Well, that was a heartbreaker fellow Seattle Seahawks fans. After several months of waiting, and building excitement during a wonderful preseason, the Seahawks fall to the divisional rival Cardinals in what seemed like a very winnable game on the road.
Here are the 10 things we learned after game one:
10. Russell Okung: The blind side needs a pep talk.
Russell Okung is not elite. In fact, at best he's really good, not remarkable. This unfortunate fact keeps rearing its ugly head at the worst times. When you add all of the immense struggles with combination pass-rush specialists, injuries and penalties, he's beginning to resemble a player that may not ever meet the expectations that the Seahawks placed on him as the heir apparent to former Seahawks great left tackle Walter Jones.
Not a bust at this point, just not as good as the franchise would have hoped.
In Sunday's game, his play was so impacted by the speed rush of Cardinals outside linebacker Sam Acho that he could have been called for several false starts. Time and again, he jumped prematurely in a desperate attempt to set up early to negate the outside rush.
In one span in the second half he had three false starts in consecutive plays (only one called).
He must become what the Seahawks drafted him to be or the offense will struggle with consistency.
9. Leon Washington: Superman.
Leon Washington was HUGE in the return game. His ability to make players miss in open space, and his burst through gaps, led to five punt kickoff returns for 189 game-changing yards. Major factor for second-half offensive scoring.
8. Inside-zone run: From bread and butter, to just stale bread.
The inside-zone play (or guard read) is usually a large part of the Seahawks offense. However, Sunday the Cardinals' stout defense limited the Seahawks to only 3.5 yards per carry on 33 carries. With so much of the Seahawks' playbook beholden to running success to set up the pass, this was devastating.
Credit goes to the Cardinals defense.
7. John Skelton: Sharp in first half, broken in second.
Cardinals quarterback John Skelton chewed up the Seahawks continually on quick-hitting throws in the first half. The Cardinals' big-scoring drives of 13 plays (FG) and 11 plays (TD) were mainly due to a sever lack of interior pressure.
Biggest play for me was the 13-yard pass play to Todd Heap in the second quarter all the way to the Seattle 4-yard line, which was immediately followed by an ill-advised Kam Chancellor facemask penalty. Three plays later? Touchdown Cardinals on a quick run by Stephens-Howling.
In the second half, the Cardinals offense came off the tracks with three straight incompletions and a miraculous pick by sideline toe-tapping Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. Then a cart-inducing lower leg injury that ended Skelton's day.
Hope the injury is not of the season-ending variety.
6. Doug Baldwin is human.
After his amazing rookie campaign, slot-receiving specialist Doug Baldwin is primed for big things in 2012. This game, not so much. His game-winning catch in the fourth quarter that wasn't was the kind of "insult to injury" play that contributed to this painful Seahawks loss.
Maybe game two?
5. Sidney Rice is a game changer...who knew?
All kidding aside, the knock on Seahawks big-time receiver Sidney Rice has never been his football ability. It has been his inability to stay on the field due to injury.
Sunday he reminded the NFL that he's still a force to be reckoned with. Four catches for 36 yards wasn't the story. The amazing catch for the Seahawks' only touchdown was. Big-time play when the Seahawks were searching for positives on offense.
4. Seahawks run defense: Brick wall.
It appears that the Seahawks have carried their stellar run defense from 2011 over into 2012. Time after time, Cardinals running backs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams ran head first into five or six Seahawks defenders who had beaten their man and brought them down early, resulting in a 2.2 yards per carry average.
3. Seahawks pass pressure: Late to the Party.
The theme of the first half for the Seahawks' pass rush was aggressive penetration by the front four, met by accommodating Cardinals inside offensive linemen who just directed that fury five to 10 yards past quarterback John Skelton. On almost every Skelton first-half drop back, he simply took a hitch step or two up into the pocket past the interior pressure—and had open field in front of him.
Clear vision, easy read, easy completions.
In typical Seahawks fashion, the half came to a close—Pete Carroll and staff made adjustments—then interior pressure started to get home. Defensive tackle Jason Jones started to flash dominance inside, and with that, defensive end Chris Clemons started to beat LT D'Anthony Batiste like a rented mule snap after snap.
This pressure was John Skelton's undoing and was a big factor in the competitiveness of this offensively challenged Seahawks team.
2. Marshawn Lynch: The angriest runner I've ever seen.
I've been involved with football in some capacity or another for over half of my life, and in that time I've never seen a more determined and angry runner than Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch's stats are not eye-popping (21 carries, 85 yards, four yards per carry), but the manner in which he gained them was critical for the Seahawks. Despite the Cardinals' run blitz that made consistent contact with Lynch in the backfield, he still managed to gain three or four yards.
This game could have been really ugly without that effort.
1. News Flash: Russell Wilson is a rookie quarterback (18-of-34, 153 yards, one TD, one int., 4.5 avg., 62.5 QB rating).
Welcome to the real NFL, Mr. Wilson. I said heading into this game that the last thing the Seahawks should do was to put the game on Russell Wilson's young shoulders. The overzealous fan expectations based off preseason success were fun, but just not realistic.
The Seahawks need their zone-running scheme to create the kind of pressure on a defense that forces safeties up into the box and opens up plays in the passing game. I credit the Seahawks for keeping close to a 50/50 run-pass ratio for the game, but the strategy just didn't create big plays that dictated anything but more Cardinals run blitzing.
It wasn't all bad, though. Wilson's second-half throw to Sidney Rice was after a quick adjustment—audible was remarkable—and the last drive of the game should have resulted in a touchdown if either receivers, Doug Baldwin or Braylon Edwards, can make clutch catches on solid throws.
Russell Wilson struggled. Big deal; he's a rookie in his first NFL game on the road. The fact that he showed the ability to shrug off failure and press on with determination tells me he won't be struggling for much longer.
DE Chris Clemons, WR Sidney Rice, RB Marshawn Lynch.
Honorable mention based on second half
QB Russell Wilson
LT Russell Okung, WR Doug Baldwin, SS Kam Chancellor.
In my opinion, the Seahawks offense was not ready to play in game one due to several personnel moves at critical skill positions during the offseason that caused a severe lack of unit cohesion and timing.
Thirteen penalties for 90 yards, a struggling rushing game and a defensive pass rush that didn't show up until the second half didn't help. Neither did allowing overpaid Cardinals backup Kevin Kolb the gratification of carving up Seattle for the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks are now tied for last place in the NFC West with the Rams after game one of the regular season. With the Dallas Cowboys up next at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, followed by the Green Bay Packers, the pressure is on the Seahawks' franchise to right the ship in a hurry.
I say they will.