Monday Night Football and MetLife Stadium go together perfectly for the Seahawks. With a 24-3 win over the New York Giants, they ran the franchise record to 29-12 on Monday nights and won for the sixth time in six games all-time at the New Jersey venue, the scene of Super Bowl 48.
The Seahawks’ defense put on a performance in front of a national audience that harkened back to the days of the Legion of Boom. In a stellar display, the unit tied a franchise record with 11 sacks and forced three turnovers, including two interceptions, highlighted by Devon Witherspoon’s 97-yard interception return for a touchdown that extinguished a potential second score for the Giants and ultimately put the game away.
“It was special. Those guys up front make our job easy,” said Quandre Diggs, who had the other Seahawks interception. “When those guys get after the quarterback the way they did, going out to make plays the way they did, they make our job easier on the back end. It was definitely special and I’m proud of those guys.”
Jones was sacked on New York’s first two possessions, as Jordyn Brooks took him down on the Giants’ first series, and Witherspoon recorded one of his two sacks on the second series.
“We wanted to get after him early, and we had success early,” Brooks said.
Diggs said that it was a defensive intention to let Witherspoon go after the quarterback.
“That’s who he is,” Diggs said. “He’s aggressive by nature, so we just go let him do his thing, go blitz, and have fun. At the end of the day, that’s what we drafted him to do, be himself and go out and make plays.”
Jones rushed for 26 yards on four attempts in the first half, as the Seahawks’ defense maintained a close watch on the dual-threat who rushed for a total of 102 yards in the first two games of the 2023 season. Jones was able to rush for 16 yards on the first play of the second New York possession.
“It makes a world of difference keeping him contained. Daniel Jones is a fast quarterback. You see when he was scrambling he was able to get yards, so we had to work on keeping him corralled,” Boye Mafe said.
The defense was not only trying to limit the rushing output of Jones, it was also focusing on stopping running back Matt Breida, who was New York’s lead running back in the absence of Saquon Barkley (ankle). Breida was limited to 23 yards on nine carries in the first half, and Uchenna Nwosu said that shutting down the entire New York ground game set the defense up to ferociously pursue Jones.
“We didn’t know if Saquon was going to play or not. He didn’t play, but they still wanted to run the ball and make things easier for Daniel Jones, and we were able to knock that out and then rush the passer really well,” Nwosu said.
When the New York running game was stamped out, Jones became a clear target for heavy pressure as he could not consistently challenge the Seahawks’ pass defense, either. Jones finished with just 203 passing yards and the defense was able to clearly pinpoint him as the main guy to key on.
“When they’re one-dimensional, we’ve got a team full of pass rushers and blitzers, so, of course, we’re going to get home. We’ve got to stay true, which is stopping the run game. Once we do that, Pandora’s Box is open,” Nwosu said.
The “box” started to truly open on New York’s final possession of the first quarter, when from the Giants’ 15-yard line, Mario Edwards forced a Jones fumble that was recovered by Brooks and returned to the seven-yard line. Nwosu was bringing heat off the edge on the play.
“I was working to his top shoulder because Daniel Jones likes to scramble out. I was trying to keep him from scrambling out, which forced him to step up, and then my boy Mario got the strip sack, which was huge,” Nwosu said.
Bobby Wagner confirmed that the combination of focusing on Jones as a runner and bringing significant pressure on him were key parts of the defensive game plan.
“We know he (was going to try and take off, which he did a couple times to run the ball, and we just wanted to make sure that we applied a little more pressure,” Wagner said.
Mafe added that the defense was aiming to generate game-changing plays like the Brooks fumble recovery.
“Those are big plays, we call those explosive plays for the defense, so we appreciate those and we always celebrate those,” Mafe said.
Two plays later, Geno Smith hit DK Metcalf for a six-yard TD reception that gave the Seahawks a lead they would never relinquish.
“Any time you can turn the ball over and score on offense, or we can get the ball back for our offense in great territory, it’s a big boost for our team,” Diggs said.
After moving out to a 14-3 halftime lead, the Seahawks’ offense was not able to generate scores on its first two drives, and the Giants threatened to close within one score. They marched to the Seahawks’ five-yard line on 10 plays before Witherspoon intercepted the pass intended for Parris Campbell and raced off with the 97-yard interception return for a TD that decisively shifted the tone of the game back into the Seahawks’ clear favor.
“He’s a baller, and he stepped up. It was a great play. I saw him cut back, and I knew once he got into the open field, that’s going to the crib,” Michael Jackson said.
Riq Woolen shared that in pregame, he may have sparked Witherspoon with a chat about his own first career interception.
“It’s crazy because, before the game, I was telling him how I got my first interception,” Woolen said. “He goes out there and takes it to the crib, it was crazy. It was a game-changing play, It was a play we needed, and it changed the momentum of the game.”
Mafe, reviewing Witherspoon’s big night, said that the first-round rookie is fitting in quickly.
“That’s great, as a rookie coming in and making plays, that’s what we want. He’s coming right along, he’s helping us out, being that factor for us, and we appreciate him for it,” Mafe said.
Jackson noted, though, that the defense did not relax after that major highlight, and the tenacity to stay opportunistic was evident when Diggs picked off another Jones pass in the fourth quarter.
“We had to go out there and keep playing,” Jackson said. “Diggs got a pick after that, and guys continued to get sacks, so we just kept fighting.”
Riq Woolen acknowledged the importance of both interceptions and teased his teammates afterward in a happy postgame locker room as he sat with a smiling Witherspoon.
“Both were amazing plays. Both guys are slow, but they did a good job,” he said with a laugh.
When it was over, and the Seahawks had allowed their lowest point total since Week 14 of the 2020 season when they held the other New York team, the Jets, to three points, there were so many positives to reflect on. Most prominent were the 11 sacks that tied a franchise record set in 1986.
“It means the world,” Nwosu said of tying the sack record. It just means that we’re doing what we’re supposed to do.”
Tyler Lockett admired the superb play of the defense and saluted his teammates.
“We had 11 sacks. That’s big time. I’m telling you, you get pressure on the quarterback, there’s a lot of great things that can happen,” Lockett said.
Woolen said that the defensive performance was something to certainly view as a mark of the defense starting to gel by the fourth game.
“You just see the growth, not only just the way we played, but the way we just all came together,” he said. “The coaches just keep emphasizing physicality, great effort, and that’s just what we were representing, being ourselves.”
Mafe pointed out that the sacks and turnovers were illustrative of a strong overall effort, but that more good outings ahead remain a goal.
“All year we’ve been talking about getting our pass rush going and working with coverage together. It means we’re on the right path,” he said. “As a team, we’re making the right steps and the right strides heading forward.”
Lockett put the full scope of the victory into perspective.
“It’s a big-time win for us,” he said. “The defense played phenomenal. Witherspoon had his first interception, a pick-six on Monday Night Football. Outstanding. Julian Love got the chance to win going against his former team, same as Geno. It was just really cool.”
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