In the Seahawks last home game, Leon Washington led the team to victory over the Chargers with two long kickoff returns for touchdowns. Last week against the Bears, Seattle became one of the top teams in the league in pinning teams inside the 20-yard line. It’s somewhat unusual to see special teams players announced coming out of the tunnel to start the game, but considering their efforts this season it was a no-brainer to give them some well-deserved recognition.
Just as special teams came through in the win against San Diego, they were ready to carry the Hawks toward a 22-10 win Sunday over Arizona – this time via the toe of Olindo Mare. Although I’m sure he didn’t expect to line up more than 10 times.
Here goes the breakdown:
Kick #1: As the rain poured down during the first half of the game, Marshawn Lynch broke off a 39-yard run on the Seahawks first drive, but they stalled at the 2-yard line. Mare lined up for the 22-yard field goal, but it was blocked and recovered by Arizona.
Kick #2: Turns out kick #1 didn’t count. Arizona had lined up offside, and after moving two yards closer, Mare booted the 20-yarder to put the Hawks up 3-0.
Kick #3: PAT. (May as well count these too, right?) This came after special teams continued to be a prime factor for the Seahawks. Arizona failed to hold onto a punt halfway through the second quarter (you’ll notice a theme here too), as the ball was knocked away and recovered by special teams captain Roy Lewis on the 2-yard line. Two plays later, Matt Hasselbeck completed what would be the Seahawks only touchdown of the game to his new favorite target, Mike Williams, and Seattle would go into the locker room up 10-0 at the half.
Kick #4: Less than a minute into the second half, a huge sack by Chris Clemons caused a Max Hall fumble (and concussion) at the 11. On this possession, Hasselbeck was sacked for the fifth time of the game, and Mare put it through the uprights from 31 yards out. Seahawks 13, Cardinals 0.
Kick #5: On the subsequent kickoff, Jason Wright muffed the catch and proceeded to boot the football 10-yards toward the sideline where the Seahawks were able to come up with the ball. A short run and two incomplete passes later, Mare’s kick was good.
Kick #6: The previous kick didn’t count - a holding call negated the 31 yarder. So Mare lines up for the 41-yard field goal and splits the uprights.
Kick #7: Yeah, uh . . . kick #6 didn’t count either. Another holding call – called on the same guy. No matter, Mare makes the 51-yarder and Seattle goes up 16-0. Maybe Cameron Morrah was holding that play too, but the officials decided not to waste everyone’s time by backing Mare up to 61. The way things were going, he probably would have made that one too.
Kick #8: Arizona was able to hold on to a kickoff (finally) and Derek Anderson looked like he just might lead the Cardinals back after taking over for the injured Max Hall. Anderson led a 70-yard touchdown drive, but Seattle was able to respond with a long drive of their own before stalling at the 28 and giving Mare a 46-yard try.
Kick #9: Kick #8 was nullified by a penalty, except this time it was in Seattle’s favor. The Seahawks really took advantage of this opportunity as they were able to move Olindo up for another field goal 22 yards closer and take a 19-7 lead.
Kick #10: A 71-yard kickoff return led to three more points by the Cards, and they pulled within nine to start the fourth quarter. Seattle responded with their sixth trip to the red zone, and their ninth time lining up for a field goal. Mare proceeds to nail the 21-yarder.
Kick #11: Just when you would think it couldn’t get any more ridiculous (I’m kidding of course, it got ridiculous long before this), Seattle gets called for a delay of game. I’m going to say it’s because Olindo was tired of kicking field goals the same length as extra points. The 26-yard field goal locked the game into the final score, 22-10.
As many times as they marched Mare out to line up, Coach Carroll actually gave him a break by deciding to run the clock down by going for it on fourth down inside the Cardinals 20 as the end of the game. Incredibly, Seattle was in the red zone seven times today, but not so incredible was their red zone performance.
Coach Carroll was clearly impressed with Mare’s effort as he started his post-game comments by praising Olindo for making nine field goal kicks and recognizing that only five of them counted.
There was plenty of praise to go around for the defensive and special teams efforts that led to five turnovers and two sacks. Rookie Walter Thurmond did an incredible job covering Larry Fitzgerald and holding him to 30 yards on three catches. But the clear focus following the game was all of the points the Seahawks left on the field.
“It’s unfortunate that we didn't come through in the red zone today,” said Carroll. “It could have been a real big day for us today.”
Coach Carroll and Hasselbeck also went out of their way to recognize Mike Williams, who had another big game with 11 catches, 87 yards and a touchdown. Matt tried to pretend to go low key when professing his pleasure with his new favorite target, as though he secretly hoped other teams wouldn’t start picking up on it.
Not only did Seattle gain a game on Arizona to take the division lead, they also separated themselves from St. Louis and San Francisco, who both lost this weekend in spectacular fashion. St. Louis was only slightly more spectacular as they came from ahead to lose. Up 17-6 going into halftime, they laid an egg in the second half to lose 18-17 on the road in Tampa.
San Francisco continued their 2010 Humiliation Tour by giving up a 20-13 fourth quarter lead to lose 23-20 and give Carolina their first win of the season. I think I’m going to go ahead and start following the 49ers official Twitter account, because I want to be one of the first to get the news. Unless of course another NFL team out there beats them to their own announcement.
At least 49ers fans got what they wanted out of the loss. They chanted “we want Carr” a couple games back, and something tells me (like the sub-30 quarterback rating, maybe?) that those chants will disappear no matter how badly Alex Smith plays the rest of the season.
I’m not sure how many of you are like me and like to look ahead at what next week’s opponents are doing in their games. Well, the Seahawks go on the road to Oakland next week. While I think a lot of fans were already penciling in a win against the Raiders after the big road win in Chicago, just as many were probably breaking out an eraser after seeing what Oakland did to the Broncos – in Denver!
Oakland scored 24 points in the first quarter, added 14 in the second quarter, and capped their effort with 21 more in the third quarter before taking the last quarter off. Maybe after taking on the issue of aggressive tackles last week, the commissioner should look into instituting a mercy rule after this week. Final score: Oakland 59, Denver 14.
These next four games are going to be the biggest test of the season for the Seahawks. Seattle has proven they should now be regarded as the favorite to win the division, and even a return to their losing ways on the road would bring them back to .500 with six games left. Anything better than that should keep them solidified in first place. But with Oakland (A), NY Giants (H), Arizona (A), and New Orleans (A), it will depend on which team shows up on either side of the ball.
I can make a case for 1-3 just about as easy as I can make a case for Seattle going 3-1 over that same stretch. Just as we had a “W” penciled in for the Oakland game, I think we all had a big “L” in pen next to the New Orleans game. Watching the Browns come into New Orleans and do what they did this weekend, I think we have to consider there may be an opportunity there.
I'd say that it's going to be interesting to see what fans do on Halloween when Seattle comes to Oakland, but Raider fan seems to treat every Sunday like it's October 31.