This should’ve been an absolute stroll in the park. And for the most part it was.
Arizona couldn’t run the ball, they couldn’t throw the ball and Seattle were making just enough plays on offense.
At one point it looked like another 58-0 beat down in the making.
Yet just when you felt comfortable enough to consider getting another beer (and maybe even felt like doing a kind of strut thing to the fridge), the Seahawks said, “Woah…. where do you think you’re going?”
And if you’re anything like me, you stayed on the sofa and found something to clench.
Golden Tate had just run back a punt return to make it 21-0. Mike Morgan got called for a block in the back, but Seattle still had good field position on half way and a fourteen point lead.
“No problem!” a collective fan base cried.
“We’ve got this…”
And from the jaws of a beat down, they managed to snatch a close game.
There were a ton of positives in this game — and I’ll get to them. But I wanted to start by discussing why there are still, even at 6-1, a few things to clean up.
On 4th and short, the Seahawks went for it. They used an empty backfield, essentially tipping their cap on a quarterback sneak when Russell Wilson moved under center. They didn’t convert on a play everyone saw coming. It was as obvious and blatant as a Justin Smith hold.
A Cardinals field goal, the first of three Wilson fumbles and a short touchdown later — and it was game on.
Thankfully the Seahawks regained their composure after a little toiling and eventually waltzed to victory.
Once again, however, it was tougher than it needed to be.
On the quarterback fumbles, the pass protection was hideous. Michael Bowie had a nightmare. Wilson uncharacteristically didn’t feel the pressure. It was ugly at times.
What’s more, the repetitive bootlegs to the right and designed passes to the left played into Arizona’s hands in the second quarter. Bowie essentially became Wilson’s primary protector. And tonight, unfortunately, he struggled badly under constant pressure.
People writing off Breno Giacomini need to have a re-think.
Marshawn Lynch also had another fumble in the red zone. Once again, it wasn’t costly and Lynch recovered the football. Fumbles are a major problem for this team across the board for some reason, not just with Lynch. But it’s ten in one and a bit seasons now for Beast Mode.
He still does so much to help this team (as we saw in the drive to make it 24-13), but this is an area he needs to improve and quickly.
There were also the usual issues at the end of the half (fortunate to escape with a field goal for 17-10) and the decision making to throw at 31-13 and ultimately turn the ball over via fumble was incredible. There’s nothing wrong with three runs, time off the clock and a punt at 31-13 on the road.
Take away the errors and this is a surprisingly comfortable victory.
And that’s the frustrating thing. We’re seven games in and they’re so close — even with all the injuries — to being virtually unbeatable.
If they clean up and avoid the turnovers, they’ll get there. No doubt about it.
On the positive front, Seattle’s pass rush did what it simply had to do against a laughable Arizona offensive line. Everyone chipped in. It was a formidable display with seven sacks, two picks and two forced fumbles. The Cardinals managed 1.7 yards per running play and 30 yards total. They were 5/15 on third downs.
In other words, they were suffocated and dominated.
One huge improvement from last year is the interior pass rush. Michael Bennett had another sack and has been sensational from day one. Two other players — Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald — have also brought so much to the team this year and deserve credit.
Malcolm Smith had a terrific game and deserves to get snaps even when Bobby Wagner returns.
Offensively, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate both had big days. That was particularly important for Rice, who received some criticism recently.
Seattle managed 7/12 on third downs — a definite improvement.
I thought James Carpenter had a good game and it was a relief to see him return after hurting his ankle. Despite struggling to defend the edge, Carpenter and Unger did a great job in the run game. I didn’t see any obvious issues in pass protection. I know Carpenter gets a rough deal from some, but for me he continues to improve every week. Put him alongside Okung and he’ll go from strength to strength.
Russell Wilson — apart from the fumbles — was immense. A true franchise quarterback who will, without doubt, go on to become Seattle’s finest football player. The first touchdown was a thing of beauty and I’m still not sure how he generated enough velocity to pick out Rice with zero back lift. That might be the best throw we see by any quarterback this year.
It wasn’t just the three scores. His throw falling down to extend a scoring drive was another play only he can make. Wilson generally threw with accuracy and confidence.
There are still ways he can improve — but more importantly there are ways the team can make life easier for him. Namely, the offensive line getting healthy and the potential return of Percy Harvin against St. Louis next week.
Wilson really is two returning tackles (Okung, Giacomini) and a playmaker (Harvin) away from really exploding. I have no doubt about that.
I looked at this NFC West double header as a chance to show this team means business. Two road wins in the division on Prime Time would be a statement of intent. I also thought 1-1 wouldn’t be a disaster, with a virtual gimme at home to Tampa Bay the following week.
They’ve already got one win — and on this display should feel good about making it two.
All it takes is a clean game and they will beat the Rams. As they showed today, they can win even with all the mistakes.
It’d be nice to avoid the stress for once, though.