Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf always plays with a chip on his shoulder, the result of being the last player taken in the second round of last year's draft instead of being a first-round pick like a lot of people were expecting.
And whether or not any slight was intended—and it probably wasn't—Metcalf found extra motivation in a pregame exchange with Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who, depending on who you ask, was either complimenting or being critical of the young Seahawks receiver.
Regardless of what Schwartz actually said or meant, Metcalf found motivation in the brief exchange, and used it as fuel as he posted a career-high 177 yards on 10 catches in Seattle's 23-17 win over the Eagles.
The way Metcalf tells it, Schwartz, who coached in Detroit during the career of former All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson, downplayed the comparisons being made between Metcalf and the player known as Megatron.
"One of the defensive coaches came up to me and it kind of made me mad that he was like, 'I was in Detroit with Megatron, but you're not there yet,'" said Metcalf, who went on to confirm that coach was Schwartz. "In my mind, I'm not trying to be Megatron, I'm trying to be me, so I had a little chip on my shoulder the whole game."
Schwartz clarified to reporters in Philadelphia that he was actually complimenting Metcalf, saying he wasn’t at Johnson’s level yet, but was “on your way” to being at that level. Actual intent notwithstanding, Metcalf, intentionally or not, twisted the meaning for his own benefit, and the result was just the latest dominant performance in a season full of them.
After the game, Metcalf seemed to acknowledge on Twitter, via a funny use of a Michael Jordan meme, that he might have gone out of his way to take Schwartz's words out of context and use them for motivation.
Of course a chip on the shoulder wouldn't be worth much without the talent to back that up, and Metcalf showed on Monday, as he has done so often this season, that his combination of size, speed and strength makes him one of the biggest matchup problems in the league.
Metcalf helped the offense move the ball via quick slants, deep go-routes and just about everything in between, and when the dust settled he had 177 yards, giving him 1,039 yards and nine touchdowns in 11 games, making him the ninth 1,000-yard receiver in franchise history. Metcalf, who currently leads the NFL in receiving, is only 248 yards from Steve Largent's franchise record of 1,287 yards with five games left to play.
"DK had a huge night," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I heard he went over 1,000 yards. That's a cool thing to have happen this early in the season. What a big year he's having and a big night tonight. He played great."
And while the Schwartz "slight" might have been manufactured, playing the Eagles did provide for Metcalf a reminder of one of the main reasons he plays with such a big chip on his shoulder. The Seahawks traded up to take Metcalf with the last pick of the second round, No. 64 overall, which meant that every team in the league had a shot to take him, most teams passing on him twice, and eight receivers went ahead of Metcalf. Among the teams taking second-round receivers ahead of Metcalf were the Eagles, who went with J.J. Arcega-Whiteside five picks ahead of Metcalf. So perhaps it's not a coincidence that Metcalf's last two games against the Eagles have seen him record 19 catches for 337 yards and a touchdown in a pair of Seahawks victories.
"It's a place that had a chance to draft me, but they didn't, so I've got to make them pay," Metcalf said. "… Two years in a row, I've had two big games here. God works in mysterious ways."
Metcalf did most of his damage Monday while being covered by Darius Slay, a three-time Pro Bowler and one-time first-team All-Pro. To his credit, Slay owned up to the fact that on this particular day Metcalf just got the best of him.
"Props to DK for giving me the good work," Slay told reporters. "We are competing every play, but I lost every 50-50 ball and I have to be better… I truly lost every 50-50 ball, I was probably 0-for. I have never been that, but I say props to him, he played his ass off today."
And in addition to putting up big numbers, Metcalf continued to show an ability to keep his cool even as opposing cornerbacks try to get under his skin. After Metcalf blocked Slay aggressively on a play, the two exchanged words and Slay eventually was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. It was not the first penalty called on a defensive back who tangled with Metcalf, but the second-year receiver has yet to do anything on his end of things to draw a flag in those situations.
"He's very poised, very in command of what's going on," Carroll said. "He handled that situation beautifully. I think he had a pretty aggressive block on the play and they didn't like it. DK is doing his thing. He's making it known that he's not just out there catching the football. He's doing the whole game and blocking and giving good effort and being tough and all that."
While getting in Metcalf's head might not be a successful strategy, quarterback Russell Wilson understands why teams might try it.
"We'll you've got to try to do something," Wilson said. "They can't get in his head, he's hard to cover. In my opinion, he's unmatchable. He just can do everything. The best thing about him is he loves his teammates, he loves the work ethic, he loves the process, he loves the journey, and he's only 22. He's growing, he's getting better and better."
The best photos from Seattle Seahawks vs. Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Fueled by Nesquik.