It’s too bad the Seahawks’ first “healthy” game since Week One came in the most important game all season, because they’re really just starting to get it together now that Sean Locklear, Marcus Trufant, Leroy Hill, Rob Sims, and Matt Hasselbeck are back.
With their full complement of starters (minus out-for-the-season Lofa Tatupu and Walter Jones), the Hawks played well for a quarter-plus against Arizona, taking a 14-0 lead, but it dissolved as the Cardinals outscored them 31-6 the rest of the way.
Like the 27-3 loss last month, Hasselbeck didn’t have enough time to throw from the second quarter on. And the defense, which played great early, got no pressure on Kurt Warner and allowed him to complete 29 of 38 passes for 340 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.
It was the expected result against a team that is simply better than the Seahawks this season.
But before everyone starts talking about how it’s time to blow up the Seahawks and start all over, let’s look at the things the Hawks were successful with against Arizona and the things they failed at.
Success: Justin Forsett ran the ball well, as he had all season in his limited chances. Coming into the game, he had averaged 6.2 yards per carry on a mere 20 attempts. (He also had 16 catches.) After Julius Jones broke a rib in the first quarter, Forsett ran 17 times for 123 yards and finished with 149 total yards. Justin time?
Success: The Seahawks had 472 yards, which is 344 more than they had against Arizona four weeks ago. They ran for 164, with speedy Louis Rankin chipping in 24 yards on three rushes. They converted 6 of 15 third downs. T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught nine passes for a season-best 165 yards. Deion Branch caught four for 50 yards.
Failure: Hasselbeck once again didn’t have enough time to throw. He often had to get rid of the ball earlier than he preferred, and therefore missed his receivers on many plays. He never found Nate Burleson, who had five passes thrown in his direction in the game he “promised” the Seahawks would win. Hasselbeck completed only 26 of 52 passes—a horrendous 50 percent.
Failure: The Hawks didn’t utilize tight end John Carlson enough. Hasselbeck found him for a wide-open 31-yard touchdown play in the second quarter but targeted him just one other time (and didn’t connect). The Hawks used more four-receiver sets than they have recently and used Carlson to help block, too.
Failure: Chris Spencer, apparently playing with a bad thumb, was horrible. These were his most glaring mistakes: a delay of game in the first quarter (he didn’t snap the ball in time even though Hasselbeck was clapping for it vehemently), a sack surrendered on the Hawks’ first play of the second half, a false start that was called on Max Unger because Spencer didn’t snap the ball on the right count.
And his left-handed snaps were all over the place, sometimes disrupting Hasselbeck’s rhythm.
Failure: In his first start since Week Two, Locklear had the expected struggles. He let Bertrand Berry get around him for a sack on the first drive and was a step slow at times. The big question is: Can he stay healthy for the rest of the season?
Failure: After a well-played first quarter, including a great goal-line stand on fourth down, the defense completely disintegrated. Cornerbacks Marcus Trufant, Josh Wilson and Ken Lucas had a tough day against Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston.
The Hawks decided not to blitz Warner, and the strategy worked fine for the first five possessions as the Hawks confused Warner with their zone coverages. But then he figured them out and used Beanie Wells to soften up the defense, and the Hawks did not adjust.
“I think they just took the approach that, ‘We’re not going to let them get the ball out quick and make those kinds of plays; we’re going to make them work for things and we’re going to drop an extra guy in the box,’ ” Warner told reporters.
“A lot of times they were rushing three and dropping eight guys and trying to make it hard on us from that perspective. So that was something that was different and something that was different to me from a coach Mora team. He likes to change it up and he likes to bring a variety of pressures, and that’s one thing we didn’t see today.”
Seattle hit Warner just one time all game, with no sacks. And Warner made the Seahawks corners pay for it.
On Arizona’s first touchdown drive, Trufant was the goat. He was called for pass interference when his feet got tangled with Fitzgerald, a 19-yard penalty. Two plays later, he fell for a double move by Breaston, who scored for the third straight game against Seattle. Trufant gave up 47 of Arizona’s 65 yards on that scoring drive. But the Hawks got no pressure to help him. They actually rushed six on the TD play.
The Cardinals finished the first half with an 80-yard drive with a little over a minute left, hitting a 27-yard field goal to cut Seattle’s lead to 17-10. Then they came out in the third quarter and rattled off an 82-yard touchdown drive on which Warner was 6-for-8.
After an Arizona three-and-out and a Seattle field-goal drive, the Cardinals went 80 yards in four plays for the go-ahead touchdown. The big play was a 37-yard pass play to Boldin and accompanying 13-yard penalty on Jordan Babineaux for a horse-collar tackle.
The Cardinals rattled off a 75-yard TD drive on the next drive to go up 31-20, and it was basically over with 6:11 left. Fitzgerald beat Lucas on an 18-yard pass to the corner of the end zone for the go-ahead score.
Failure: In a flag-happy game, the Seahawks lost 113 yards on nine penalties±and had two flags thrown out. The Cardinals were flagged 11 times for 136 yards. Most of the penalties looked legitimate, believe it or not. But that figures considering Walt Coleman’s crews usually call the fewest penalties in the league.
His crew this week seemed to get only two wrong against Seattle—Trufant’s foot-tangling pass interference and Ray Willis’ illegal formation at the end of the game.
The Seahawks still have seven games remaining, but at 3-6, they are basically out of the playoff race and need to look ahead to 2010. That means doing the following over the remainder of the season:
**Move Unger to center now so he can get experience for 2010. Spencer is such an incredible liability, the Hawks would be better served to slide Unger over. Then slide Willis over to guard, swing Locklear back to right tackle and put Damion McIntosh at left tackle for now. Or, keep Locklear at left tackle and put McIntosh on the right side. Whatever it takes to get Spencer out.
**Let Forsett take over as the starting tailback. He has shown more quickness and ability to make people miss than Jones, whose time in Seattle is up.
**Continue to get Deon Butler involved. He needs to get experience so he can at least be the third receiver in 2010. Burleson is a free agent after this season, and there’s no telling whether he can be re-signed. Deion Branch should be on his way out, but if Burleson doesn’t come back the Hawks might want to keep Branch around—at a reduced rate, of course.
**Start throwing the ball to Carlson more. This is on offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, who needs to use John Owens as the blocking tight end and let Carlson and Hasselbeck develop their passing rapport.
**Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley needs to dial up more blitzes. It really is unbelievable that he is not using his talented linebackers as pass rushers more often. Coach Jim Mora should demand that Bradley get more out of his defense the rest of the way.
**Finally, for the entertainment factor, the Hawks need to use Seneca Wallace more. He was in for two plays against Arizona, catching a five-yard pass for a first down on Seattle’s second touchdown drive and completing a 16-yard pass to Houshmandzadeh for a first down on the next drive, which resulted in a field goal. More Seneca, please.