Arizona Cardinals vs Seattle Seahawks: Seattle Grades, Notes and Quotes
Head coach Pete Carroll's Seattle Seahawks lost their first prime time home game Sunday night to the Arizona Cardinals after another late defensive breakdown. The final score was 39-32.
The Cardinals orchestrated an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter that took more than four minutes off the clock.
The drive was capped by a 48-yard touchdown scamper down the sideline by Arizona running back Andre Ellington, giving Arizona a two-possession lead.
It wasn't the only long touchdown drive the Seahawks defense surrendered in the fourth quarter. Arizona tight end Jermaine Gresham caught a 14-yard touchdown pass, capping off a 10-play, 83-yard drive leaving Seattle 8:41 to score down by three.
But the Seahawks offense faltered after moving into Arizona territory. Quarterback Russell Wilson was called for intentional grounding, and the offense never was able to make up for the penalty yardage.
The unit was not as explosive as fans would've hoped after coming off of a bye week.
Seattle punted on 4th-and-15 with about six minutes to go, and Arizona sealed the win with Ellington's touchdown run.
But even with its late-game struggles, Seattle's defense was the main reason the Seahawks even had a chance late in the contest. The Seahawks forced fumbles on consecutive Cardinals possessions with linebacker Bobby Wagner returning the second for a touchdown to give Seattle its first lead of the game.
The Cardinals jumped out to a dominant start and led the Seahawks by as many as 19 points in the second quarter after scoring on three of their first four offensive possessions. Arizona also sacked Wilson in the end zone for a safety early in the second quarter.
Seattle sits tied for second place in the NFC West with the St. Louis Rams at 4-5, while Arizona has proven it's the best team in the division and has a three-game lead after Sunday's big win.
Seahawks' Position Grades
Quarterback: Russell Wilson finished with 248 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also led the team in rushing with 52 yards on six carries. However, as has been the case most of the season, Wilson was simply mediocre against the Cardinals.
Running Backs: Marshawn Lynch showed glimpses of vintage Beast Mode with a couple of pile-pushing runs and nasty changes of direction. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry, finishing with 42 yards on eight carries with a touchdown.
Undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls had two carries for 19 yards. Both players' production makes you wonder why Seattle running backs only ended up with 12 carries in the game.
Wide Receivers: Doug Baldwin gets an A on the night for his seven-catch, 134-yard performance that included a touchdown late in the third quarter. The problem is all other Seattle wide receivers combined for three catches on the night. Baldwin was Wilson's only reliable target.
Tight End: Jimmy Graham was disappointing despite an increased effort from the Seattle game plan to feed him the ball. Graham dropped a laser throw from Wilson in the second quarter that would've been a touchdown. Graham was targeted eight times and had at least three dropped passes.
Offensive Line: Seattle's front five only allowed two sacks, which is a good stat—however, Wilson was under a lot of pressure throughout the game, including on the plays that resulted in a safety and intentional grounding. The unit was mediocre and struggled against Arizona's fierce defensive line.
Defensive line: The Seahawks sacked Carson Palmer three times and held Chris Johnson to a season-low 2.3 yards per carry. Cliff Avril forced a strip sack on Palmer in the third quarter that led to a Seahawks touchdown.
Linebackers: Seattle's linebackers were often lost in coverage and beat on mismatches early in the game. The group mostly played well against the run, except on Ellington's game-sealing touchdown run. Both the linebackers and defensive line overpursued Ellington, giving him space to gather speed.
Bobby Wagner's fourth-quarter fumble recovery for a touchdown boosts this group's grade.
Special teams: Utterly mediocre. No big returns from Tyler Lockett and an unsuccessful onside kick attempt at the end of the game. Kicker Steven Hauschka was 2-of-2 on field-goal attempts.
Coaching: Even though Seattle was trailing in most of this game, it seems odd that Lynch and Rawls combined for only 10 carries. When Wilson threw a third-quarter interception on a deep pass, the previous play saw Rawls run for a 6-yard gain.
The fact that Seattle's defense forced turnovers to make the game interesting at the end deserves at least a small nod to the Seahawks coaching staff.
Seahawks' Defense Allows Big Plays in Big Spots
Seattle's defense is no longer the feared unit it once was.
Cornerback Richard Sherman was caught out of coverage in the second quarter on a 35-yard touchdown catch in the end zone by Cardinals' receiver Michael Floyd, setting the tone for Arizona's big-play offense. The Cardinals had three drives of 10 or more plays, two of which ended in touchdowns.
Arizona had the ball for nearly 39 minutes of the game—the Cardinals effectively moved the ball through the air and the ground, systematically racking up first downs and keeping Seattle's offense off the field. Time of possession was a deciding factor in this game.
Not only did the Cardinals grind out long drives, but they scored touchdowns when they needed to most. Palmer hit tight end Jermaine Gresham for a 14-yard touchdown with less than five minutes to go, giving Arizona a lead it wouldn't surrender.
It's notable that Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin left the game in the fourth quarter with an MCL sprain, according to a report from Fox Sports. The Cardinals were able to put together consecutive touchdown drives after his injury.
These clutch touchdown drives were the difference in Sunday night's game.
Offense Still Lacking Spark
Coming off of a bye week, it was expected that the Seahawks would find a successful formula to try and fix their offensive woes. After Sunday night, it's apparent that didn't happen.
This offense, put simply, lacks firepower. Its only explosive playmaker against the Cardinals was receiver Doug Baldwin, but one guy can only do so much. Russell Wilson isn't getting much help, especially from his pass-catchers.
Baldwin and Jimmy Graham were the only Seahawks to catch more than one pass against Arizona. Baldwin literally accounted for half of Wilson's 14 completions.
But Graham is dropping too many balls and losing battles on contested catches. He is supposed to contribute to this Seattle offense as not only a safety-blanket target for Wilson, but one with big-play, touchdown-catching potential.
Through nine games, there's no sign Graham is going to provide either of those services this season.
And if that ends up being the case, this Seahawks offense isn't going to get any better. That futility will only lead to more disappointing losses.
Coach Carroll: Readiness Not the Problem
"Our guys were jacked," Carroll told Condotta. "They were so fired up to play this game."
That much was evident on an intense field, but was it for the best?
Seattle's defense was overly aggressive to begin the game, watching Arizona amass a 19-7 halftime lead. The Seahawks offense, meanwhile, couldn't get rolling as it punted three times and allowed a safety in its first four possessions.
Quite frankly, the Seahawks looked unable to handle dealing with an early deficit. The offense especially looked and played as if it were rattled for most of the game.
The Seahawks were also undisciplined, compiling 14 penalties in the contest.
Coach Carroll will say what he'll say to the media—and that's fine. But on a night when the Seahawks were essentially dominated from beginning to end, it wasn't hard to see which team was better prepared for a game with imperative playoff implications.
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