By the time the Eagles recorded a first down in Monday night's game, there were less than five minutes to play in the first half, and the Seahawks had already built a 14-0 lead in what would eventually become a 23-17 victory.
The Eagles went three-and-out on their first five possessions, had minus-3 yards after one quarter, and didn't cross midfield until late in the first half. The final score doesn't quite reflect how well Seattle's defense played, both because of a fluky last-minute touchdown heave in the final seconds of the game, and because of a very debatable non-call of what looked to be clear intentional grounding on the Eagles' only other touchdown drive, but Monday's Seahawks victory represented another big step forward for a defense that struggled throughout the first half of the season.
After a solid second half in a Week 10 loss to the Rams, and a good showing against the Cardinals in Week 11, The Seahawks defense came into Monday night's game hoping to build off of that progress, and it definitely did just that while allowing season lows in yards (250) points (17) and first downs (18) while recording six sacks.
"The defense did a fantastic job all night long," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "Really started fast, stayed with it. Unfortunately we slopped that last drive in there and gave them a chance to get in there, but the whole night was really good. I don't know the numbers other than the six sacks, but we were in control. It was great to see our guys play like that and play consistently. Again, like last week, a lot of corrections, a lot of fixes during the game, a lot of great communication. We've taken a real nice step forward and I'm hoping we can just keep building on it."
The most notable shift in Seattle's defense has come from the pass rush which, after recording nine sacks through six games, has 22 in the past five games. Leading the charge has been Jamal Adams who has a team-high 6.5 sacks despite missing four games due to injury, and Carlos Dunlap II, who has 4.0 sacks in as many games since joining the team.
And while an improved pass rush will always help the secondary do its job, the Seahawks are also playing better on the back end in no small part because the secondary is starting to come together after a rough start. With Adams joining the team just before training camp, and with cornerbacks Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers and Quinton Dunbar all missing games due to injuries this season, it has taken a while for that unit to hit its stride.
"We're coming together, man," said Adams, who had a team-high nine tackles to go along with a sack. "Everybody's getting healthy, we're starting to understand the defense as a whole, we're playing together, we're playing as one. Like I said from the beginning, we knew what we had, we knew what type of talent we had, it was only a matter of time. We understood that you know people outside, they were going to chirp, but at the end of the day we knew who we were as a team.
"Due to COVID, obviously we didn't have a chance to do OTAs and then obviously for myself, I got traded late, and then Dunlap came over, and certain guys that haven't played together as a whole—it takes time and you know it's a new system, I'm still learning, believe it or not. Everybody's out there feeding off one another and just flying around a ball. I think our communication has been phenomenal. We've been practicing well as a as a unit, and we just got to keep going."
Safety Quandre Diggs, who recorded his team-leading third interception on Monday, added, "We didn't have a lot of time, so now we're getting that time to play ball with each other, and it's getting fun. We're having fun, we're communicating, we're turned up, we're bringing energy, we're bringing swag; it's fun. This is the point of the season where you want to play your best ball. I know we didn't play our best ball early in the season, but if we can turn it up then turn it up another notch, that'd be even better."
That improved secondary chemistry, along with a surging pass rush, has the Seahawks defense felling very good about what it can do to close out the season.
"The swagger is through the roof," said Adams. "We're playing with a lot of swagger, we're playing with a lot of confidence. We know when we step on the field, we're going to try to take the ball away, we're going to get a sack, we're going to get a pick, then we're going to invite everybody to the party. That's what we do."
And of course, it would be remiss when talking about the Seahawks defense to leave out the man who has been at the center of it all for nearly a decade, middle linebacker and defensive captain Bobby Wagner. With five tackles on Monday, Wagner is up to 101 this season, meaning he has gone over 100 tackles in every season of his nine-year NFL career.
"What can you say? We're looking at a Hall of Fame football player," Carroll said. "We're so accustomed to the way he plays and the tremendously consistent numbers he continues to add up, and maybe we don't realize how great a player he is and how hard it is to do what he's doing. He's just an all-timer."
The best photos from Seattle Seahawks vs. Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Fueled by Nesquik.