Is the Seattle offense allergic to the end zone?
It’s a fair question after the Seahawks went 1 for 7 in the red zone in a 22-10 win over Arizona that was made possible largely because of Olindo Mare’s “nine” field goals, Arizona’s inept special teams and a Seattle defense that pulled three more turnovers from a struggling offense that was starting a rookie quarterback.
There were certainly positives for the offense—a season-high 144 rushing yards and another big game by Mike Williams—but the Hawks are still struggling to get into the end zone, and they lost left tackle Russell Okung with another sprained ankle.
On the bright side, Marshawn Lynch made his presence known early, with a 39-yard run on the first drive, and finished with 89 yards on 24 carries. Coach Pete Carroll said they planned to run it more, but an injury to fullback Michael Robinson in the first half adversely affected the running game in the second half.
So the Seahawks turned from Lynch’s Beast Mode to Williams’ Behemoth Mode. A week after catching 10 balls for 123 yards, Williams caught 11 for 87 and the lone touchdown as Matt Hasselbeck lived up to his promise to keep feeding the ball to the 6'5" emerging playmaker (his 16 targets were three times the No. 2 target, Deon Butler).
But the Hawks continued to have trouble consistently moving the ball, and they self-destructed in the red zone.
On the first drive, they moved all the way to the Arizona 6-yard line and then went backward, with Lynch losing six yards on two runs.
Mare’s field goal was blocked, but only because Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was offsides. After the penalty was assessed, Mare nailed a 20-yarder.
It was the first of nine field goals Mare hit in the game, but only five of them counted. Jim Mora would have been proud, as Mare has now hit a franchise-record 30 field goals since Mora wrongly blamed Mare for the loss to Chicago last season. (Percy Allen of The Seattle Times writes about the genesis of Mare’s streak and his crazy game.)
The Seahawks’ only touchdown came after Roy Lewis recovered a muffed punt at the Arizona 2 and Williams made an acrobatic grab of a pass from Hasselbeck in the end zone.
After that, the Hawks couldn’t get into the end zone, despite many chances.
In the third quarter, Chris Clemons sacked Max Hall and forced a fumble that Raheem Brock recovered at the Arizona 11. On second down, Hasselbeck was sacked for an 8-yard loss and the Hawks settled for a Mare 31-yard field goal to go up 13-0.
The Cardinals muffed the ensuing kickoff, which the Seahawks recovered at the Arizona 16. Another chance for a touchdown, but the offense went three and out and Mare kicked three field goals in a crazy sequence of penalties that kept pushing him back. After hitting from 31 and 41, his 51-yarder was the one that finally counted.
After Arizona cut it to 16-7, the Seahawks put together a nice 14-play drive that fizzled inside the Arizona 10 and resulted in a 24-yard kick by Mare.
Seattle got inside the Arizona 20 on the next possession, too, but the 57-yard drive ended in a field goal after 12 plays thanks to two delays of game.
The Hawks got to the Arizona 13 on the next drive but were content to run the clock down by going for it on 4th-and-7 with 1:13 left.
The Seahawks covered 198 yards on their final three drives, even though they got only two field goals out of it. But between the first drive, which covered 81 yards, and the final three, the Hawks gained just 23 yards on 10 possessions.
The Hawks also gave up five sacks of Hasselbeck—a combination of blocking issues, bad protection scheme, receivers not getting open and Hasselbeck holding the ball too long while waiting for them to get open.
Of course, all of those struggles were probably secondary to losing Okung again.
Sean Locklear apparently didn’t like the fact that Stacy Andrews leads the team in penalties.
Locklear was flagged three times—once for a false start on the goal line on Seattle’s first drive and twice for holding in the fourth quarter.
Locklear had only one penalty heading into the game—a holding call that negated Justin Forsett’s touchdown run in Denver—while Andrews had five.
Locklear also gave up two of the five sacks to the Cardinals, although the first one was as much Hasselbeck’s fault for waiting too long for his receivers to try to get open.
The Hawks had 10 penalties for 95 yards—their worst game in that department all year. In addition to Locklear’s three boo-boos, the special teams had four penalties, the defense had one and there were two delays of game.
Three of the special-teams infractions came on the bizarre series that saw Mare make three field goals. Cam Morrah was called for holding twice on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who had made a habit all game of lining up offsides and/or getting a quick jump on field goals. After Mare made the 51-yard kick that counted, Mike Gibson was called for unnecessary roughness.
The unsportsmanlike call against Brock in the fourth quarter was not necessary. Brock was jawing at Derek Anderson, who gave him a soft shove, and Brock fell to the ground and somersaulted melodramatically. The refs should have left that one alone.
“I think he did one of the all-time flops and was trying to draw the foul,” Carroll told reporters. “I don't know what happened on that one. It was a poor day for us in terms of penalty situations, and some really unusual ones, I thought, today.”
The defense gave up a season-high 113 rushing yards on 20 carries—the first time the Hawks had allowed an opponent over 90 yards this season. Their biggest failure came on outside runs, where they missed containment on two or three big gains.
But they held the two-headed quarterback combo of Max Hall and Anderson to 12 of 33 passing and 2 for 12 on third downs (a week after holding Chicago to 0 for 12). Plus, they got three turnovers.
It was the kind of performance the defense was expected to provide against a struggling offense—and one the Seattle offense definitely needed.
Wonder what the Cardinals’ offense would have been like if Charlie Whitehurst had been starting at quarterback.
The Cardinals have to be kicking themselves for deciding to sign Anderson for $3.6 million a year rather than pay Whitehurst $4 million or $5 million per season. Anderson supplanted Matt Leinart as the starter but then was replaced by the undrafted rookie Hall, who is quite obviously not ready for the NFL. Whitehurst would seem to be better than anyone the Cardinals have right now.
While some Seattle fans want to see Whitehurst, it’s not going to happen as long as the Hawks are winning. Hasselbeck is without doubt Carroll’s guy this season.
Meanwhile, Whitehurst will have to be content with being a $4 million insurance policy in Seattle rather than starting in Arizona.
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