wilson had another opportunity to hit Metcalf in stride for a big play that could’ve been six points.
Running a fade route as the outside receiver on the right side on first down, Metcalf took a stutter step inside and then toasted cornerback Jalen Mills, creating several yards of separation. Wilson immediately noticed, but he was drilled by defensive end Vinny Curry as he threw from the pocket, causing the pass to sail over his receiver’s head.
With a chance to ice the game late in the fourth quarter as the Eagles tried to get the ball back one last time inside two minutes, Wilson went back to his trusted rookie receiver on third-and-10. Running a play the Seahawks had practiced several times during the week against Cover 0, he lofted it up for his big receiver to high point on a vertical route.
“We were ready for it all week now. We knew they’d be taking some chances on us to try to get the ball back in that situation. So it gave us an opportunity to go after him with the coverage that they had,” Carroll remarked. “And they just did it exactly the way it was supposed to happen.”
As he’d done all game, Metcalf skied above two chasing defenders to reel in the 36-yard reception, forcing Philadelphia to burn its third and final timeout. Three kneels later, Seattle was officially on to Green Bay for the next round of postseason play.
Embracing his role with the Seahawks, Metcalf continues to prove his doubters wrong after dropping to the second round of the NFL draft in April. With several new records in tow and comparisons to Calvin Johnson coming from teammate K.J. Wright, he won’t be sneaking up on the Packers in the divisional round and looks forward to the next championship opportunity.
“I’m just blessed to be in this position, just to have this opportunity to play another football game," he said. "That’s all I could say, just blessed to have this opportunity.”