If you had told me before the season started that Seattle and Arizona would be fighting it out for NFC West supremacy at this point in the season, I would have checked your temperature and maybe given you some coffee to sober up. Yes, I’m a Seahawks homer but for the last couple of years, Arizona has swept the Seahawks. You can understand my trepidation.
It wasn’t pretty, but I didn’t expect it to be given the gray rain-filled skies above Seattle’s Qwest Field on Sunday. The Cardinals brought in their Kurt Warner wannabe heir apparent, Max Hall, who, in case you didn’t hear it, beat the defending Super Bowl Champs New Orleans Saints in the last game. No one seemed to mention that the Cardinals beat the Saints thanks to Drew Brees gifting some interceptions and the Cardinals defense scoring two touchdowns. No, the story line was all about the BYU quarterback who wasn’t drafted taking down the all-powerful Saints.
Watching Hall drop back and badly miss his targets, it’s easy to see why he wasn’t drafted. His interception to Seahawks safety Earl Thomas was so badly thrown that I thought at first Thomas must have been the intended receiver.
When Hall left the game in the third quarter after getting crushed on the blind side by defensive end Chris Clemons, he was 4-for-16, threw for a total of 36 yards and had a rating of 13.5. Hall had said before the game that he was excited to make his first road start at a place like Qwest Field. He’s not the first opposing quarterback to leave the field nauseous and dizzy, and he won’t be the last.
For my money, the Play of the Game was the three field goals that Olindo Mare made in a row. Only one of them counted though. The first one was from 31 yards out but got wiped off the board because of a holding call on Cameron Morrah. So, Mare hit the retry from 41 yards, but Morrah got another holding penalty. No problem, as Mare nailed the 51-yarder on the third try.
1. Olindo Mare – Mare is a bad ass, no question. Since getting thrown under the bus by Jim Mora last season, Mare has hit 26 field goals in a row, 28 if you count the two that Morrah was called for holding on. Mare regularly hits the end zone on kickoffs; he is without a doubt the best free agent signing Tim Ruskell ever made.
2. First Drive – Seattle took the opening kickoff and drove the length of the field with 14 plays and 80 yards. Yes, the drive ended with, shockingly, a Mare field goal when the Hawks couldn’t punch the ball in from the one yard line, thanks to a Sean Locklear hold. But it was good to see the offense take the field and set the tone immediately.
3. BMW – Big Mike Williams followed his 10-catch career day last week with an 11-catch, 87-yard, one touchdown day against the Cardinals. Williams could have been even more effective in the red zone but the play calling seemed to go away from him down inside the 20 yard line.
4. Special Teams – Seattle’s special teams were special, recovering a muffed punt and kickoff and setting up a touchdown and another field goal.
5. Defense – The Seahawks defense didn’t have as good a day as last week, only collecting two sacks after pummeling Jay Cutler. The run defense also gave up 100 yards for the first time this season, although it was a combined 100 yards for Hightower (59 yards) and Wells (54). What the defense did really well was to hold Fitzgerald to three catches for 30 yards, and the Cardinals to 16% on third down and two conversions in 12 chances.
1. Offense – Seattle’s offense, after getting gifted five turnovers by the Cardinals, could not get anything going at all.
The run game, particularly the sweep to the right, was ugly because the line got absolutely no push against the Cardinals line. Seattle ran the ball 36 times to an average of four yards per play but lost yardage on six of those plays. Apart from a 39-yard run by Marshawn Lynch, a 14-yard run by Justin Forsett and a 12-yard misdirection run by Hasselbeck, the run game was putrid.
Not that the passing offense was any better. Hasselbeck went 20-for-30 and 192 yards with a touchdown. He also got killed or harassed every time he dropped back, getting sacked five times and fumbling once.
2. The 12th Man – Yeah, I’m calling out the fans, including myself. Max Hall said he was excited to play at Qwest Field. He was looking forward to the challenge. Arizona didn’t have any false starts, no delay of games, and barely looked bothered at all by the noise. I take that personally and although my voice is rough today, my throat a little raw, I could have done more. I should have done more to get that Cardinals offense and undrafted rookie quarterback kid rattled and moving backwards.
3. Matt Hasselbeck – I’m not blaming Hasselbeck for the 10 drives that gained a total of 11 yards. I can’t do it because football is a team game. I still don’t believe that Seattle would be better off with Charlie Whitehurst running the offense. But dammit Matt, we need you to be the leader, the decision maker, the guy willing to take a chance and audible to a shot down field when the safeties are cheating up. We didn’t see it on Sunday and it was very frustrating.
1. Max Hall – I am so happy Kurt Warner retired. Seriously, the way Seattle played, if Warner were still out there, this score would have been the other way around. The media may have been talking about Hall being the next version of Warner, but he showed me he has a long way to go if that’s going to happen.
On one play, for example, Hall scrambled to his right. There were three Cardinals receivers that worked their way to that side of the field. There was only one Seattle cornerback within 10 yards of any of them. Hall keeps scanning the field, I thought he must be trying to decide which of the three to throw to but no, he tries to hit his tight end in the middle of the field that just happens to be have three Seattle defenders around him.
2. Penalties – If Hasselbeck wasn’t getting killed or the running back wasn’t getting crushed, the offense was getting flagged. Seattle collected 10 yellow flags for 95 yards for everything from holding to delay of game to unnecessary roughness. That latter one was a doozy, getting called on backup to the backup guard Mike Gibson after Mare had hit the hat trick three in a row field goals thanks to the holding calls on Cameron Morrah. Luckily it was after the kick went through. so the penalty was assessed on the kickoff or Seattle would have been forced to punt rather than try a 65-yard kick.
3. Play Calling – I have to quibble with the play calling of Jeremy Bates. It appeared to me that the whole game plan seemed to be founded on running the ball to the right side. From the first play, Arizona was playing the safeties up tight with no one deep because the weather made throwing deep a pretty poor idea. Seattle still ran the ball over and over again. In fact, the only time Seattle managed to drive the ball and not go three and out, it was due to throwing to Mike Williams and Deon Butler. While I understand the need to be able to run the ball, I felt the Seahawks didn’t adapt very well to what the Cardinals were doing on defense.
Overall, it felt very much like Seattle played down to the Cardinals level. There were moments of greatness, the moments that make you feel like the Seahawks could still compete, but they were just flashes and not consistent. I think that’s what this team is lacking most, the consistency of being able to work as a team. I don’t know if the problems lie in a lack of trust in the offensive line, which was horrible against Arizona but great against Chicago, or because over half the team is new this season. Whatever it is, it’s got to get better.
Next Sunday, Seattle travels to Oakland to take on the Raiders on Halloween. Yes, a trip to Oakland on Halloween sounds like some kind of Edgar Allen Poe story, especially since Oakland destroyed Denver on Sunday, to the tune of 59-14, after that same Denver team killed Seattle a few weeks ago. If Seattle comes out like usual on the road, this Halloween massacre could be one that would turn even Michael Myers’ stomach.