By Gregg Bell | McClatchy News Service
PHILADELPHIA — DK Metcalf was minding his own business.
These days, that business is booming, for him and for the Seahawks. Metcalf is the NFL’s leader in yards receiving, not even two full seasons into his career.
Yet Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz thought it was wise to go up to Metcalf on the field during pregame warmups before Seattle played Philadelphia for the third time in 13 months at Lincoln Financial Field Monday night and essentially try to get into the 22-year-old wide receiver’s head.
It was the worst move here since the Liberty Bell cracked.
“I was in Detroit with ‘Megatron.’ But you’re not there yet,” Schwartz, the Lions’ head coach from 2009-13, when wide receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson was an All-Pro wide receiver for Detroit, told Metcalf.
That’s according to Metcalf.
“It kind of made me mad,” Metcalf said.
“In my mind, I’m not trying to be ‘Megatron.’ I’m trying to be me.
“So I had a little chip on my shoulder the whole game.”
Chip? How about a boulder?
Metcalf crushed Schwartz, his cornerback Darius Slay and the Eagles.
Metcalf scorched Schwartz’s stubborn man-to-man coverage that used Slay on Seattle’s 6-foot-4, 229-pound hulk. Metcalf caught 10 of 13 targets from Russell Wilson for a career-high 177 yards receiving, and the Seahawks mostly cruised to a 23-17 victory.
Metcalf’s latest smashing of the Eagles makes him the NFL’s leader in yards receiving after week 12 of his second season in the league. His 1,039 yards are 18 ahead of Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill.
“What’s crazy … think about what he really would have done. He could have had 250, 260, 270 — maybe almost 300 yards,” Wilson said.
On the first play after halftime, Metcalf stumbled off his stride while Slay was falling to the ground behind him, beaten on a go route down the left sideline. Wilson’s home-run ball sailed inches off the tips of Metcalf’s fingers. It would have been a 75-yard touchdown.
Then in the fourth quarter Metcalf briefly clutched what would have been a 22-yard TD pass from Wilson before he slammed back-first onto the grass in the end zone. The ball popped free on impact. It’s a play Wilson noted the ultra-strong Metcalf usually secures.
That’s two more catches and 97 more would-have-been yards. Metcalf came that close to 12 receptions for 275 yards against Schwartz’s defense Monday.
That’s more than Megatron-like.
“If I was a D coordinator, I wouldn’t say that,” said Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs, who began his NFL career with the Lions in 2015, two seasons after Detroit fired Schwartz.
“I just think, for him, he poked the bear.
“And then Slay (a good friend and Lions teammate of Diggs’ until last season) had to go out there and ended up having to deal with that bear.”
“Hey,” Diggs said, “Slay needs to blame his D coordinator for that.”
Schwartz told Philadelphia media members he was complimenting Metcalf before Monday’s game. The Eagles coach said he told Metcalf “you may not be Calvin yet, but you’re on your way.”
Metcalf set an NFL playoff rookie record with 160 yards receiving the last time the Seahawks played the Eagles, in the NFC’s wild-card round in January. Philadelphia stayed in man coverage on Metcalf in that game, too, but with a committee of cornerbacks.
This time it was Slay, in Philadelphia from Detroit since last season, shadowing Metcalf. Seattle’s receiver bowled over and ran past him for seven catches on eight targets for 118 yards — in the first 1½ quarters.
Carroll knew the Eagles were going to be in man coverage Monday night.
Asked if he was surprised the Eagles stayed with man through all of Metcalf’s 177 yards, Carroll said flatly: “No. We don’t care what they do.”
Metcalf’s last two games versus the Eagles and their consistent man coverage against him: 17 catches in 22 targets for 337 yards and a touchdown.
That’s an average of 19.8 yards per reception.
Metcalf says there is more to his mauling of the Eagles than the man coverage, more than Schwartz’s failed mind games. He counts Philadelphia, which has been hurting at wide receiver the last two seasons, as one of the primary teams that blew its chance to draft him.
Seattle traded up to the last pick of round two to select Metcalf in April 2019. That was months after a cervical fracture blocking on a kickoff for the University of Mississippi that one doctor said should end Metcalf’s football career.
“Kind of like coming home. A place that had a chance to draft me, but didn’t,” Metcalf said of Philadelphia.
“So, you know, I’ve got to make them pay.”