This was a thoroughly comprehensive 19-3 victory that feels closer than it was.
Both teams left points on the board, but Seattle emphatically so. They dominated the field position battle in the first half and kept settling for three points. The red zone troubles reared up once more. But it didn’t matter. Everything else clicked.
The Seahawks played a 9-1 team today fielding an exceptional run defense and an athletic, playmaking secondary. This was a fantastic win.
— Russell Wilson was superb today. You don’t need to put up 400 yards to be praised as a quarterback. He was efficient. He never came close to conceding a turnover — an underrated key to the win. He was intelligent with the ball (the eye manipulation on the Ricardo Lockette bomb was exceptional) and made enough plays to win a game his team had to have.
— The defense played at a 2013 level. Drew Stanton isn’t a good quarterback and Bruce Arians deserves a medal for getting this team to nine wins with the injuries they’ve endured. Yet this is still a Cardinals team that has been making big plays all year. Not today. Their biggest play was a pass interference call on Byron Maxwell. They had one drive at the end of the first half where they chipped away and got their only points on a field goal. The Cardinals had 204 total offensive yards and went 3/12 on third down. This was a complete shut down — no running room, no big plays. Seattle football.
— If the pass rush plays with this intensity and productivity the rest of the way, the Seahawks can take on a rock hard schedule. Stanton was constantly under pressure and did well to avoid a few sacks. Cliff Avril had possibly his best game this season. Bruce Irvin and Michael Bennett also got involved. Seattle came into the day ranked 29th for sacks. They need this level of play to finish the year.
— There was too much focus on Brandon Mebane’s absence last week at Kansas City. He was a key loss. But the bigger issue was the absence of Mebane AND Bobby Wagner. They didn’t clog up the middle of the defensive line or absorb many blocks. But too often K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith made a bad read or didn’t wrap up filling the gaps. Arizona hasn’t run the ball particularly well recently, but Wagner’s return helped limit them to 64 total running yards.
— Kam Chancellor and Byron Maxwell appear to be healthy. Throw in Wagner’s return and it’s no surprise that for the first time in a long time, the defense is back to its best.
— Last year the Seahawks were beaten at home by Arizona. They took shots on offense and tried to beat the blitz by exploiting 1v1 coverage. Today they went away from that — and it was a solid gameplan. Early throws behind the LOS opened up the middle for the tight ends. They made safe throws and never allowed a big-play defense to do anything at the second level. Yes — there were frustrating moments in the red zone. No — I’m not saying it was a flawless performance. They left points on the field. But think about this — with a cleaner red zone effort this could’ve been a blow out. The offensive plan worked and they learnt lessons from the last meeting between the teams.
— That said, the Seahawks still need to find an answer in the red zone with the personnel they have. Today they went 1/5. It’s been a constant thorn in the offense all season. Today it didn’t cost them a victory. Last week it did. In the three remaining road games (San Francisco, Philadelphia, Arizona) they will need to make every point count.
— What play did you enjoy more? Cooper Helfet’s touchdown leap, or the body slam after the blocked punt to start the second half? And is this a sign of things to come for the offense (this year and beyond)? Helfet, Tony Moeaki and Luke Willson had more attention than the receivers. You have to wonder if they’d have done more of this earlier with a healthy Zach Miller and Anthony McCoy?
— Seattle gave up seven sacks but let’s have some perspective. Firstly, that was a heck of a defensive line they came up against today. Secondly, some of the sacks were scheme issues or receivers just not getting open. The fourth sack by Calais Campbell came as Seattle tried to set up a long winded screen to Marshawn Lynch. You can’t do that against this defense. The fifth sack, on the very next play, saw Wilson in a clean pocket taking a coverage sack. The offensive line didn’t have a brilliant game — they were unusually ineffective in the run game. But neither is this performance worthy of three days talking about drafting for the OL in round one. They missed Max Unger at center.
— Marshawn Lynch was in and out of the game today. Let’s hope this isn’t a big issue. He’ll be needed.
— My draft takeaway today is — do we have to focus so much on SPARQ? Having watched Jarvis Landry for Miami today — there is still room for good old eye scouting. He looked sensational at LSU. He is sensational. Ultra competitive, a fantastic technician and exactly the kind of player Seattle needed to replace Golden Tate.
Here’s the lasting image from today — a tired Calais Campbell on the sidelines with three minutes to go. He’s out of the game. He and his team resigned to defeat. Meanwhile Drew Stanton is getting looked at for an ankle injury and Logan Thomas is warming up. Last year teams came to Seattle to get beaten up. They nearly always lost their next game as a consequence. This, as they say, ‘was more like it’.
Onto San Francisco. Both teams are 7-4. Arizona goes to Atlanta next week. Game on.