The Seattle Seahawks went to the desert with the hopes of the playoffs dancing in their head. The Arizona Cardinals were coming home off a big win against the Bears. The omens were set for a big game and the omens delivered. The Seahawks and the Cardinals clashed in one of the best games Seattle has played so far this season.
For Seattle, it was the best of first halves and the worst of second halves. The Seahawks landed the first punch, stuffing the Cardinals offense on 3rd and 1. Julius Jones left the game early with a rib injury, finally letting Justin Forsett to get more playing time. After another 3rd and 1 stand by the Seahawks defense, Forsett responded with an 11 yard touchdown run late in the first quarter.
The Seahawks defense pulled another big stop when Arizona went for it on 4th and 1 at the Seahawks 11. The Seahawks offense was rolling at this point, driving down to score on a 31 yard pass to John Carlson.
The Cardinals were reeling, down 14-0 early in the second quarter. Arizona QB Kurt Warner finally figured out that Seattle was only rushing three and dropping eight back in coverage and was able to put together a scoring drive to make it 14-7.
Seattle pushed down for a field goal to make it 17-7 and felt good about the trip to the locker room. Unfortunately, there was still too much time on the clock and the defense went into full blown prevent mode. Warner was able to direct a field goal drive to make it 17-10.
Taking the kickoff after the halftime break, Arizona was able to score a touchdown to make it all even at 17. Seattle’s drive at the end of the third/beginning of the 4th quarter brought the play of the game. Seattle was moving the ball well, getting in the red zone again but Arizona’s defense held on 3rd and short to force the Seahawks to kick a field goal. Even though it gave Seattle the lead again at 20-17, the Seahawks had gotten involved in a shootout. Three points are okay but instead of a pistol, they needed a cannon to fight an Arizona offense that was figuring out the Seahawks defense.
Two more Cardinal touchdowns, combined with two Hasselbeck interceptions, put the lid on this coffin.
1. The start. Apart from blowout wins against St Louis and Jacksonville, Seattle has spent this whole season playing from behind early. Getting a big lead, especially on the road, was a big encouragement to me.
2. Justin Forsett. The seventh round draft pick that Tim Ruskell has been trying to get rid of ever since, Forsett proved he has what it takes to play in the NFL. Forsett, with rookie Louis Rankin, were able to run on a Cardinals defense that was ranked 4th in the NFL against the run.
3. The offensive line. Part of the ability to run on that Cardinals defense was an offensive line that was full of actual starters.
4. Defense. The players on the defense played well most of the game. Going against conventional wisdom of attacking Kurt Warner, the Seattle scheme of three linemen and seven defensive backs confused the Cardinals early on. Getting two stops on 3rd and 1 and one on 4th and 1 were incredible against a potent Arizona offense.
5. Matt Hasselbeck. I mentioned last week that Hasselbeck didn’t look like he could throw the ball over ten yards. He must have heard it because he was on fire early, attacking the Cardinals secondary with calculated middle and deep routes.
6. The Cardinals punter. Ben Graham had a great game, keeping Seattle pinned deep in their own territory.
1. Hasselbeck. In the last three drives, Hasselbeck forced the ball twice into triple coverage resulting in one interception and a stalled drive.
2. John Carlson. His one reception was a 38-yard touchdown and he was open on the Z-slide route when Hasselbeck tried to force the ball to TJ Houshmandzadeh. The tight end is the best option for the Seahawks, especially against a Cardinals team that was torched by Chicago a week ago and were missing their two starting linebackers.
3. Second Half. Seattle made four trips into the red zone in the second half and came away with three points. Not going to cut it in a shoot out.
4. Nate Burleson. Thrown to five times, Burleson had no receptions and three drops. The worst was the fade into the corner that would have gotten Seattle a touchdown. As the team’s leading receiver, Burleson needed to step up and didn’t.
1. Cardinals’ sportsmanship. If it wasn’t Beanie Wells’ cheap shot on Deon Grant, which got him a flag, it was Darnell Dockett putting his elbow in Hasselbeck’s throat while the Seattle QB was on the ground. The Cardinals are a dirty team, and have been for years. Now that they are winning, the league doesn’t seem to care as much but it doesn’t change the fact.
2. The announcers. Dick Stockton and Charles Davis again? Whatever I did to deserve this, I’m truly sorry.
3. Julius Jones. A very scary rib/lung injury that caused Jones to stay in Arizona overnight. Even if it allowed Forsett to shine, it was a scary moment.
4. Defensive pass interference calls. Very spotty calls by the officials against Marcus Trufant weren’t called on the Cardinals secondary. I don’t care if they are going to call it tight as long as they call it both ways.
5. Defensive play calling. It became obvious that Arizona was figuring out the Seattle defense. The defensive coaches were in a rut, failing to bring pressure at any time. The inability to get pressure, to even mix things up was an ugly thing to watch.
So the dreams of a Seattle run to the playoffs are over even if the season is only halfway done. Where do we go from here? First off, a priority is to see which players continue to play hard.
When Mike Holmgren took over from Dennis Erickson, the first thing he did was look at film from the end of the season to see which players had quit on the team. Anyone slacking was cut. This is the time for the players without the guaranteed starts to prove they are serious about wanting to be a professional football player.
Tim Ruskell should be gone too. His five years have been a disaster as the team that was at the top and needed to be reloaded each season now needs an overhaul if not a full rebuild. While no general manager is perfect, Ruskell’s draft choices and free agent signings have been more miss than hit, in some cases much more. I nominate Mike Holmgren as his successor.
Next week Seattle travels to Minnesota to take on the red-hot Vikings. How the team plays will show whether the bloodletting stops with Ruskell or continues onto Mora and his staff.