SEATTLE — The Seattle Seahawks ended a four-game slide with a late winning drive to knock off the visiting Philadelphia Eagles, 20-17, on “Monday Night Football” as the Eagles’ quest for the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC took a huge blow.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was active and started after he was downgraded to questionable Sunday because of an illness, and backup Drew Lock got the start for a second straight week for Seattle as Geno Smith deals with a groin injury.
Julian Love‘s second interception of the night with six seconds left helped the Seahawks and their playoff chances as they are right in the thick of things for a wild-card spot, but the Eagles’ third straight loss put them one game behind the San Francisco 49ers for the best record in the NFC and are now tied in the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys heading into Week 16.
Seattle Seahawks (7-7)
The Seahawks have been in a free fall for the last month, hurtling towards a lost season with four straight defeats — their most under coach Pete Carroll — entering Monday.
But with their backs against the wall facing an NFC heavyweight, they finally found the ripcord that will keep their playoff hopes very much alive.
Behind a strong second half by their defense and a late touchdown pass from Lock to Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the Seahawks upset the Eagles to get back to .500. They have a viable path to 10 wins, or at least 9-8, that could be enough to get into the playoffs. Their remaining three games — vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, at Tennessee Titans, at Arizona Cardinals — all seem even more winnable after they showed the kind of football they’re capable of playing Monday night.
It remains to be seen whether the Seahawks are good enough to avoid yet another early round exit from the playoffs — most of the signs from the last month suggest they are not — but simply getting there would quiet the murmurs about Carroll’s job security that were getting louder during the four-game skid that followed their 6-3 start.
His team took a major step towards that goal Monday night. According ESPN’s Football Power Index, their chances of making the playoffs improved to 55% with the win.
QB breakdown: Lock did not light up the stat sheet in his second straight start, but he played how Carroll wants his quarterbacks to play. He completed 22 of 33 attempts, with several of his incompletions hitting receivers’ hands. He only threw for 208 yards, but he spread the ball around (completing passes to eight different receivers), took only two sacks and did not turn the ball over. Most importantly, he came through on the final drive, completing 5 of 10 attempts for 92 yards and the winner to Smith-Njigba, who made a brilliant fingertip catch. Carroll and general manager John Schneider will remember this performance when they have to make a decision on Smith’s future this offseason.
Pivotal play: With the Eagles ahead 17-13 and driving midway through the fourth quarter, Love gave the Seahawks life with his first interception on a deep shot into the end zone. Love started at strong safety with Jamal Adams inactive — ostensibly because of his balky knee but perhaps in reality because of poor performance; he allowed a killer touchdown pass in each of the past two games. Either way, Love should continue to play. He forced two takeaways last week and had two more in a big spot Monday night.
Eye-popping stat: Kenneth Walker III‘s 23-yard touchdown run was his 16th rush of 20 or more yards since the start of his rookie season last year. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that’s tied for second most in that span. Only Christian McCaffrey (17) has more. Walker got five touches and accounted for 55 of Seattle’s 75 yards on that opening drive of the second half. He finished with 86 total yards on 19 touches in his second game back from an oblique strain.
Troubling trend: Riq Woolen‘s sophomore slump cost him his starting job, at least in this game. It wasn’t a full-fledged benching as he worked in at right cornerback, but it was a demotion as Michael Jackson started and played the majority of the snaps. It’s a significant development given that Woolen made the Pro Bowl as a rookie last season, but it wasn’t a surprise. Carroll was clearly miffed over a touchdown Woolen allowed last week, uncharacteristically mentioning the cornerback by name while discussing how he bit hard on a play-action fake despite Seattle preparing for that exact situation during the week. Jackson played well, with a tackle for loss and a pass defensed. — Brady Henderson
Up next: at Tennessee Titans (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Philadelphia Eagles (10-4)
The Seahawks delivered a gut-punch to the Eagles. Philadelphia has to hope it wasn’t a knockout blow.
It had been a rocky couple weeks for the organization following a pair of blowout losses to the Cowboys and 49ers. The defense had been faltering so badly that the Eagles felt compelled to elevate Matt Patricia as defensive playcaller and demote Sean Desai. There was what a team source described as too much finger-pointing internally, and a good bit of uneasiness in the locker room.
The defense stabilized for most of the game Monday, and Hurts gutted through his illness and rushed for a pair of touchdowns on a night where the passing game was hit or miss. It looked like enough, until the late 29-yard touchdown with less than 30 seconds remaining for the opponent.
With the easiest closing schedule in the NFL, per ESPN’s Football Power Index — the Eagles close with two games against the New York Giants and a home tilt versus the Arizona Cardinals — a division title and more remains within their grasp. But this one stings.
QB breakdown: Hurts was strong on the ground (82 yards, 2 touchdowns), but he was shaky through the air, going 17-of-31 with a pair of crucial interceptions late, including an offering down the sideline for A.J. Brown on first down with 13 seconds remaining that was picked by Love to ice the game.
Promising trend: The defense had yielded 30-plus points in each of the Eagles’ past three games and entered ranked last in the league on third down and 30th in red zone defense. There was marked improvement Monday. Seattle was limited to just 90 yards and three points before halftime, allowing Philadelphia to lead going into the third quarter for the first time in seven games. A struggling secondary appeared to challenge receivers more than in recent weeks, making throws more difficult for Lock.
Buy a breakout performance: Rookie cornerback Kelee Ringo got the start for an injured Darius Slay and had a strong night. Among the highlights were a second quarter pass break up intended for DK Metcalf in the red zone that helped keep the Seahawks out of the end zone and a run stuff for no yards on a Kenneth Walker III run earlier in the drive.
Eye-popping stat: Hurts has now scored 17 rushing touchdowns on the “tush push” QB sneak over the past two seasons, including playoffs. No other quarterback has scored more than three over that time. — Tim McManus
Up next: vs. New York Giants (Monday, 4:30 p.m. ET)