PHILADELPHIA — Pete Carroll said DK Metcalf stole the show. K.J. Wright compared him to Calvin Johnson. And Marshawn Lynch gave a response only he could when asked what impresses him most about the Seattle Seahawks‘ rookie wide receiver.
“That he’s a big-a– dude that could move like that,” Lynch said.
Metcalf showed his speed and power on a 53-yard touchdown reception Sunday when he ran by Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox, then dragged him into the end zone. And with the game on the line, Metcalf showed how much trust he has earned from Russell Wilson, who found him for a 36-yard completion on third-and-10.
That play sealed the Seahawks’ 17-9 win, setting up a divisional-round matchup with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field next Sunday. And it capped off a record night for Metcalf, whose 160 receiving yards (on seven catches) are the most by a rookie in a playoff game in the Super Bowl era. That total also broke the Seahawks’ playoff record for any receiver.
“I think the night was stolen by DK,” Pete Carroll said after his 10th playoff win in as many seasons in Seattle. “He just had a phenomenal night. Showed you what he’s capable of looking like. He’s had a great season in his rookie year, but to have a night like that in his first chance ever in the playoffs, that was spectacular. And he did some stuff that it’s hard to imagine anybody else doing.
“Fantastic night for us to get this thing going on the road. … I know we’re going to Green Bay and we’re looking forward to getting organized to do that.”
Metcalf’s record performance in the win came on a night in which the Seahawks couldn’t run the ball and struggled to put away an Eagles offense that played with 40-year-old Josh McCown at quarterback following a hit to the head that sidelined Carson Wentz.
Lynch bulldozed his way into the end zone for his second touchdown in as many games since coming out of retirement. But he and starter Travis Homer combined for only 19 rushing yards on 17 attempts.
With the Seahawks up 10-6 and facing a third-and-1 with just under 10 minutes left in the third quarter, Wilson hit an open Lynch in the flat for a 20-yard gain. Lynch finished the play by stiff-arming Maddox to the ground. Metcalf beat Maddox on his touchdown two plays later.
“That was just like a knockout shot for us,” Carroll said. “The game was too young to knock ’em out, but it felt like those were really extraordinary plays for us and made a big difference.”
Metcalf was Seattle’s second-leading receiver this season behind Tyler Lockett, catching 58 passes for 900 yards — third-most among rookies — and seven touchdowns. He fell to the final pick of the second round — No. 64 overall — after a neck injury cut short his final season at Ole Miss, combined with a mixed-bag performance at the scouting combine. All told, it raised questions about his lateral agility and route-running. Metcalf ran a 4.33 40-yard dash, but was much less impressive in agility drills. In the end, eight wide receivers were chosen ahead of him.
Metcalf’s neck injury, which he described as a break, required surgery. That’s why he has the word “miracle” written in cursive in a cross on his back.
“I’m blessed,” he said. “I got ‘miracle’ tattooed on my back because God performed a miracle with me in college. So I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m taking every practice, every rep like it’s my last.
“I’m just excited to be a part of this team, this organization.”
Teammates, as well as Carroll, have raved about Metcalf’s work ethic and professionalism.
“I feel like he’s handled himself since he came in, Day 1, handled himself as a vet,” defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson said. “He’s right there with Tyler and all them guys learning, he practices his tail off, he’s just a good, humble, down-to-earth dude. You’ve been around guys, they have that presence about them, like that ‘it’ factor. You can’t really put your finger on it, but you know they got ‘it.’ And he got ‘it.’ And on top of that, he’s like a specimen. I’m just glad he’s on my team.”
“I give him these scouting reports, probably 10 to 15 pages some of them, depending on the week. Everybody studies them, but he knows everything. From the protections, who the DBs are to the linebackers to what they did last time four years ago, to this, that,” Wilson said. “I quiz him every time, every week. He hammers them off. He knows them very well. His mind is what is helping him excel.
“Obviously, his physical nature and he’s ready to catch the football and do all those things, but the separation is in the mental part of it.”
Of Metcalf’s game-sealing catch, Carroll said the Seahawks ran that play several times in practice knowing they’d likely see that defensive look — an all-out blitz — in that situation. Wilson said he intentionally took something off his pass, figuring he’d rather underthrow it and let Metcalf go up and get it as opposed to overthrowing him. Metcalf climbed the ladder, came down with the ball and sent the Seahawks to the divisional round.
“Russ laid it out, it was in the air for a minute,” Metcalf said. “All year, Russ has been telling me, ‘Don’t let the ball come down. Don’t let the ball come down.’ That’s all I was thinking. Just attack the ball. It’s just amazing that he believed in me just to throw it up to me in that situation. But I just had to go make a play.”