PHILADELPHIA—Seahawks coach Pete Carroll knows what most people were thinking when word came out 90 minutes before kickoff that Seattle would be without defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who was inactive due to a hip injury.
"You would have wondered, how are we going to have a pass rush without J.D. after what he did last week?" Carroll said.
Indeed Clowney was the dominant force in Seattle's Week 10 win over the 49ers, but what Seattle's defense showed in Sunday's 17-9 win over the Philadelphia Eagles is that it's deep enough and talented enough to shut an opposing offense down even without one of its top players.
"(The Eagles) can do all kinds of stuff, they're a well-balanced football team, and we held them down," Carroll said. "I think it's really worth noting how the defense played today. I thought they played great all day long. Obviously, we took the ball away from them a ton of times, five times today, we had four sacks. The pressure was there again like last week. We all wondered are we going to have pressure this week? And we didn't have J.D. out there playing. Just thrilled for the guys up front that kept the heat coming and made it a hard day for their quarterback."
The Seahawks pressured Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz throughout the afternoon, affecting his performance not just with the three sacks and nine quarterback hits, but also with the numerous times they pressured him into rushed, inaccurate throws.
Ziggy Ansah, who hasn't gotten off to the start he or the Seahawks would have hoped in his first year with the Seahawks, led the way with 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss, and had another sack and forced fumble negated by a defensive holding call. Rasheem Green also had a sack that caused one of Seattle's five takeaways as well as a tackle for loss on a run, Jarran Reed split a sack with Ansah, and Shaquem Griffin had two quarterback hits in his second game in a new pass-rush role.
"We were just active, and a lot of different guys were active," Carroll said of the pass rush. "I thought Griff did a nice job. (Quinton Jefferson) did a nice job too. Unfortunately, J-Reed sprained his ankle a little bit, but until then he did a nice job. I just thought it was just a contribution from different guys. We pressured them a number of times. Mixing the rushes and stuff continues to help us. It's just different. We're just better than we have been and we have taken a big jump forward."
As linebacker K.J. Wright put it, "When the pass rush gets going, everything else falls into place. It always starts up front… That's how you win championships. If you look at great defenses, when they get after the quarterback and get him to throw the ball erratically, that's when you create those turnovers. It starts up front, guys getting sacks, making the quarterback get off his spot, and get those turnovers."
Game action photos from the Seattle Seahawks' Week 12 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Seahawks defense didn't play up to its high standards for much of the season, but that changed in a big way in Seattle's last game against the 49ers. And coming off the bye, that unit picked up where it left off, not just getting a season-high five takeaways, but also in keeping the Eagles off the scoreboard for most of the day. Philadelphia took advantage of a short field early in the game to get a field goal, but after that the Eagles were shut out until the final minutes of the game when they drove for a touchdown with the game already out of reach.
"I'm very encouraged," linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "I feel like there were a lot of doubters about our defense. It's taken some time for us to kind of figure it out, but we're starting to figure it out. It shows with the past two games, and we've just got to keep building on it."
While the defensive line was the biggest story of the game, the Seahawks got playmaking at all three levels of their defense. Wright led the Seahawks with 12 tackles, including one for a loss, while Mychal Kendricks had 11 against his former team. On the back of Seattle's defense, Bradley McDougald and Tre Flowers both recorded interceptions, McDougald's a spectacular diving effort, and Quandre Diggs and Shaquill Griffin teamed up to force a fumble that was recovered by Diggs—Griffin got credit for it but said after the game that he was giving credit to Diggs.
"I believe this is a Super Bowl caliber defense," Wright said. "We've got to keep doing it. We've got five games left, to keep putting up dominant performances."