I have lived with this game all week and am sad to say I'm not done with it yet.
Let us wallow in the win.
- Arizona matched Stephen Spach on Chris Clemons and Levi Jones on Jordan Babineaux. Babineaux didn't even rush the passer, just stand opposite Brown and ready himself for the coming strip sack. Clemons has been a heckuva find, healthy and contributing at high level as a pass rusher. Moments like this do not take away from his performance. One does the best with the assignment they are given. Clemons took this assignment, turned the corner, bulled through Spach and strip sacked Max Hall, ending Hall's day and putting Seattle's offense in the red zone.
- Which they squandered.
- It's typically imprudent to bench or cut a player after one bad game. If the coaching staff believed Sean Locklear was the team's best right tackle before last Sunday, even a terrible, terrible game shouldn't shake that belief. And though I don't put a ton of stock into offensive line continuity, I am sure there is some benefit to familiarity and trust. Seattle isn't abundant with tackle talent either.
- So what if a player has a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible game? At what point is a performance so bad that benching is the only sound decision?
- Seattle squandered world class field position mostly because of Locklear.
- He busted a block on Clark Haggans and Haggans tackled Marshawn Lynch after two. Those were Beast Mode yards, because Haggans was in position to drop Lynch for no gain or a loss.
- Then Locklear allowed Hagans to pressure Matt Hasselbeck into a Joey Porter sack. Tyler Polumbus halfway blocked Porter on the left, clearing him briefly, but Locklear never managed even that and the two defenders combined for a sack only Porter was credited with.
- Third and 16 from the Cardinals 17, Jeremy Bates dialed up another inside hand off. We have speculated whether Bates trusts Hasselbeck in third and long situations, and for the most part, we're really just guessing, but an inside hand off on third and 16 from the 17 is a true give up play. The run has very little chance of scoring, extremely little, I'm sure, and because there is only a one yard difference between the first down marker and the end zone, the hand off doesn't even significantly, if at all, improve the chance of a field goal. This was like a kneel down disguised as an offensive play call, and if that doesn't imply some lack of trust in Matt, I don't what does.
Arizona fumbled away the ensuring kick off.
- Locklear blew another block and Hasselbeck threw the ball away towards Stokley.
- Then there was an interesting play, not heartening, but interesting. John Carlson lands an excellent block on Joey Porter and sets the left edge like rarely happens in Seattle. Lynch slashes off left end and begins to run horizontally as if to turn the corner. He is pursued by Daryl Washington and the two are more or less equal, neither has the angle, both are running horizontal, Lynch looks to have a bit of a head start in reaching his top end speed, but it's comparable.
- Washington is one of fastest linebackers from the 2010 class. He ran a 4.66.
- Lynch does not outrun him. It looks a bit like Washington is gaining, and that seems to be Marshawn's read of the situation too, because he abandons the race to the edge and cuts up field. Which leads to a three yard gain on second and ten. According to NFL Draft Scout, the two have pretty similar ten yard times: 1.53 for Lynch compared to 1.57 for Washington. And it's not like I'm bugging out because he couldn't turn the corner, but that's the frank assessment of the play: Lynch had blocking and the edge but couldn't turner the corner against inside linebacker Daryl Washington.
- Not too long after that, the drive was dead. Cameron Morrah twice held Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie before thinking better and not bothering to block him at all. Olindo Mare kicked the 51-yard field goal and passed his Pro Bowl candidacy.
- I give DRC credit, he was selling out attempting a big, game changing special teams play. That's pretty much what the Cardinals needed to get back in the game.
Even though all that occurred early on, there wasn't a whole lot more that happened in this quarter. Derek Anderson subbed in for Hall and looked like the best quarterback to take Qwest Field. Seattle's run defense was pushed around. The mix of Lofa Tatupu, David Hawthorne, Will Herring and Lawyer Milloy proved to be no match for free blockers in the second level. Aaron Curry can get off a block, but, well, Aaron Curry.
Brandon Mebane missed practice Thursday and Friday and if you're the cut-throat fantasy type, I would start Darren McFadden in a heartbeat. I can't tell you for sure that this run defense falls apart minus Mebane, it's possible that other factors are in play, but I can tell you that the Seahawks run defense was about as bad as I've seen since the Divisional round blowout in Green Bay.
Both of Seattle's offensive tackles played poorly, and I think Tyler Polumbus is in line for his Sean Locklear-game any week now. The pass that Chris Baker dropped was very high and it was hard enough for Baker to get a hand on it much less reel it in. He may have broken out of his route early, though, so I wouldn't pin this entirely on Hasselbeck. Locklear picked up another hold and that killed another drive in the red zone. That drive was revived by a Cromartie offsides and then died again shortly thereafter.
After watching Miles Austin have a decent showing against the Seahawks in 2009, I remarked that I didn't see any reason he couldn't continue playing at that level, and I think the same might be said for Alan Branch. A lot of people thought Branch had top ten talent, but his stock dropped because of a mix of concerns about his character and his future as a defensive tackle. Both concerns were valid, but he seems to have straightened out the former and the transition to defensive end has been transformative. He absolutely dominated Locklear and Polumbus.