In an ideal world, this would be the time of the NFL season when we’d have a firm idea of the playoff picture. We’d know which teams are true contenders for the Super Bowl, which teams are only good for filling out wild-card spots, and which teams are already looking to next year’s draft. But this season, the NFL is anything but normal. So when the Seahawks, who’ve never played a run-of-the-mill game, met the Giants, who entered Sunday’s contest atop the NFC East dumpster fire, chaos was inevitable.
Out of that mess came a 17-12 New York upset in which the Colt McCoy–led Giants (yes, you read that correctly) retained their hold of first place in their division, and the Seahawks’ offensive futility reached a new nadir.
Let’s start with the Seahawks. In the past four weeks, Seattle’s offense has not looked nearly as prolific as it did through the first eight games of the year. The Seahawks have relied on Russell Wilson to carry them, and through the first quarter of the season (a 4-0 stretch) it worked. Through the second quarter (when the team went 2-2), the defense’s issues seemed to be enough to dash expectations. And with the third quarter now complete (another 2-2 run), the offense is no longer firing on all cylinders, and Wilson’s MVP campaign is at a crossroads.
Wilson struggled on Sunday, completing 27 of 43 passes for 263 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He registered seven carries for 45 yards, but was also sacked five times for a combined loss of 47 yards. Wilson lost a fumble, too, making this his third multi-turnover outing in the past five games.
Seattle started the game off well, driving 57 yards to score a field goal on its opening series. But the Seahawks offense didn’t generate any more points until midway through the fourth quarter, when Wilson connected with running back Chris Carson on a 28-yard touchdown pass; eight consecutive Seattle possessions (not including a two-play series at the end of the first half) resulted in either a punt or turnover. Sure, there were multiple instances when head coach Pete Carroll should have been more aggressive, and other times when sloppiness cost the team, but Seattle’s offensive regression was still at the center of it all. The Seahawks’ struggles on that side of the ball spoiled another solid performance by their defense, which held an opponent to 23 points or less for the fourth consecutive game—a feat the unit accomplished only once in its first eight contests.
The Giants, meanwhile, had a solid defensive outing. They took advantage of Seattle’s banged-up offensive line, which was missing starting right tackle Brandon Shell and his backup, Cedric Ogbuehi. Leonard Williams racked up 2.5 sacks, leading New York upfront as it hounded Wilson to the tune of 10 QB hits. The Giants also held the Seahawks to 4-of-13 on third down and only 4.7 yards per play.
“I think [the Giants] did a really good job of doing some of the stuff with their coverage,” Wilson told reporters after the game. “Just trying to keep everything in front, pretty much. … We weren’t able to capitalize on opportunities. We didn’t have those [big] plays unfortunately today.”
New York’s offense wasn’t much better than Seattle’s, but it did enough. After going scoreless in the first half, the Giants rattled off 17 unanswered points in the second. McCoy, who started in place of the injured Daniel Jones, finished 13-for-22 with 105 yards, one touchdown, one pick, and his first victory as a starter since 2014. His effort was buoyed by tailback Wayne Gallman Jr.’s 135 rushing yards—including a 60-yard carry in the third quarter to set up the team’s first touchdown of the game—and veteran Alfred Morris, who chipped in a goal-line touchdown score and a 6-yard touchdown catch.
At 5-7, the Giants are now in sole possession of first place in the NFC East, and Sunday marked coach Joe Judge’s first victory against a team with a winning record this season. It also extended New York’s winning streak to four games, putting the team in a decent position heading into the final stretch of the campaign. “To me, it’s more validation in trusting that the process is going to pay off on the field,” Judge told reporters after the win. “These guys have done everything we’ve asked them to do and you can see the results coming.”
The Giants next take on the Cardinals, who’ve slipped to .500 on the season, followed by the Browns, Ravens, and Cowboys. New York has shown that it can compete with some of the league’s best, though the team’s chances of winning out aren’t high. Still, of all of the NFC East’s possible representatives, the Giants seem like they’d be the most compelling matchup in the playoffs.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, slipped from the top of the NFC West to the first wild-card spot in the projected playoff bracket, and if that holds, they would travel to MetLife Stadium to face the Giants in the wild-card round. Seattle now faces an uphill battle to try and win the NFC West, but the team still gets to play the Jets and Washington Football Team in the next two weeks. “We’re gonna figure it out,” Seahawks safety Jamal Adams told reporters. “We’re gonna correct [our] mistakes, but it definitely stings.”