Despite recent success against the Cardinals at home, going on the road has been another story for Seattle. Coming in to this meeting, the Seahawks have only achieved victory once at University of Phoenix Stadium.
As Seattle went into halftime down 10-3, it was looking apparent that the trend would continue.
The Seahawks were getting beat in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Cardinals quarterback John Skelton seemingly had all day to throw the football. On the other side of the ball, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson was getting heavy pressure on passing downs.
Seattle did look good opening up holes for running back Marshawn Lynch on the ground.
The Seahawks' premier rusher showed no signs of being bothered by the back spasms that sidelined him in the preseason. He was his typical self, keeping his legs moving at all times, breaking tackles and getting extra yardage beyond initial contact.
The first half was a disaster, but fans remained hopeful that head coach Pete Carroll’s trend of turning games around in the second half would continue.
The offense, defense and special teams all turned things around in the second half.
From seven-yards deep in the end zone, Leon Washington returned a kickoff for 83 yards in the third quarter, leading to Seattle’s first touchdown. Sidney Rice fully extended to catch a dart over the middle by Wilson for a 10-yard score.
Seattle’s run defense was consistent throughout the game, holding the Cardinals to only 43 yards rushing. Other than that, the difference between the Seahawks in the second half compared to the first was a stark contrast—something Wilson noted in his postgame press conference.
“We definitely had better rhythm in the second half,” said Wilson.
The Seahawks then tied the game with a 47-yard field goal following an interception by Richard Sherman. He fully extended his body with both toes barely in bounds to catch a pass Skelton had intended to throw away.
Another great special teams play—a 52-yard punt return by Washington—put the Seahawks in position for a go-ahead 39-yard field goal. Save for a Jay Feely 31-yard field goal, the defense completely shut down Arizona in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Brandon Mebane and Bruce Irvin knocked Skelton out of the game. Kevin Kolb came in and immediately got the Cardinals offense going. In less than four minutes, he went 6-of-8 for 66 yards and the Cardinals led 20-16.
With less than five minutes on the clock and facing his first opportunity for a comeback win, Russell Wilson led the Seahawks 76 yards down the field.
Two pass interference calls—one of which was nearly caught be Sidney Rice near the goal line—and a two-yard run on first down by Lynch got them within four yards of the end zone.
But that was as close as the Seahawks would come to victory.
After the officials mistakenly granted the Seahawks a fourth timeout with 30 seconds on the clock, Wilson attempted three passes to three different receivers. The final attempt went through the hands of Braylon Edwards on fourth down, and the Seahawks were unable to come away with the win.
“We had our shots at it. There were four balls to be caught,” Carroll said during the postgame press conference. “It was that close.”
Carroll said the missed red-zone opportunities were the difference in the game.
“The margin is just so slight,” said Carroll. “A very difficult first game to have to go home with a loss, because we had a chance to win this football game.”
The Seahawks now face the difficult task of taking on the Dallas Cowboys, who won on the road 24-17 over the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. After playing on Wednesday, they’ll have a full 10 days between games to prepare for their road trip to Seattle.
By not having a big game, it may crack the door open for calls to replace Wilson with Matt Flynn. While there were no signs of it in the preseason, fans may start to point back to his performance against the Detroit Lions last year as a reason to give him a shot.
And thanks to some help from the Lions, the Seahawks will have some company at the bottom of the NFC West this week. With less than two minutes on the clock, Matthew Stafford led Detroit on a 72-yard touchdown drive to win 27-23 over the St. Louis Rams.
The San Francisco 49ers join the Cardinals at 1-0 after starting this season looking a lot like the team they were last year. The 49ers traveled to Green Bay and picked up a 30-22 win over the Packers.
Wilson wasn’t the only rookie to lose his opening game this week.
Of all five rookie quarterbacks who started, Robert Griffin III was the only one was able to get his team in the win column. Playing on the road, Griffin led the Washington Redskins to 10 points in each quarter to finish with a 40-32 win over the New Orleans Saints.
Had a couple of plays gone differently for Wilson, he’d be joining Griffin in the headlines this week. He has plenty of time left this season to earn his recognition, and Seahawks fans would agree that beating the 49ers twice would more than make up for Sunday's loss.
“The main thing for me is just to stay focused on what we can control, how we can get better and just keep fighting,” said Wilson.
Brandan Schulze is a Navy veteran and member of the Military Sea Hawkers, the military chapter of the official booster club for the Seattle Seahawks. For more information on the chapter, visit www.militaryseahawkers.com. Membership is free for all military service members and veterans.