This was a Seahawks performance that I love. It wasn’t perfect but they rarely are. Even the most pessimistic fan has to admit that Sunday in the desert was a thing of beauty, especially when you remember that Seattle was outscored 74-10 in the last two games.
Seattle came out on the first drive and answered the Cardinals opening scoring drive. Matt Hasselbeck was in prime form. Maybe the concussion he sustained against Oakland cleaned out some of those cobwebs, because we saw a Hasselbeck from 2005-2006 rather than 2008-2009 out there. His passes were on time and accurate, his decisions were right, and even his deep ball looked good. I haven’t seen him have a better game in a long time.
Part of his success is due to improved line blocking. Another part is game planning and play calling, while even more comes down to receivers actually catching the damn ball. Against Arizona, all those things combined to make Seattle, for at least one game, look dangerous and potent.
Play of the Game
With so many to choose from, it has to be Hasselbeck’s deep strike to Deon Butler in the second quarter. It started with good protection. Hasselbeck then stepped up in the pocket and threw a nice looking pass to the deep crossing Butler. The ball hit him in stride and was placed perfectly away from the double coverage of the safety and a linebacker. Butler caught the ball and kept running as the safety Adrian Wilson joined the others in pursuit.
Butler stopped by the left sideline while the Cardinals defenders stopped and looked at him, so he ran back to the right, outrunning the defenders until tight end John Carlson, who never stopped running on the play, delivered the key block to get Butler into the end zone.
That touchdown made the score 17-10, with the Seahawks on top. Seattle never lost the lead, and Arizona’s secondary spent the rest of the game missing tackles and pointing fingers as Hasselbeck piled up almost 400 yards through the air.
1. Matt Hasselbeck – After watching Charlie Whitehurst last week, it was night and day watching Hasselbeck this week. He hasn’t been great this season but he showed in Arizona why the team keeps starting him over anyone else. Given some time by his offensive line and some receivers hanging onto the ball and Hasselbeck will make any defense work for its paycheck.
2. Mike Williams – BMW showed up again after disappearing for two games. Against Oakland and New York, Williams had three catches for 52 yards. On Sunday against Arizona, Williams had another career high game with 11 catches for 145 yards. The game plan was obviously to work Williams against Arizona cornerback Greg Toler, and Williams succeeded so well that Toler was benched for Michael Adams.
3. O-Line – The offensive line has been horrible at times this year. Part of that is due to injury, of course, but against Arizona, the patchwork quilt came together beautifully. Hasselbeck was sacked twice but both came on blitzes. Other than that, Hasselbeck was not pressured very much and the results were there to see on the scoreboard. The downside is that Seattle had the ball in the red zone five times and came away with only field goal attempts. The run blocking definitely needs work despite getting over 100 yards rushing in the final tally. At halftime, the rushing yardage was eight yards.
4. Aaron Curry – I’ve been hard on Curry a lot because the expectations with being a top pick are to deliver right away. I’ve always felt Curry has a ton of talent but he isn’t able to translate that onto the field. Against the Cardinals, Curry led the Seahawks defense with seven tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. The one nitpick I have with his performance is that Curry still has a tendency to play a little too wild and talk a little too much. He’s gotten better about it and it shows, but his focus needs to be on making the plays rather than talking about and celebrating them.
5. Seattle Secondary – They gave up a few big plays, but show me a team that doesn’t against Arizona. The highlights were watching safeties Earl Thomas and Lawyer Milloy blowing up every receiver as well as holding Larry Fitzgerald in check. Fitzgerald ended up with decent numbers: seven catches for 91 yards, but his big reception was for 33 yards on the second play of the game. That catch was doubtful, as replays seemed to indicate his second foot was out of bounds. But the challenge was upheld and it counted.
