Tatupu's three interceptions lift Seahawks
Seattle Times staff reporter
PHILADELPHIA — When Lofa Tatupu last visited Philadelphia, it was a snowy, bone-chilling day, and Tatupu punched the goal post Rocky Balboa-style after returning an interception for a touchdown.
Almost two years to the day later, history repeated itself.
The Seahawks middle linebacker didn't get into the end zone to deliver some faux blows, yet he again knocked out the Eagles with not one but three interceptions.
Two of the third-year pro's interceptions led to first-quarter touchdowns. The third, with 14 seconds left in the game, lifted the Seahawks to a 28-24 victory over the Eagles on Sunday at frigid Lincoln Financial Field.
Not bad for a guy who didn't practice until Friday of last week because of soreness around his ribs, pain great enough last Sunday to make him remove himself from the game in certain situations. And Tatupu isn't one to ever want to come out of a game, hurt or not.
"I expect him to play well all the time," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "Actually, he may have been a little fresher ... I feel very fortunate to have him. Best linebacker I've coached."
That's high praise, but Tatupu earned it. The Seahawks earned their fourth consecutive victory, the longest streak they've had since 2005, and remained firmly in first place in the NFC West at 8-4, two games up on the victorious Arizona Cardinals.
"I love playing in Philly," Tatupu said with a sly smile in a joyous locker room. "For some reason, I usually have my best games on the road. It's easy to have a good game at home with our crowd. You try to play your tail off because they're giving you everything they've got cheering. For some reason, whether it's from anger or other people just insulting you ... it brings out the best in me, I guess."
Tatupu's team-high 11 tackles and textbook demonstration of defensive instincts are not unusual for the Seahawks' defensive captain and leading tackler. But the interceptions should help ensure a third consecutive Pro Bowl appearance.
Tatupu jokingly asked Holmgren after the game if he could take practice off this week.
"I love you and thank you for the win," Holmgren told him, "but, no, you're practicing next week."
Unproductive offensively for most of the game, the Seahawks needed big plays to produce a quality road victory. The biggest were Tatupu's interceptions.
But there were other notable performances.
• Obscured by Tatupu's finest hour was the return of Shaun Alexander at running back. Alexander, who had missed the past three games due to injury, contributed 65 yards on 20 carries and scored his first touchdown since Week 2.
• Maurice Morris, a member of the Seahawks' running-back-by-committee, had just five carries, but gained 64 yards. His 45-yard touchdown run off a pitch to the left, during which he nearly faked Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown out of his shoes, was the second-longest run of the season for Seattle.
Morris' run gave the Seahawks the lead on third-and-two with 9:22 left in the third quarter, and it was the final score of the day.
"On the short-yardage play, Mo made a nice run," Holmgren said. "In a close game, you need all those. You need to make plays like that."
• Seemingly ageless Bobby Engram caught five passes, including a touchdown, and Nate Burleson had four catches and a 36-yard punt return that set up his 43-yard TD catch in the second quarter.
• And Rocky Bernard stuffed Eagles running back Brian Westbrook for no gain on fourth-and-goal from the Seattle 1 just three seconds before halftime to keep the Seahawks ahead 21-17.
"May have been the game," Holmgren said of Bernard's play.
A first half with plenty of points gave way to a sloppy second half that saw punters trade nine kicks. A 64-yard punt return by Westbrook gave the Eagles hope with the ball at the Seattle 14 with 1:16 left. But Tatupu picked off A.J. Feeley's pass over the middle intended for Reggie Brown on third down, and that was that.
"That's what your captain is supposed to do," Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant said. "He's the leader of the defense. He's out there making it happen."
So are the Seahawks.
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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