Seattle Seahawks Dominate Cardinals, Win NFC West
The Seahawks have had enough of living on the edge.
The win was Seattle's fifth straight—and it clinched their fourth consecutive NFC West division title.
It was also Mike Holmgren's 81st victory as Seahawks head coach—a new franchise record.
QB Matt Hasselbeck picked apart the Cardinals secondary for four touchdowns and 272 yards, completing 67 percent of his passes to help the Seahawks post their highest point total of the year.
Hasselbeck stood strong in the pocket and completed his throws, despite getting hit numerous times just after releasing the pass. Hasselbeck paid that price on two of his touchdown tosses.
On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks defense came up big again, picking off Arizona QB Kurt Warner five times—the most interceptions Warner has ever thrown in a game.
Cornerback Marcus Trufant, following last week's heroics by linebacker Lofa Tatupu, tied a franchise record with three picks. Trufant returned the last interception 84 yards for Seattle's final score of the day.
Patrick Kerney—recently named NFC defensive player of the month—kept up his torrid play, racking up three more sacks for a total of 13.5 this year.
Warner was sacked five times, and was hit and hurried throughout the game.
Arizona moved the ball well throughout the day—actually gaining more yards and holding the ball longer than Seattle—but turned it over at inopportune times.
In the third quarter, the Cardinals crept within 27-14 on a 13-play, 83-yard drive, punctuated with a touchdown catch by Jerheme Urban.
But after Arizona recovered a surprise onside kick, Warner threw away the ball—and the momentum—as Trufant grabbed his first pick of the game.
The Seahawks then slammed the door on the Cardinals' chance at a win, as Hasselbeck threw his fourth touchdown of the day to tight end Marcus Pollard for a 34-14 advantage.
The game-sealing drive was aided by Darnell Dockett's personal foul penalty, which allowed Seattle to convert a key third down.
Seattle took advantage of big plays to race out to a 24-0 first half lead. Deon Grant intercepted Warner on Arizona's first drive, leading to a Josh Brown field goal.
The Seahawks marched 79 yards on their next drive to take a 10-0 lead. The drive was highlighted by a clutch fourth-and-one conversion by Shaun Alexander, who raced 25 yards through the right side for the first down.
Hasselbeck then found Nate Burleson in the corner of the end zone for a seven-yard score.
After Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers missed a 50-yard try, Seattle raced 60 yards in four plays to stretch the lead to 17-0 on a shoestring catch by Bobby Engram for the score.
The big play on that drive was a 31-yard bomb down the sideline to Deion Branch, who reeled in the catch over his shoulder.
Kerney's first sack of the day on Arizona's next drive forced the Cardinals to punt the ball back to Seattle.
The Seahawks made the most of the opportunity. On third-and-15, fullback Leonard Weaver took a screen pass and rumbled 46 yards to the Arizona 18.
While Seattle may have staked its claim to NFC West dominance yet again, the game still featured the season-long flaws that may hurt the Seahawks in the playoffs.
Seattle again had trouble running the football, picking up just 80 yards on the day.
Maurice Morris had more carries than Alexander (13 to 10), but both runners struggled to make headway.
Morris averaged just 2.8 yards per carry, and Alexander—if you take out his 25-yard burst—picked up a paltry 1.4 yards per attempt.
Punter Ryan Plackemeier's troubles also continued, as he averaged only 36 yards per punt.
His worst effort was a 21-yard shank at the end of the first half that gave Arizona starting position at Seattle's 26-yard line—starting position the Cardinals quickly converted into their first seven points of the game.
Josh Brown bounced back from his recent shakiness to nail both of his field goal attempts. However, the kicking team's miscommunication continued, as they botched an extra point attempt in the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks have an excellent chance to run the table and finish with a 12-4 record.
Their final three games—at Carolina, Baltimore, and at Atlanta—are against opponents with a combined record of 12-26. Historically, Seattle has had trouble playing in the Eastern time zone, but it's still a very favorable schedule.
The Seahawks still have a shot at a top-two seed and a playoff bye, but the schedules of Dallas (Philadelphia, at Carolina, at Washington) and Green Bay (at St. Louis, at Chicago, Detroit) lead me to believe the 'Hawks will have to settle for the #3 seed.
This is where it gets interesting.
That leaves the Seahawks hosting the #6 seed, which could very well be the Minnesota Vikings.
That's a matchup I don't want to see.
Minnesota could roar into Seattle with Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor running wild behind former Seahawk guard Steve Hutchinson.
I'd much rather Seattle face the inconsistent, false-start prone Giants than the power-running juggernaut of the Vikings.
So as Seattle travels to Carolina to take on the Panthers next Sunday, I'll also be hoping Minnesota outplays the Giants and vaults into the #5 spot, or that another team (Washington, Detroit, Arizona) slips into the #6 slot.
Either way, the Seahawks are starting to look like a team to be reckoned with.
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