SEATTLE – Safety Malcolm Jenkins described Russell Wilson as a “human joystick,’’ which is as appropriate a description of the Seahawks quarterback/escape artist as any.
On Sunday night, the human joystick continually frustrated Jenkins and the rest of the Eagles defense with his catch-me-if-you-can scrambling and improvising in a 24-10 Seattle win that snapped the Eagles’ nine-game win streak.
He threw for 227 yards and three touchdowns, rushed for another 31 yards, and collaborated with running back Mike Davis on a nifty, 23-yard run-and-pitch play on a third-and-8 in the fourth quarter that kept alive the Seahawks’ game-clinching, final touchdown drive.
Unable to find an open receiver and the Eagles’ pass rush closing in, Wilson decided to make a run for it.
He somehow escaped the grasp of defensive end Chris Long, but saw linebacker Nigel Bradham and safety Corey Graham waiting for him just short of the sticks.
But just before he got rolled by Graham, he pitched the ball to Davis, who was charging down the right side. Davis picked up another 17 yards and a first down.
“It wasn’t that hard,’’ Wilson said. “You just play ball. You grow up playing in the snow. You grow up playing around at recess. Do you practice those things? Sometimes. There’s little things you visualize, and the next thing you know, he’s right there to my right.’’
Two plays later, Wilson bootlegged around right end Vinny Curry on a second-and-10 and hit wide-open tight end Nick Vannett for a 21-yard gain.
Two plays after that, linebacker Mychal Kendricks made one of those foolish mistakes that got him removed from the Eagles’ nickel package last year, biting on a slant-and-go route by running back J.D. McKissic. The result: an easy 15-yard touchdown throw.
The Eagles did a good job of getting pressure on Wilson much of the night. But he continually found ways to elude the rush and buy extra time for his receivers to get open.
“He made a lot of plays tonight,’’ Long said. “Even when you contain him, he’s still running around finding holes in the rush lane. Or he’s throwing the ball up and getting PIs [pass-interference penalties] or holding calls or touchdowns. I’ve seen that movie a lot here.’’
The Eagles, who had no problem surviving 11 penalties last week against the woeful Bears, had seven more Sunday, most of them on the defense, and most of them prompted by Wilson’s scrambling.
A pass interference on cornerback Ronald Darby and a holding call on Bradham on the Seahawks’ first touchdown drive. Two more defensive holding penalties on Graham and Patrick Robinson on a third-quarter touchdown drive that put Seattle up, 17-3.
“He’s a human joystick,’’ said Jenkins, who gave up the first of Wilson’s three touchdown passes late in the first quarter on an 11-yard, back-shoulder fade to tight end Jimmy Graham.
“He gets out of the pocket. The defensive line can’t get to him. You’ve got guys covered on the back end, and all of a sudden, he’s scrambling around. Then you’re getting holding calls on the back end because it’s hard to stay with those receivers for that long.
“He made some great throws under pressure. But his ability to improvise is the biggest thing. DBs are taught to stay in coverage until he gets across the line of scrimmage. Then he gets across the line of scrimmage and option-pitches to his running back. Those are things you can’t really prepare for. That’s what makes him special and such a dangerous quarterback.’’
The Eagles hadn’t allowed a touchdown pass in the previous two games. They’d given up multiple TD passes in a game just once in the last seven games and three times all season.
But Wilson was a puzzle they couldn’t solve. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz didn’t blitz the Seahawks quarterback very often.
When he did, well, the results weren’t good. He used a zero blitz on a third-and-10 near midfield in the third quarter after the holding calls on Robinson and Graham. Wilson coolly beat it by hitting wide receiver Doug Baldwin for a 47-yard completion to the 1-yard line as seven rushers tried to get to him.
Wilson and the Seahawks ended up converting six of 12 third-down opportunities against the Eagles, who entered the game ranked second in third-down defense and, until Sunday, hadn’t allowed more than five third-down conversions in a game all season.
“Russell Wilson is Russell Wilson,’’ said defensive end Brandon Graham, who had 1-1/2 of the Eagles’ two sacks of Wilson. “We knew exactly what we needed to do [to win]. But it’s easier said than done sometimes. He was great today.’’
Somebody asked Brandon Graham what it’s like playing against Wilson.
“You have to be in shape,’’ he said. “You’ve got to be able to run around with him because that’s what he does. He has you running around. Some guys aren’t conditioned enough to do that.
“I don’t think that was the case with us. I just think he found some guys that were open and took advantage of our mistakes. When you’re playing somebody like that, you’ve got to keep playing team defense. You can’t have a blown assignment. It was the little things that kind of crept up on us and cost us this game.”