In the muck and the gloom of Philadelphia in December, Lofa Tatupu had a middle linebacker's dream game.
Tatupu's numbers in the Seattle Seahawks' 28-24 victory over the Eagles yesterday: 11 tackles, three interceptions.
"One of the great games I've ever seen by a linebacker," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said.
Playing with ribs so sore it hurt to take a deep breath, hurt so much he couldn't practice all week, the 25-year-old Tatupu played all day like the picture of health.
He picked off A.J. Feeley's first pass and returned it 33 yards to the Eagles' 18. He snagged another Feeley pass and returned it 49 yards to Philadelphia's 8.
The first quarter was only half over and Tatupu was responsible for 14 Seahawks points.
"He can make plays that a lot of guys can't," Holmgren said.
And, after the Hawks made a colossal blunder late in the game by punting the ball to Brian Westbrook and letting him return it 64 yards to the 14, Tatupu made the play that saved the cold and soggy day.
He read Feeley's mind as if he had been in the Eagles' huddle and intercepted the backup quarterback's final pass in the last 20 seconds.
"When you're a player as good as he is, it's just a matter of opportunity knocking," Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney said of Tatupu. "He's been playing so well for us all year, and the opportunity came today. He did an awesome job and just took over the game for us."
Behind Tatupu and the defense, Seattle has won four straight.
"In years past, not that you couldn't count on us, but we weren't exactly the best defense," Tatupu said. "But we're working our way there. We've got our goals set toward that, and we're trying to achieve them. Year in, year out we have one of the top offenses, and now we have to complement them."
Tatupu spent yesterday shadowing and containing Westbrook. He read the Eagles' underneath routes, which are the heartbeat of the West Coast offense. He took away most of Feeley's best options.
"He was amazing," Seattle safety Brian Russell said. "Every pick was really earned. He knew the routes. He's as good as any linebacker I've ever seen, let alone played with, as far as covering those underneath routes.
"And he really sealed the game for us in the end. The guy's just a great playmaker."