Rewind to Week 12, the Seattle Seahawks had a successful week on the scoreboard winning in Philadelphia, 17-9. Despite the victory, the afternoon wasn’t great for all involved, particularly rookie D.K. Metcalf, who dropped a season-high three passes. Metcalf was the first wide receiver off the board in many mock drafts, including PFF’s, but he ended up falling mysteriously into the bottom of the second where the Seahawks selected him 64th overall. The Week 12 contest was the low point of a season that was not unproductive but certainly overshadowed by Metcalf’s college teammate A.J. Brown and Washington Redskins‘ Terry McLaurin.
In his return to Philly, Metcalf didn’t just confront the ghosts of drops past he left them gasping for air somewhere around midfield. As we wrote about in our playoff preview, Metcalf was the x-factor that could give Russell Wilson the firepower to beat any team. D.K. annihilated the Philadelphia Eagles‘ secondary on Sunday Night Football to the tune of seven catches for 160 yards. Metcalf routinely roasted helpless Eagles defensive backs and gained 118 of those yards through the air (as opposed to after the catch), which was more than the entire Eagles receiving corps. Metcalf caught three passes 20 or more yards downfield, the most by a rookie in the playoffs since PFF began charting in 2006 and tied for the most by a rookie in a game this season (McLaurin, Week 6). Each of those deep receptions tested Metcalf’s hands: a contested catch in the first quarter, going full extension nearly 50 yards downfield on a third-quarter touchdown and a beautiful leaping grab that preceded Metcalf giving all of Lincoln Financial the “deuces” in the fourth quarter.
Metcalf seals the game!pic.twitter.com/uWuWbEGiwP
— PFF (@PFF) January 6, 2020
Success in the deep passing game should be no surprise to Seahawks fans nor the rest of the NFC. Wilson is the best deep-ball thrower in the NFL and has been for the better part of the century. Wilson has more completions on throws traveling 20 or more yards downfield since he entered the league and earned the highest raw PFF grade per throw on those throws this season.
Wilson throwing 20+ yards downfield since 2012
Winning in the playoffs is all about the passing game as illustrated by the Seahawks this past weekend. The Seahawks had the most inefficient run game of any team this weekend– improving their chances of scoring on just two of 21 called run plays, 10% (the rest of the Wild Card teams were successful on 42% of run plays).
The Seahawks in a nutshell:
EPA / pass: 0.63 (best of any team this weekend by a long ways)
EPA / run: -0.56 (worst by a lot)
— George Chahrouri (@PFF_George) January 6, 2020
The Seahawks managed to overcome this pathetic run game because they have a great quarterback, and he had a monster athlete running wild down the field in Metcalf. The Seahawks were by far the best passing offense in the Wild Card Round– averaging 0.63 expected points added per pass play, which was multiple leagues ahead of the second-best passing offense, the Titans at 0.078. Despite the lack of a running game, the Seahawks were still able to average 11.9 yards per play-action passing play, which also led Wild Card weekend. The Seahawks love to run the ball doing so at a top-10 rate this season, but they win with the arm of Wilson, and the emergence of Metcalf has weaponized it in a way that should scare all future opponents.
As the Seahawks go to Lambeau as underdogs, the deep passing game is how they win. The Packers allowed 15.6 yards per deep pass attempt this season (fifth-highest), which should be music to Wilson’s ears with Metcalf, who now has 13 receptions and five touchdowns on throws 20-plus yards downfield to lead all rookie receivers and Tyler Lockett, who has caught 58% of those deep targets over the last two seasons (only player over 50%).
Catches 20+ yards downfield among rookies
It was only a few weeks ago that poor D.K. was so irrelevant that he was called “Decaf Metcalf” on Monday Night Football.
Wired: DK Metcalf
Tired: Decaf Metcalf pic.twitter.com/dQ5yqXooId
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) December 3, 2019
After setting the record for receiving yards by a rookie in a playoff game, I don’t think he’ll be mistaken for that drink anymore — this dude has the juice and it might just be enough to give Wilson the help he needs to take the Hawks all the way to Miami.