1. Cardinals Tackling – Want to show your kid how not to tackle? Put on this game because the Arizona defense, in particular the secondary, was horrible at tackling. Adrian Wilson, one of my favorite players not on the Seahawks, was particularly bad. Wilson had a bad game all around though. He was constantly caught sneaking up to the line out of position and Hasselbeck burned him repeatedly.
2. Charlie Whitehurst – On 4th-and-1 right before halftime, Seattle went for it with a quarterback sneak. Hasselbeck went down and hurt his left wrist in the process. The trainers took him into the locker room for x-rays and my worst nightmare came onto the field for the next series. Granted, it was taking a knee to end the half but even that had me nervous.
Coming out of the locker room for the third quarter, I was horrified to see it was Whitehurst with a helmet on and Hasselbeck nowhere to be seen on the sideline. Sure enough, Seattle got the kickoff and Charlie Fucking Whitehurst trotted onto the field. He started off well, with a nice completion to Ben Obomanu, and I began relaxing a bit. Maybe he learned from last week.
Sure as shit, the next time he dropped back, he threw a pick to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on a play so bad even announcer Brian Billick was shocked. Billick then spent five minutes reviewing the video and picking out the mistakes Whitehurst made, twisting the knife in my heart ever deeper with each word.
From that point on, every play had my heart in my throat. No one was happier than me to see Hasselbeck come back out with a soft cast on his left wrist and ready to play. Okay, to be fair, Whitehurst was better. He finished with four completions on six attempts and 53 yards, but that interception could have been the beginning of the end.
3. Jay Feely – I’m still trying to figure out why Arizona kicker Jay Feely was wearing wide receiver gloves. It wasn’t cold; he was wearing short sleeves, and his one attempt to recover the surprise onside kick was bungled when he touched the ball short of it going 10 yards. I’m thinking Feely is just a punk kicker trying to feel tough.
1. Darnell Dockett – Speaking of punks, Dockett said after the beat down Seattle gave the Cardinals in Seattle that this time it would be personal. From a cheap shot artist like Dockett, that means even more fun and mayhem. As much as I can’t stand him, I have to give Dockett credit for being a good player and reliable too. He has played in 104 straight games. Wait, that should be had played because I guess part of making it personal for Dockett was for him to stand on the sideline in street clothes. No chance for him to put his forearm into Hasselbeck’s throat while holding him down this time.
2. Kickoff – Seattle’s special teams has been the one consistent bright spot this season. That almost went in the dumpster on the opening kickoff. Cardinals returner LaRod Stephens-Howling took the kick from Olindo Mare at the four-yard line and ran straight up the middle of the field for 52 yards. Only a saving tackle from Mare and Earl Thomas saved a touchdown.
3. 4th-and-1 – I’m a big fan of Pete Carroll’s competitive fire and willingness to lay it on the line. So I was okay with him going for it on 4th-and-1 late in the second quarter even though the Seahawks were in field goal range. I was even okay with the quarterback sneak call. Actually, I was happy with that after some of the crazy calls I’ve seen over the last few years. What made this play ugly was the lack of execution by the offensive line and Hasselbeck. Add in the fact that Hasselbeck got injured on the play and yeah, the Seahawks should have kicked the field goal. But, as they say, hindsight is 20/20.
4. Joey Porter – Here’s an interesting fact. Did you know Joey Porter, the trash talking linebacker formerly from the Steelers still plays (for Arizona)? I didn’t either and I wouldn’t have known until I saw his name on the back of a jersey on the sideline at one point. He did make a tackle at some point during the game. At least that’s what it says on the stat sheet. I know I didn’t see it.
Thanks to the 49ers beating the Rams, the Seahawks now sit atop the NFC West all on their own. Rarely have I been happy for the 49ers to win anything but I am right now.
Overall, Seattle played an excellent game and won in Arizona for the first time since 2005. While it’s not time to start talking about turning the corner, it is time to start believing that the Seahawks are not as bad as they looked against the Giants. While Seattle is not a Super Bowl team, the foundations are there and it will be very interesting to see how the team looks next week in New Orleans.