Quandre Diggs' Seahawks debut included an interception that he returned 44 yards to help set up an eventual touchdown.
His assessment of the play?
"Not good coverage, but good play," Diggs said.
Diggs, who was acquired in a trade with Detroit last month, explained that he was deeper in coverage than he should have been on the play, putting him in perfect position to catch a high pass that bounced off the hands of 49ers receiver Kendrick Bourne, but not in ideal position to make the play had the ball been thrown a bit more accurately or had Bourne been able to make the tough catch.
Slightly out of position or not, that play was just part of why Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the safety play against the 49ers "was the best we’ve seen it this year. I thought that was the best game that our safeties have played."
When Bradley McDougald and Diggs took the field together for the first time in the Seahawks' Week 10 win over the San Francisco 49ers, it marked the fifth different starting safety tandem used by Seattle in 10 games this season.
And while it has only been one game, the Seahawks think they might have found something special in that combination of McDougald, who has started 33 of his 41 games with Seattle since 2017, and Diggs, who made his first appearance as a Seahawk after missing the previous two with a hamstring injury.
"I really like the play of the safeties (last) week," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We hit the guys well, knocked a couple balls loose, a pick, just some nice fills and fits on the run game. I thought the guys played the best we've played. We'll go to this week and think with the same guys going out there. The combinations of packages that we use will involve other guys. Lano Hill is getting ready to go. He's back in action. We'll see how it all fits together. I really like what's happening. Hopefully, that was all part of getting better and playing better on defense."
Indeed the strong play from Seattle's safeties contributed to what was Seattle's best defensive performance of the season, and not just in the plays that showed up on the stat sheet. In addition to McDougald's six tackles and one very physical pass defensed, and Diggs' interception and big hit in the running game, the safeties made a number of other hits that likely factored into some of the dropped passes by 49ers pass-catchers later in the game.
"It just opens up a lot of things for us, it allows us to play different coverages, making life easier on the D-line," linebacker Bobby Wagner said of the safety play. "When you have guys coming down—even in the run game—making tackles and making life easier for everybody. Then, finishing the play off with some big hits. I feel like sometimes when you watch, sometimes those hits make the receivers not want to catch the ball anymore. I think it goes hand-in-hand, it helps the front, it helps us, and it gives us a lot of energy when they make those big hits."
And the Seahawks don't just feel good about their safety play because of Diggs and McDougald, but because of the depth behind them, and that's even with former starting free safety Tedric Thompson on injured reserve. Rookie Marquise Blair started three games before Diggs stepped into the starting lineup, and the second-round pick out of Utah showed plenty to indicate that he has a very bright future; and Lano Hill, who started two games earlier this year, is getting healthy again after missing four games with an elbow injury. Both of those players have the type of versatility to play multiple positions, and Carroll has mentioned that both are competing to play in various sub packages.
As for Diggs and McDougald, those two were able to hit the ground running thanks at least in small part to former Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. During the 2018 offseason, Thomas organized a week-long defensive backs workout session in Austin, Texas, one that included players from around the league, including his then-teammate McDougald, as well as Diggs, a fellow Texas Longhorn who has the same agent as Thomas.
"It's crazy how things work out," Diggs said of his connection with McDougald. "… Me and B-Mac, we've trained together before, so I've been around him, I knew him kind of personality-wise, and I think we're going to mesh well. I think things are going to be smooth."
Said McDougald, "It was good, it was a good vibe. I trust him. Me and Quandre actually have a small relationship before this. We trained together and worked out in the offseason. He's a vet, you kind of just let him come in and do his thing. A couple of tidbits here and there and he's ready to go.
"I already knew what his vibe was, what his mindset was, and he's just coming here to play. He came in and introduced himself, and one of the first things he said is that he's just here to win. You can always use a guy like that on your team."
The Seahawks and the Eagles will meet this Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field for the twelfth week of the 2019 season. Take a look back at photos from past games between the two teams.