Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graham Lead Seahawks to 22-16 Win over Cardinals

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2017

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 09:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks makes a pass in the first half of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on November 9, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks earned their fifth win in six games after beating the Arizona Cardinals 22-16 on Thursday night at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Russell Wilson finished 22-of-32 for 238 yards and two touchdowns. Jimmy Graham caught both touchdowns, giving him his second multi-touchdown game in three weeks.

While Seattle moves to within a half-game of the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams at 6-3, Arizona slips to below .500 (4-5), having failed so far to win back-to-back games this season.

The play of the game Thursday came when Wilson found Doug Baldwin for a 54-yard gain with 13:03 left in the game. Baldwin was initially looking to block on the play but ran to get open as Wilson evaded defenders in the pocket.

Wilson somehow found Baldwin near the sideline, and the Seahawks wide receiver ran to the 2-yard line before going out of bounds. The NFL shared a replay:

NFL Network's Tom Pelissero was left essentially speechless:

One play later, Wilson connected with Graham for the second of his two touchdown receptions to help put Seattle ahead 22-10.

There was a bit of controversy surrounding Wilson in the second half. Walt Anderson sent the three-time Pro Bowler off the field to be evaluated for a concussion after taking a helmet to his chin.

The NBC broadcast showed Wilson returning to the field before the Seahawks' medical staff could even get the medical tent around him. Many criticized the absence of an apparent evaluation before Wilson got back into the game:

Wilson was out for one play before re-entering Seattle's huddle.

Although Wilson's health gave Seattle momentary concern, the Seahawks' focus will be on another injury, as Richard Sherman exited the game in the second half. As NFL Network's Mike Garafolo noted, the NBC cameras appeared to show Sherman telling his teammates he tore his Achilles:

The Seahawks ranked seventh in defensive efficiency entering Week 10, according to Football Outsiders. While Seattle still has a very good defense, it's not the elite unit the team had when it reached back-to-back Super Bowls in 2013 and 2014. Take Sherman out of the equation, and the defense is unquestionably worse.

That could, in turn, put even more pressure on the offense, which means even more pressure on the already overburdened Wilson.

The Seahawks led 15-7 at halftime, an advantage that was due in large part to Seattle's defense. The Seahawks held Arizona to 90 yards of offense and limited Adrian Peterson to a little over 1.5 yards per carry on his first 11 touches.

The defense was responsible for breaking a 7-7 deadlock with 11 minutes left in the first half. Kam Chancellor was the first player to get to Peterson in the end zone for a safety to put Seattle ahead 9-7. The NFL shared a replay of the one-yard loss resulting in two points to the Seahawks:

The halftime score may have looked different had J.J. Nelson hauled in a pass from Drew Stanton down the sideline on 4th-and-9 from Seattle's 38-yard line. Instead, the ball slipped through his hands, and the Cardinals turned the ball over on downs.

The fact Arizona failed to crack the century mark in total offense illustrated the unit's struggles, and the Cardinals' lone scoring drive in the first half was largely a result of mistakes by Seattle. 

Stanton led a 75-yard drive that culminated in a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham. Arizona's offense was responsible for fewer than half of the yards gained on the drive, as officials flagged the Seahawks defense for four penalties totaling 41 yards.

The possession summed up a theme throughout the game:

Ultimately, the Cardinals offense wasn't good enough to capitalize on Seattle's sloppiness, which will be a cause for concern since Carson Palmer isn't returning anytime soon after breaking his left arm in October.

Peterson ran for 293 combined yards in Arizona's victories over the San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Thursday night was the second time he struggled against an above-average defense in a Cardinals uniform.

Especially since opposing teams will focus even more on the running game with Palmer out, the Cardinals are asking a lot of the 32-year-old Peterson to be the driving force of the offense.

Of course, the alternative is leaning on Stanton, who inspired little confidence when he last replaced Palmer over an extended stretch in 2014.

Despite the win, the outlook isn't much rosier for the Seahawks, who were already without safety Earl Thomas.

In addition to Sherman, Seattle announced offensive tackle Duane Brown suffered an ankle injury. The acquisition of Brown before the trade deadline addressed what has been a long-term need for the Seahawks. If the ankle injury forces him to miss any games, the offensive line once again becomes a big question mark.

Considering the Seahawks play the Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys—along with a divisional matchup with the Los Angeles Rams—the second half of 2017 will put Seattle's depth to the test.